It has been more than 20 years since Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid crossed paths in European competition. Tomorrow night they meet at the Parc des Princes for the first time since PSG’s infamous 4-1 victory over Los Blancos in the UEFA Cup, which has been etched in Parisian folklore. It is one of the landmark results in the club’s 45-year history and is till talked about to this very day. But, as the two clubs get set to kick off this double bill of European action, the home side are favoured by many to pull out a result.
The clubs are light years apart in terms of history and tradition. Real are an institute of world football. Their legacy is something that only a handful of clubs could rival. PSG is an infant in terms of European football and no matter what the club does over the next decade or so, we cannot compete with the history of the Spanish giants. But, we can compete with them on the pitch and who would have thought back in the summer of 2011, just before the QSI takeover, that we could be on par with a Real Madrid-XI.
It just would not have been believable. We have come up against the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea in the past three European campaigns, showing the good and the bad. Naivety in some cases but brilliance as well. This is a different team this season though. You just get the sense of belief from the players and Laurent Blanc. That confidence to actually win a European Cup has never quite been there, yet this time around you feel that there is. Thiago Silva talked up the possibility in an interview with L’Equipe last month. He said it’s a dream for him to win it with the capital club and has every reason to believe it can happen by saying; “There’s so much quality that I think it’s the best team that I’ve ever played in.”
The skipper has said this on numerous occasions since the start of the campaign and its almost as if its rubbing off on everyone affiliated with Les Parisiens.
Our downfall last season in the group stage was – in the long run, despite beating Chelsea in the last-16 – was finishing 2nd. We beat Barcelona at the Parc on matchday-two, which was a beautiful night, but then ended up being humbled at the Camp Nou in the final game and thus missed out on top spot.
We will need to do something similar tomorrow against the might of Madrid. They are top of La Liga, we are top of Ligue 1. The Spaniards have not tasted a defeat this season, nor have we. They have Cristiano Ronaldo. We have an in form Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On paper, it looks to be an even affair but Paris Saint-Germain should have no reason to fear. They have proved that they belong on this stage. Now it is time to put that belief to good use.