Sports, Football

PSG en route to Dortmund for semis

Published : 30 Apr 2024 09:16 PM | Updated : 30 Apr 2024 09:17 PM

Soon after winning his near six-hour final against Rafael Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open, Novak Djokovic famously savoured a tiny chunk of chocolate as part of his celebrations. Paris Saint-Germain's players are likely to be as circumspect after clinching the 2024 Ligue 1 crown: on Wednesday night they play in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at Borussia Dortmund. 

Enrique, who steered Barcelona to the Champions League in 2015, has at least eclipsed Pochettino's replacement Christophe Galtier with the present surge to the last four.

The 53-year-old Spaniard raised eyebrows at the start of the Champions League campaign when he said that it was unhealthy to be obsessed by the competition. So many of Enrique's predecessors had vowed to bring European club football's most prestigious prize back to the Parc des Princes.But how the side have flourished in the chill-out zone. In the second leg of their last eight tie in Barcelona, the hosts led PSG 4-2 on aggregate  but Enrique's men dug in and – aided by Barcelona's spectacular indiscipline – fought back and prevailed 6-4 on aggregate.

Kylian Mbappé, who had been notably feeble in the first leg, bagged a brace to lead the revival.

And at the business end of the 2023/24 season, PSG are half way to a quadruple that would give them bragging rights par excellence over all of their French rivals.

And the feat would vindicate the decision to ditch Galtier and draft in Enrique last July. But even if the quest for four does ultimately fail, Enrique has displayed enough steel and guile to prepare the ground for more triumphs.

The Spaniard maintained his poise at the start of his reign as the squad was shorn of star players such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Marco Verratti.Their replacements, individually less talented, but collectively more amenable have bonded into a team able to show resilience and grit.

Enrique has also started his planning for PSG after Mbappé's expected move to Real Madrid.

He has left the France skipper on the bench seven times this season in an effort to manage the striker’s playing time and to test his options for next season.

The ploy has paid dividends. Mbappé is on course to win the Ligue 1 "golden boot" with 26 goals — nine more than Lille's Jonathan David.

And it's not just in the Champions League that the team can fight. On Saturday night at the Parc des Princes, a straightforward cruise against relegation-threatened Le Havre was expected for PSG to claim the title in front of their adoring fans.

But they botched their lines. Le Havre led 3-1 but Gonçalo Ramos set up one goal and scored in stoppage-time to level proceedings at 3-3.

PSG's record after 31 games stands at won 20, drawn 10, lost one. 

“I wouldn’t have imagined this scenario going as positively as this,” said Enrique of his championship-winning squad.

Caption: PSG’s forward Kylian Mbappe trains with the ball during team’s practice session at Campus PSG in Poissy on Monday. Photo: PSG