PSG and OM will meet their opponents in the Champions League group stage on Thursday (6pm) in Istanbul, where the ambitious French champions hope to avoid big entry arms when their runners-up fear the worst.
With a tight calendar due to the World Cup (November 20-December 18) in Qatar, there should be no delay in the ignition for the 32 contenders to succeed Real Madrid and this European season which will end on June 10. 2023 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium promises to be epic.
The first part of the competition will therefore run from September 6th to November 2nd, just two and a half weeks before the start of the 2022 World Cup to spare planetary event. A hen without too many leaders would help them.
In Hut 1 with the Madrid champions, the champions of the most important countries in the UEFA index (Manchester City, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, FC Porto, Ajax Amsterdam) and the Europa League winner (Eintracht Frankfurt), PSG must be on the lookout mainly on the identity of their opponents from Hats 2 and 3, which will likely cause them problems on their way to the knockout games, a date they have not missed since the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
Even if the PSG sporting project has been radically transformed with the arrival at the helm of Christophe Galtier (coach) and Luis Campos (football advisor) and emphasis has been put on rigor and discipline, the goals for the club’s Qatari owners have not changed.
The pursuit of the Champions League remains the Holy Grail for decision-makers in Doha, who, despite zealous courtship from Real Madrid, have managed the feat of extending their nugget Kylian Mbappé until 2025.
Regardless of the draw, it’s hard to imagine the impressive early-season ‘MNM’ (Messi-Neymar-Mbappé) walking right out the door, but there will still be some great clients capable of the task of the stars from the capital, determined to avenge the insult for last season’s pathetic round of 16 elimination by Real Madrid.
Liverpool, European champions in 2019 and unlucky finalist in 2022, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, winner in 2021, and above all FC Barcelona with impressive recruitment (Lewandowski, Raphinha, Koundé…) are scarecrows on guard 2. And nobody particularly wants to cross each other that quickly the ways with Inter Milan, strengthened this summer by the return of Romelu Lukaku, the biggest great in Hut 3.
The eventual Barça reunion would have a special note for the two glorious former members of the Blaugrana house, Messi and Neymar.
No wonder for OM?
For OM, who slipped to hat 4 at the end of the play-offs thanks to Benfica qualifying, it should come as no surprise: the pitch is bound to become one of the most dangerous.
With one coach, Igor Tudor, a newcomer to the event, and a largely outdated workforce, Europa League conference semi-finalists Marseille are praying to fall to one of the rare teams a little more humble on the plateau, like Frankfurt in Pot 1 and RB Salzburg or Sporting Portugal in pot 3.
OM will then try to do better than the last two appearances, which had turned into a nightmare: in 2013-2014 Marseille lost their six group games under Elie Baup and in 2020-2021 André Villas-Boas and his men had only picked up three points ( 1 win, 5 losses).
Qualifying for the C1 was certainly a breath of fresh air economically, even if it resulted in the departure of Jorge Sampaoli, who had real ambitions for OM at the event but was scalded by his leaders’ reluctance to enter the transfer market.
The club management would be satisfied with a 3rd place today and a move to the Europa League.
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