For its 50th anniversary, Paris-Saint-Germain has the opportunity to offer itself the best of gifts. Officially created on August 12, 1970, the capital club plays Wednesday in Lisbon a quarter-final of the Champions League against Italians Atalanta Bergamo.
After having managed to finally pass the stage of the eighth by winning against Dortmund last March, Thomas Tuchel's men intend to continue their journey and reach the last four.
"It is a very important title, not only for the players but for the club. For the supporters, it would represent something incredible! I came to Paris for this adventure, for this objective", summed up to the 'AFP the emblematic captain Thiago Silva, who should leave the club after this final competition.
“Winning, doing everything to win. »
🔴🔵 #WeAreParis pic.twitter.com/zylNfBklbq
But once again, the stars seem to be bitter. After weeks of confinement and an aborted end of the season, the injuries are linked. The German coach, himself a victim of a sprained ankle, will have to do without Angel Di Maria, suspended, Marco Verratti, injured calf, and perhaps Kylian Mbappé, injured in the ankle, who However, he still hopes to appear on the substitutes' bench and make his entry during the game. "If he has a good training Tuesday night and if nothing happens on Wednesday, he is in the team," assured Thomas Tuchel on the eve of the meeting.
Neymar finally at his best?
In this chopper match, due to the reduced format of the competition due to Covid-19, the star of the Neymar team will finally have the chance to shine and hoist the PSG, who recruited him against the record sum of 222 million euros in 2017, on the roof of Europe.
Deprived of the final phase for the last two seasons due to injuries, the most expensive player in history is finally entering the final phase of the Champions League in full possession of his means. “These three years have enriched me a lot, he explained on his website on August 4. I lived moments of joy and complicated moments, especially when I was unable to play because of injuries. with the help of my teammates, I was able to overcome them. "
As proof, at 28 years old, he was one of the great architects of the first quarterfinal qualification of PSG since 2016, with the goal of hope scored in the first leg against Dortmund (2-1 defeat) and the opening scoring on return (2-0 victory). And the months of confinement he spent in his luxurious villa in Rio de Janeiro since the interruption of competitions in March, have not broken this momentum. During the two national cup finals at the end of July, where he notably scored the winning goal against Saint-Etienne (1-0), he once again showed himself at his best.
Bom dia 𝘓𝘪𝘴𝘣𝘰𝘢 👋
🔴🔵 #AllezParis pic.twitter.com/DKc2hJMHI5
"I have the feeling that he can become the No. 1 in the world, that he can win this Ballon d'Or when he wants," said his compatriot Thiago Silva, while the prestigious individual prize will not be awarded in 2020 due to Covid-19. "We give him all the balls because he's the one who will score, who will create situations. We try to do things for him on the pitch because we know that every second, he can make us win the match."
For Thomas Tuchel, Neymar will also be the determining element of this quarter-final: "He likes the pressure. He likes the big decisive matches. He is super reliable and I am convinced that he will be the key guy for us. He has the qualities and the mentality for it ".
Bergamo, surprise of the season
But to get there, the attack will not be enough. It will also be necessary to contain the intense pressing of the Italians of Bergamo, city martyred by the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe and surprise of the season in Serie A. Because the Atalanta of Gian Piero Gasperini has emerged as one the most feared "goal machines" on the continent, with 98 goals scored in the Italian Championship, which he finished in 3rd place.
Like Paris, Bergamo will also have to do without two executives: goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini and especially striker Josip Ilicic, author of 20 goals this season, including a memorable quadruple in the round of 16 return to Valencia.
Morning training 🏃♂️
Primo allenamento a Lisbona ⚽️
⠀ # UCL #GoAtalantaGo ⚫️🔵 pic.twitter.com/uAFtrtWHrk
Without the most talented player in the squad, the Italian club, however, have other key pieces to surprise against one of the favorites of the tournament. From creative captain "Papu" Gomez to powerful center-forward Duvan Zapata, not to mention Ruslan Malinovskyi, Mario Pasalic and Luis Muriel, all dream of shining in the eyes of the whole world to pay homage to the 17,000 victims of Covid-19 in Lombardy.
"We know the expectation that there is around this match, and all the passion, the love that the province of Bergamo has for Atalanta. This year, there is an additional motivation, dictated by everything which happened, unfortunately. It's something that we keep in us. But today, everything is reduced to a football match ", thus summarized the Italian coach Gian Piero Gasperini at a press conference.
In addition to the support of an entire region, Bergamo also has another major asset. "Atalanta has a big advantage over us, it's the pace. We don't have enough pace, we only played two Cup finals" because of the early termination of Ligue 1 , admitted Parisian coach Thomas Tuchel.
But a double-edged advantage, since the Italian club arrives in Lisbon after a very dense and trying end of the season, facing fresher Parisians: "We have prepared in the best conditions. We are ready with serenity, to enthusiasm and courage. We are going to put all the necessary commitment ", also explained with great confidence at a press conference defender Marquinhos. "We're going to do 90 minutes like warriors to go halfway".
Due to the special character of this season, the dreams of quarterback participants have never been so vivid, especially among the "little ones". Rarely, six of the eight quarter-finalists have never been crowned in the competition.
The condensed formula of Final 8 offers a very short path to the cup: three victories to win it, it is a unique opportunity to seize, even if there will remain the debate around the value of this trophy, at a discount for some. Without spectators, and framed by a strict health protocol, the last C1 meetings, until the final of August 23, will not have the usual flavor of the European Cup.
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