Andy Brassell on European Football: Paris Saint-Germain back with a bang

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel
PSG's celebrations after the rousing win over Dortmund feel like an age ago
3:30 min read

The French champions need to be ready for action quickly, writes Andy Brassell, who also assesses Roma and Milan's plan for the future and Besiktas as they sense an opportunity...

"Any momentum created by the Champions League comeback win against Borussia Dortmund is just a memory, with their quarter-final opponents Atalanta tuning up perfectly in the Serie A resumption.

Paris Saint-Germain's big warm-up

Having been out of competitive action since mid-March, Thomas Tuchel's side will be out of the (re)starting blocks in double quick time. The Champions League last eight is on the horizon in Lisbon in the middle of August, something which belatedly represents the make or break moment in PSG's season. Any momentum created by the comeback win against Borussia Dortmund is just a memory, with their quarter-final opponents Atalanta tuning up perfectly in the Serie A resumption.

It's fortunate, then, that Ligue 1's champions have not one but two cup finals left over from 2019-20 (as they and the rest of France prepare for 20-21) to warm up with on successive Fridays. Before the Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon next week, it's the climax of the Coupe de France against another historical giant of the French game, Saint-Étienne.

Preparation has gone smoothly so far for Tuchel, despite the departures of Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier, with all his other stars back, the squad looking in formidable physical shape and a couple of big friendly wins under their belts. They face a Saint-Étienne team dogged by internal strife of late, and unable to call on William Saliba, whose loan Arsenal have declined to extend. Yet Claude Puel can organise a team defensively, so they might keep PSG waiting for a while.

Back Draw/PSG in the HT/FT market @ [4.1]

For more tips on the match, check out Ligue 1 expert James Eastham's preview

Serie A giants jostle for vital position

The view of Italy has mainly been of the futility of hoping for a tight title race as Juventus have eased clear. Yet besides Lazio's collapse, the most prominent feature of the restart has been Atalanta's magnificent form. What seemed in spring to be a tussle for the final Champions League spot between the Bergamo club and Roma has turned into even more of a formality than the destination of the Scudetto.

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This has left three huge clubs jostling for Europa League places, with Roma, Napoli and Milan contesting places five to seven. Gennaro Gattuso's side are already sure of their place in the group stage having beaten Juve to the Coppa Italia but even though the Rossoneri's win over an improving Sassuolo this week made sure that there will be some European involvement, there is something to play for.

Paulo Fonseca's team currently have the edge on Milan, leading them by two points with three games to go. Finishing fifth is significant, making the difference between guaranteeing the group stage or having to participate in qualifiers - a bigger drag than ever at the end of this unusual season. The problem for Milan is that they face Atalanta next, the best side in Serie A since the resumption, where their own upward curve will be tested.

Back Milan and Atalanta to draw at [4.2]

Besiktas take Champions League potshot

There is very little predictable about Turkey's SüperLig, in which Basaksehir have just clinched their first-ever championship. It has been a rough season for Istanbul's giants - underlined by the fact that the winners are at best only considered the city's fourth-biggest club - but Besiktas, who have suffered as much as any, have a chance to snatch a big prize on the final weekend.

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News of likely runners-up Trabzonspor's European ban (which they are, of course, appealing against) means that third spot could be good for a place in the Champions League qualifiers, and Besiktas are just a point behind Sivasspor, meaning that they go into the top three by winning if their competitors don't.

This is remarkable after a season in which the Black Eagles fired storied coach Abdullah Avci and ran into numerous financial problems of their own. Their form has been good under Avci's replacement Sergen Yalçin, and the derby win over Fenerbahçe last Sunday was their fifth in six. There will, we can be sure, be twists ahead.

Back Goztepe and Sivasspor to draw at [3.9]

Andy Brassell,

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