Will PSG finally punch ticket to UCL knockout stage Tuesday?
Up next: the fifth game of the Champions League group stage facing Maccabi Haifa at the Parc des Princes. The challenge: to (once and for all) punch a ticket to the Round of 16 after failing at it for two consecutive games against Portuguese giants Benfica.
As was the case last Friday when PSG had to fly to Corsica in order to just spent 90 minutes on a rather-playable patch of grass, this should be another match in which the Parisian should have no problems at all in bagging three points. Key word: should.
Nobody would miss Maccabi for Benfica. Nobody would even miss them for, say, a very underperforming and upsetting Juventus. But Maccabi already put PSG against the wall in their first Champions League meeting a few weeks ago when they led during their home game in Israel. Also, as it happened to Ajaccio, the final scoreline got flipped in Paris favor thanks to – what else – goals by Neymar, Messi, and Mbappe hitting one each.
With the expectation of hosting Maccabi Haifa fans in excess of 1,500 in a parking lot exclusively reserved for them, the French police will strengthen the security system by deploying nearly 1,000 agents, reports Le Parisien.
Paris already know what could be ahead, even though they will be inside the Parc next Tuesday instead of away in Corsica: three young fans of Lionel Messi broke the security barriers in the Stade Francois Coty at different points during last Friday’s match, causing stoppages only to greet the Argentine legend in person. Nothing happened to the player(s) involved in the situations back then, and one has to assume that will remain the case, but better safe than sorry with these issues.
The heat might reach higher temperatures in the streets if PSG and Maccabi fans come to meet, but that’s something for the French police to deal with. Paris is heading into a game that could decide their short- and long-term future in all competitions.
A win on Tuesday will have PSG looking at a rather softened end of the pre-World Cup period at least in terms of the pressure they’ll have to endure. Draw or loss and all of a sudden things will get much more complicated.
Benfica could overtake them in Group H, a pivotal game against Juventus will remain on the schedule for PSG with the possibility of finishing the group stage in second instead of first, and no rotations of key players will be allowed with kilometers pilling on their legs.
With the return of Neymar and Ramos (Kimpembe is not expected to start against Maccabi), along with the fully-established 4-3-3, and a battle against a much lesser team, Paris might be looking at an easy week until they play Troyes (11th place in Ligue 1) next Saturday evening.