PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain’s crushing of Real Madrid in their Champions League opener was not a warning to their European rivals - it was more a self-confidence booster on the French side’s return to the biggest stage after another humiliation.
PSG suffered an embarrassing last-16 exit against a low-key Manchester United following a shock 3-1 home defeat last season, and on Wednesday, they had a point to prove to themselves.
While a 3-0 home win against the 13-time European champions in Group A will not wipe off three consecutive last-16 eliminations, the Parc des Princes game showed that PSG have grown as a squad.
Thomas Tuchel’s side were without their magic trio of Kylian Mbappe, Edison Cavani - both injured - and Neymar, who was suspended, yet they produced a collective performance to be remembered.
Angel Di Maria showed his class and flair with a brace, helped by the huge work of midfielders Marco Verratti, Marquinhos and Idrissa Gueye, with the Senegalese proving his worth after joining from Everton during the close season.
“He’s a machine. He’s the type of player we were missing, he never stops running,” said Tuchel.
Gueye provided the midfield with much-needed stamina since Blaise Matuidi left for Juventus in 2017, proving essential with defensive tackles and impressive bursts going forward.
With the ‘MCN’ trio out, Argentine striker Mauro Icardi, loaned from Inter Milan, harassed the Real Madrid defense and created space for Di Maria while keeper Keylor Navas, who joined from Real, is expected to give the defence some peace of mind.
“We have a great team, with more personality now,” said Tuchel.
PSG, however, are well aware that Group stage wins will mean nothing when the knockout phase comes in the winter.
In 2017, they beat Bayern 3-0 in the Group phase and tamed Liverpool 2-1 also in the Group phase last year, but those victories were followed by early exits.
The way they beat Real on Wednesday, however, was far more convincing.
“We need to always play like we did, with character and personality. With aggressiveness, too,” said centre back Thiago Silva.
“Mbappe, Cavani and Neymar are phenomenons, but we have a solid squad of 25 players. Two of them were injured and one was suspended but what the other showed was brilliant.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clarence Fernandez