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Ligue 1 winners PSG have no excuse for failure in Champions League push

Paris Saint-Germain are champions of France again, completing a dominant title win in typically emphatic fashion with a devastating club league record 9-0 win over rock-bottom Troyes on Sunday.

Laurent Blanc’s men have lost just one game en route to what is a sixth league title, with the victory giving the capital club an unassailable 25-point lead over Monaco with eight games of the season still to play.

Yet, while few would begrudge PSG for popping some corks to mark the completion of what quickly became a mere formality in Champagne country, the celebrations are likely to be brief.

Nobody expected PSG to be seriously challenged in the league, but this is a club with ambitions beyond those of maintaining their startling domestic dominance.

Having won the treble last term but suffered a third straight quarter-final exit in the Champions League, there is undoubtedly a greater emphasis on winning Europe’s premier club competition this season.

While it would be unfair to suggest PSG’s season has not been a success should they again come up short in Europe, that is how it is likely to be viewed by the hierarchy at Parc des Princes.

The routine nature of PSG’s last-16 victory over Chelsea furthered the notion that Blanc’s side can challenge the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich for the top prize this time around.

On paper PSG have the quality to compete with Europe’s elite. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is seemingly ageless and remains one of the continent’s top strikers – his four-goal effort against Troyes taking him to 35 for the season in all competitions – while Angel Di Maria has been rejuvenated since coming in from Manchester United.

Di Maria has had a hand in 29 goals this term, scoring 13 and laying on 16 for his team-mates, and, with the league now secure, Blanc can afford to rest his top talent to keep them fresh for a Champions League push while giving opportunities to a steady stream of young players making their way through the ranks.

But history is against PSG, who suffered two of their last-eight eliminations at the hands of Barcelona, and the seemingly impending exit of Ibrahimovic and speculation over the future of Blanc will add to the desperation to avoid a similar fate again.

Despite PSG’s significant spending power, Ibrahimovic’s expected departure at the end of his contract will leave a substantial hole in a squad not blessed with depth at centre forward beyond the Sweden international and Edinson Cavani, who has spent the majority of his time at the club in the shadow of the former Barca striker.

Although Blanc recently penned a two-year extension, reports have emerged over interest from former club Manchester United and it is fair to suggest he may be tempted by a new challenge in the Premier League if he believes he has taken PSG as far as he can.

PSG’s powerbrokers may also decide to revisit the decision to commit to Blanc long term should he fail to take advantage of what is arguably his best chance to lead the club to European glory.

There is no guarantee Cavani will be able to succeed leading the line after Ibrahimovic makes his likely move elsewhere or that – with the eye-watering Premier League TV deal sure to impact the transfer market – PSG will be able to source a replacement capable of effectively filling the void.

PSG’s forward line will remain more than good enough to dominate in France, but whether it will be as feared in Europe in the post-Ibrahimovic era remains to be seen.

However, they can now set their sights solely on the one honour that has consistently evaded Ibrahimovic, who is playing alongside quality he will not have seen since his days at Camp Nou. 

He and PSG find themselves in an ideal position to capture the trophy they have long since craved. Serious questions will be asked if this opportunity is not grasped.

Mon 14 Mar, 2016
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