Andy Brassell on the Champions League: City still have work to do

Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar Jr
Neymar will need to keep his cool better in the return leg, as will his team

Despite their gala performance - and result - in Paris it's not yet job done for Pep Guardiola, writes Andy Brassell, with Chelsea and Arsenal's Euro ties still in the balance too

"PSG have been better on the road in the Champions League knockouts – against high quality opposition in Barcelona and Bayern Munich – than they have at home, and they have grit to add to their counter-attacking pedigree."

PSG not finished yet

As Paris Saint-Germain kept their Ligue 1 title hopes alive on Saturday, with a 2-1 victory against over-achieving Lens, the tension was clear. Mauricio Pochettino's side had to dig deep in order to close the game out when the visitors pulled a goal back and after the game, sporting director Leonardo complained angrily to Canal+ about what he believed was the lack of protection offered to Neymar by the officiating team.

Much of that atmosphere was a hangover from Wednesday's defeat at home to Manchester City, which had been hard to digest. Not just because it threatened PSG's dream of returning to the Champions League final but because of the shock it caused, with a near-perfect first half display against Pep Guardiola's team giving way to a tension-riddled, impotent one after the break.

In many situations after a 2-1 home defeat, one would assume that City are all but home and hosed (only 7% of home teams have gone through in an identical situation since 1970/71), but this shouldn't be taken as read here. PSG have been better on the road in the Champions League knockouts - against high quality opposition in Barcelona and Bayern Munich - than they have at home, and they have grit to add to their counter-attacking pedigree. That they were able to rest Kylian Mbappé against Lens, and that Neymar did make it through unscathed, gives Pochettino and company encouragement as they attempt a steep task.

Back Paris Saint-Germain to win at 4.84/1

Chelsea with still more to give

There must have been mixed feelings in the Chelsea dressing room after the first leg of their Champions League semi-final in Madrid, with pride at pushing such an experienced opponent as Real Madrid slightly tarnished by a failure to close out the victory. Though a score draw would have been a more than acceptable result before kick-off (and remained one at full-time), Thomas Tuchel's side deserved more for their endeavours.

Tuchel030521.jpg

On the other hand, one has to look at how far The Blues have come. Tuchel's arrival has imbued the team with greater organisation, rigour and a sense of purpose, with their two performances against Atlético Madrid more authoritative than anything his PSG side managed even on the route to last year's final. If any team can manage a situation in which they hold an advantage without having struck the decisive blow, it may be this Chelsea, where previously marginalised players like Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger have been repurposed.

Not that anything is given against Zinedine Zidane and company, who are more than capable of coming to London and grinding out a single-goal win, for example, but for all El Real's toughness, they have often not started well in recent weeks. If they let Chelsea get set as they did in the second leg against Atlético, it may be too late for them to break Tuchel's team open in a game in which they simply must score.

Back the draw between Chelsea and Real Madrid at 3.45

Arsenal need to learn from mistakes

We are pretty sure who one of the Europa League finalists are but had Villarreal taken full advantage of their performance - and Arsenal's - in the first hour of the opening leg of their Europa League semi-final, we would have a good idea of who might face Manchester United in Gdansk too. For The Gunners to have returned to London with a fighting chance of emerging victorious from this Thursday's return is quite an achievement bearing in mind everything that went wrong for them on the Costa Azahar.

GerardM030521.jpg

Yes, Unai Emery's team were bright and enterprising in their play, but even the coach must have been shocked at some of the basic errors committed by his former charges. Mikel Arteta's selection was a curious one, notably the neutering of Emile Smith Rowe by playing him in a more advanced role, but the boss still had a right to expect better application from his players.

With a slightly fortunate away goal in the bank, Arsenal now have the chance to put that right and continue on with the intention of salvaging their season. Yet the Yellow Submarine remain dangerous with their mix of talent and experience, and it should be noted that the excellent Gerard Moreno did not even need to shine at his brightest for his team to get a result in the first leg.

Back the draw between Arsenal and Villarreal at 3.65

Daily Offer - Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples

Place £20 worth of multiples over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 to use on multiples. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses
Bet now

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles