Paris St Germain vs Atlanta Champions League quarter-finals analysis.
On the one side, the fairy story of this season’s Champions League, the sole remaining Italian club in the competition with their annual revenues of €€149.8m.
On the other, the habitual French champions with their annual revenues of €635.9m. Atalanta are delighted even to be in the Champions League, never mind to have got this far, while Paris Saint-Germain are weighed down by the burden of never having got beyond the semi-final, and never having got beyond the quarters under their Qatari ownership.
Stylistically they are very different as well. Under Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta play breathless attacking football, pressing hard and looking to create overloads across the pitch.
Under Thomas Tuchel, although PSG have become more cohesive than they were previously, they are still a side that plays through its two huge celebrities, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, who may be fit to face the Italians despite suffering an ankle problem against St Étienne. Atalanta are very clearly more than the sum of their parts; for PSG, it seems a constant struggle to prove they are not less, a gaggle of stars in search of a constellation.
PSG are perhaps the most absurd of all the absurdities of the superclub era. Until six years ago, there had never been a domestic treble in France. In the past six years there have been four, yet all PSG’s success feels empty because it’s been achieved against much weaker, less well-resourced opponents and has never translated into real success in Europe.
In the Champions League the pattern has been for them to collapse in the face of the first proper challenge, largely because they’re so unused to being tested.
PSG clearly have a better squad than Atalanta, but much depends on how they handle Atalanta’s press. It’s enough to unsettle anybody, but PSG may be especially susceptible given no side in France would ever play so aggressively against them. A lack of matches after the abandonment of the French league – only two cup finals in the past five months – may also count against PSG.
Prediction Narrow Atalanta win.