PSG were shocked once again in the Champions League group stage as they failed to top their group for a second consecutive season. The Parisians, powered by Messi, Mbappe and Neymar finished level on points with Benfica in Group H, despite winning their penultimate game against Juventus. The Portuguese side thrashed Maccabi Haifa 6-1 in their Group H fixture, which brought their goal difference at par with PSG. Since Benfica and PSG drew against each other in their double header, and goal difference too at level, the Portuguese club triumphed the group having scored more away goals.
A second-place finish in the group stage now means PSG will be placed in the Pot 2 for the knockouts draw, where they will be pitted against one of the group winners from other seven groups. Since no French club has topped a group, PSG could get any of the seven group winners as their opponents in the Round of 16. Right from defending champions Real Madrid to their old foes Manchester City, PSG could are in for tough knockouts journey.
PSG await their Round of 16 fate as Messi and co will have it the tough way
PSG know the pain of finishing runners-up in the Champions League group stage, as they faced eventual champions Real Madrid in the Round of 16 last season. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first leg at home, PSG only had to defend it in Madrid with the likes of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar spearheading their attack. However, they became the first victims of a Karim Benzema masterclass in the knockouts as despite leading at the half-time, the France forward scored a brilliant 17-minute hat-trick to send the Parisians crashing out.
This time around as well, they could face the reigning champions who are in some form with Ballon d’Or winner Benzema leading their offense. PSG will look to avenge their defeat from last season as Messi too will be out there make a statement after missing out on a nomination in this year’s Ballon d’Or. Real too will go all out to show Kylian Mbappe he made a mistake by rejecting them at the eleventh hour this summer.
Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are a possibility as well, as the Bavarians bulked themselves up quickly with Sadio Mane’s signing this summer after they lost Robert Lewandowski to Messi’s former side Barcelona. Although they continued their domination in the group stage, downing the likes of Inter and Barca, Bayern have had struggles of their own which are quite evident from their domestic campaign as they sit second in Bundesliga.
PSG’s group stage opponents from last season, Manchester City could also be drawn against them as it will be a reunion for Messi and Pep Guardiola. The two sides boast some serious talent as well, with the reigning English champions now having Erling Haaland in their ranks as well. The Norwegian has so far smashed in 22 goals in just 15 games, and has the Cityzens’ hopes pinned on him to lead them to their maiden Champions League title.
City’s fellow Premier League rivals Chelsea and Tottenham are a possibility for PSG as well after they topped their respective groups. While the Blues are building a new project under Graham Potter who replaced their 20/21 Champions League winning coach Thomas Tuchel, Spurs too are struggling to attain consistency under Antonio Conte. A showdown against any of the two sides could relatively prove to be an easier for PSG, with Leo Messi loving to play against London sides in the competition, having scored a combined 14 goals against Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal.
And the easiest of all, PSG could get a breather if they are pitted against Napoli or Porto. However, it won’t be a walkover since Napoli have topped a group which consisted of Liverpool, Ajax and Rangers. They are in some form and won’t give up easily to the fact that they will have to contain an attack of Messi, Mbappe and Neymar. Elsewhere, Porto too have been on the up side of the progress bar as they have already proved their mettle by knocking out a Juventus side headed by Cristiano Ronaldo in the Round of 16 during the 2020/21 season.
PSG will get to know their opponents of the the Champions League last-16 on November 7, when the draw will be held in Nyon, Switzerland, and the fixtures will then be played next year in February-March.