Mbappe must step up to avoid PSG Champions League blushes!

foot4live December 13, 2023
psg vs dortmund game

The final embarrassment? PSG put their faith in Kylian Mbappe to save their Champions League skin

psg vs dortmund game

The France forward will need to deliver in Dortmund on Wednesday in order to save his team from another humiliating exit

So, here we go: The annual PSG do-or-die moment in the Champions League has arrived, but it has arrived earlier than usual. Historically, the strain for the French champions over their European prospects peaks in February or March, and usually ends with some type of defeat.
This season, however, the nerves have set in before the new year. PSG have yet to earn qualification for the knockout rounds ahead of the last matchday of the group stages. Their mandate, on the other hand, is pretty clear: If they win away at already-qualified Borussia Dortmund, they will be through and will have won the ‘Group of Death’ as well. A draw may also suffice depending on other outcomes, and even defeat may not lose them their place, though this appears doubtful.

In any case, a team as expensively formed as Luis Enrique’s should not be in this position. Regardless of the quality available to the PSG manager, all eyes will be on one player to step up and guarantee the week does not conclude with the entire continent reveling in the misfortune of the region’s great underachievers.

Despite all of the rumors and bids, both accepted and refused, Kylian Mbappe will remain a PSG player until the summer of 2023. And, as long as he is under contract with PSG, Mbappe’s top aim is to win the Champions League with his hometown club. However, on Wednesday, he will be tasked with leading his team to the bare minimum – getting out of the group stage.

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Waiting for his iconic moment

Mbappe’s record in the Champions League is a mixed bag. According to the statistics, he is already one of the competition’s most successful players at the age of 24. He has 43 goals, which is more than Wayne Rooney, Arjen Robben, and Sergio Aguero combined, and the same as former teammate Neymar. If he continues at his present rate, he might break Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time record of 140 goals in the competition.

However, the Champions League is more about the moments than the goals. It all comes down to Steven Gerrard in Istanbul, Zinedine Zidane in Glasgow, and Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Barcelona. Mbappe, on the other hand, has yet to produce his trademark Champions League performance since becoming a true worldwide star.

Certainly, his opening goal against Manchester City while leading the line for Monaco in 2017 comes to mind, a breakout performance that helped knock Pep Guardiola’s team out of the competition. His hat-trick versus Barcelona in the 2020 knockout round was also impressive. Since then, however, the French forward has failed to deliver a virtuoso performance in crucial matches.

His role in historic failures has overshadowed the majority of his European career to date, with his lack of defensive effort in crucial games proving costly in a couple of high-profile exits.

Parisian pledge

Following PSG’s quarter-final defeat by Bayern Munich, Mbappe told reporters that Bayern “have a team built to win the Champions League” — something the Parisians lacked, even with Lionel Messi and Neymar beside the 2018 World Cup champion.

It served as a type of forewarning. Mbappe was already courting Real Madrid ahead of a probable summer departure, thus his lamenting the plight of his present club was interpreted as an indication of an impending transfer.

However, after rejecting a move to the Saudi Pro League during the transfer window — and Madrid failing to secure a deal — Mbappe was recalled to the squad. The key, albeit unwritten, condition for his return was that PSG achieve European success. He’s made it clear over the years that his ambition is to win the Champions League with his hometown club.

Mbapoe’s claim has been supported in various ways by owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi and manager Luis Enrique. Although the manager admitted that PSG may be “obsessed” with winning the competition, he reiterated that his club’s goal is to win it. Al-Khelaifi has made no secret of his desire to win the trophy, which is the only piece of silverware still missing from his cabinet after he purchased the club over a decade ago.

Mbappe in a hybrid form

Of all, it all starts and ends with Mbappe, the man who has often promised to lead his side to European glory. And he’s done just about enough to justify his vow so far. The winger is having another productive season, with 18 goals and 19 assists in 19 appearances across all competitions.

His European stats, on the other hand, aren’t quite as persuasive. PSG’s vice-captain has scored three goals in five games, two of which have come from penalty kicks. The major games — the away defeats at Newcastle and Milan — have been among his poorest of the season. Mbappe didn’t score at St. James’ Park and was largely unnoticed at San Siro, a ghostly figure wandering across the Milanese turf.

Opponents appear to have figured out how to keep him silent. PSG are now easier to defend for Europe’s premier sides without Neymar and Messi. Previously, Mbappe was routinely given one-on-one matchups due to the amount of defensive concentration required on his teammates. Mbappe is now frequently swarmed whenever he receives the ball, forcing him to beat numerous defenders at once — and is frequently kicked before he has a chance.

He still sees a lot of the ball, but he rarely gets it in full stride with space to run into. Unsurprisingly, stopping one superstar is easier than stopping three.