PSG-Real Sociedad: before a crucial meeting in the Champions League, the Parisians act as if nothing had happened

We could almost have heard “phews” of relief from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on December 18, 2023 when, around 12:15 p

PSG-Real Sociedad: before a crucial meeting in the Champions League, the Parisians act as if nothing had happened

We could almost have heard “phews” of relief from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on December 18, 2023 when, around 12:15 p.m., former Chelsea captain John Terry revealed the name of his opponent for the round of 16 Champions League final. Qualified at the last minute, in 2nd place in Group F, Marquinhos and his teammates were exposed to meeting a major European team – Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Manchester City, to name a few. But it is Real Sociedad that they welcome, Wednesday February 14 at 9 p.m., at the Parc des Princes, for the first act of a double confrontation.

On paper, the Basque team is less prestigious and less frightening than the other clubs which could cross the path of the Parisians. She has neither a flashy record nor the habit of competing in the Champions League, her last participations dating back to 2003-2004 and 2013-2014. Currently 7th in the Spanish championship, they have only won one of their last eight La Liga matches and will have to deal with a squad decimated by injuries on Wednesday.

Leader of Ligue 1 with 11 points ahead of its runner-up Nice, qualified for the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France, undefeated since the start of the 2024 calendar year, the capital club can boast of 'a beautiful dynamic. But, at a press conference, on the eve of the match, Luis Enrique nevertheless refused any triumphalism in the face of this “opponent who is not doing you any favors”.

Two early eliminations

No question of apprehending this meeting in your favorite costume. “No matter what I say, (…) it will have to be demonstrated on the ground. This is where we need to talk,” swept the Spanish technician from PSG. The coach still has in mind the group stage of this 2023-2024 edition, in which Real finished best defense – only two goals conceded, which allowed him to beat Inter Milan, finalist last year, in the group D.

He also knows that, conversely, the first European steps of his troops were more than sluggish. With two victories, two draws and two defeats, they only validated their ticket for the round of 16 on the last day, thanks to a draw on the pitch of Borussia Dortmund combined with the victory of AC Milan versus Newcastle.

Paris Saint-Germain remains above all on two early eliminations of the “big ears cup”, far from the stated ambitions of inviting itself into the big leagues of Europe. So, in the ranks of the training, we try to play down the deadline. “We’ve only been talking about the Champions League for three weeks. We talk about it like a life and death match. This is not the case,” insisted Luis Enrique, Saturday after his team’s victory against Lille (3-1) in the championship.

Same story, two days later, in the mouth of Fabian Ruiz. Yes, the double confrontation against Real Sociedad is “very important” recognizes the midfielder, but “we are working to progress”. If, like all the other teams, the Ile-de-France residents want to win the competition, they do not feel “any particular pressure or obligation”, he insisted.

“We don’t talk about Kylian’s future”

Coué method or not, the serenity desired by the coach has been somewhat disturbed by a now recurring soap opera: the future of his star striker, Kylian Mbappé, 25, whose contract expires on June 30. “We are focused on the match. Kylian’s future will be decided by him and none of us. We don't talk about it. We only talk about football,” Fabian Ruiz repeated to the media on Tuesday. The subject, however, is on everyone's lips.

Especially since the rumors of departure this summer for Real Madrid are becoming more insistent. There is “no development” in this matter, “the moment we have both decided, we will tell you”, cut short the president of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, a week ago, in margin of the Congress of the European Union of Football Associations.

Hit in the ankle during the victory against Brest (3-1) in the Coupe de France on February 7, and preserved on February 10 against LOSC, the player with 30 goals and 7 assists in 29 matches this season – all competitions combined – will set foot on the lawn of the Parc des Princes this Wednesday. And the result of the double confrontation against Real Sociedad could accelerate his choice.

Since his arrival at PSG in the summer of 2017, Kylian Mbappé has taken part in seven Champions League campaigns - including the current one -, for only one final, lost to Bayern Munich in 2020. In the event of another exit premature road, the ambitious, whose “biggest dream” is to lift the “big-eared cup” with the jersey of the capital club, could be tired of chasing a pipe dream. The return match will take place on March 5, in San Sebastian.