What must Mauricio Pochettino do to guide Paris Saint-Germain to the UEFA Champions League title this season?
Mauricio Pochettino has had a somewhat splendid start to life at Paris Saint-Germain. The former Tottenham Hotspur manager guided his new side to a trophy within the first weeks of taking over after winning the French Super Cup. Domestically, it has not gone as planned for the Argentine manager, however, in the UEFA Champions League, the French giants have already put a huge statement out after leaving Barcelona in tatters in a 1-4 demolition.
What is remarkable is that Pochettino managed to guide his side to such a resounding victory without several key players including the likes of Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Juan Bernat. Despite the injuries, it was the tactical brilliance of 49-year-old that helped PSG seal a victory over Ronald Koeman‘s team.
This very same team managed to reach the final last season but lost out on the opportunity of winning their maiden trophy after Kingsley Coman found the net for Bayern Munich. But with Pochettino in charge now, what must Paris Saint-Germain do to once again reach the final and also lift their first-ever UCL trophy?
Given their dominant display against Barcelona, the simplest answer would be to stick to their quick counter-attacking style of football. At the Camp Nou, PSG had their centre-backs moving higher up the field which saw both the full-backs running down the flanks into attacking situations. Marco Verratti‘s ability to drop back and provide cover while also distributing the ball proved to be pivotal for this tactic as the full-backs could progress higher up without any hesitation.
Long balls from either the defence or the midfield towards the progressing defenders on either flank helped Paris Saint-Germain on numerous occasions which also saw them grab a goal after Alessandro Florenzi ran behind his marker to set up Kylian Mbappe for his second of the night.
PSG rely on raw physicality that helps them get past most oppositions. With players such as Mbappe, Leandro Paredes, Idrissa Gana Gueye in the team it makes it a lot more easier to out muscle opponents on the basis of speed and strength. Pochettino will have to play to the team’s strength as it was on display on the first leg of the Round of 16. Not only did Paris Saint-Germain outthink Barcelona, but they also out-muscled the Catalans with their continuos pressing along with their forwards making inroads at every attack.
With Neymar set to recover in the next few weeks, his arrival would certainly help Pochettino in rebuilding the attack on another level. With Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Kylian Mbappe as the front three, PSG can play some thrilling counter-attacking football since Pochettino himself preaches the same.
The likes of Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria should also not be forgotten. Draxler can come extremely handy in the knockout stages when brought on as a substitute as it was seen in the clash against Barcelona. The German midfielder played a key-role by carrying the ball forward all the way near the opposition defence before sending it onto Mbappe’s path for his hattrick.
Mauricio Pochettino must focus on playing the same counter-attacking football in the remaining stages of the Champions League. However, despite the first leg victory away, PSG must be vigilant at home when they host Barcelona to play out the return leg. If the Parisiens see it through at the Parc des Princes, then they could once again become favourites to reach the final and possibly even win it this time around.