Champions League: against Dortmund, it's make or break for Paris SG

With Kylian Mbappé, but without Ousmane Dembélé, Paris SG are playing for their future in the Champions League this Wednesday, December 13 against Borussia Dortmund. A win would secure them top spot in the group, anything else would expose them to elimination and a landing in the Europa League.

Kylian Mbappe faces the Borussia Dortmund defence during the first leg at the Parc des Princes. September 19, 2023. AFP - FRANCK FIFE

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Paris Saint-Germain are already playing their season on Wednesday in Dortmund: if the Parisians do not want to rush into the crisis and winter blues, they must qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. To make things easier for themselves and come out on top and with their heads held high in the difficult Group F, they will have to beat Borussia in front of their "yellow wall", after their last-minute draw against Newcastle on November 28 (1-1).

Second in their group with two defeats away from home (4-0 at Newcastle, 2-1 at Milan), PSG must above all avoid the worst against the Germans, who have already qualified: an early elimination from C1 has never happened since 2011 and the takeover of the Qataris.

Finishing 3rd in the group and being relegated to the Europa League would be a failure, especially as BVB will have to play with several absentees, injured (Haller, Nmecha, Ryerson) or suspended (captain Emre Can).

This scenario would plunge PSG into a crisis even before the arrival of winter: even if the club is counting on him for the long term, Luis Enrique's credit would be dented, and the question of the future of Kylian Mbappé, free to sign for a new club in January, would come back in force.

A heavy locker for the "big guys"

Faced with their European destiny, do the Parisians really have the means to finally play a benchmark match away from the Parc des Princes, something that has never happened to them since the start of the season, neither in the Champions League nor in Ligue 1?

Such a performance even goes back a very long time in the group stage in C1: since 2012, the Parisians have constantly lost to the "big boys", Porto, Lisbon, Munich, Liverpool, Madrid, Barcelona, City, Arsenal and Napoli, except in 2020 at Old Trafford against Manchester United (without fans) and against Juventus Turin (already eliminated) last year.

With a win, his players will even finish top of the group, ahead of Dortmund, and can finish 2023 serenely, regardless of Newcastle's result at St. James's Park against AC Milan.

In the event of defeat on the other hand, the Parisians, who are two points ahead of Newcastle and Milan, would have to rely on a draw between the other two teams in the group to progress.

Finally, in the event of a draw in Germany, Paris SG would qualify for the knockout stages only if Newcastle do not beat AC Milan.

Without Dembélé, with Zaire-Emery

PSG, who are expected to be supported by around 3,000 fans expected in Dortmund, will also have to do without the suspended Ousmane Dembélé.

The Frenchman, the player who "throws the most off balance in the world" according to his coach, will be missed by the Parisian attack and on the right flank. He could be replaced by the Korean Lee Kang-In, whose relationship with Achraf Hakimi is less complicit than with Dembélé, creating fewer attacking impulses, even if Luis Enrique's compositions are often unprecedented.

In any case, his absence will change the dynamic of the Parisian attack, as at the start of the match against Nantes on Saturday, with Kylian Mbappé positioned in the middle as against Le Havre the previous weekend. The Parisian superstar, often accused of not carrying his team enough in the big matches, will in any case be expected at the rendezvous in Germany.

The complicated period that Gianluigi Donnarumma is going through -- guilty of several hand or foot fouls in recent matches and sent off against Le Havre -- is not reassuring either.

There are still a few positives that the Parisians can rely on: the return from injury of captain Marquinhos and French midfielder Warren Zaïre-Emery, indispensable and present in the squad.

With this good news, Mbappé's teammates will try to get out of the Group E trap. And to go to the round of 16, almost as if nothing had happened.

Teams already qualified for the knockout stages

Bayern Munich, FC Copenhagen, Arsenal, PSV Eindhoven, Real Madrid, Napoli, Real Sociedad, Inter Milan, Lazio Rome, Atlético de Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City, RB Leipzig, FC Barcelona.

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