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Max Allegri’s side have a tendency towards caution in European competition, so a clean sheet should be within reach for Christophe Galtier’s team.
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For Paris Saint-Germain, the Champions League has become an obsession. The French outfit have never won Europe’s most prestigious competition. Despite being the only major club in Paris, one of the continent’s richest and most historic capital cities, PSG have only recently come to dominate French soccer. Between their founding in 1970 and the takeover of Qatar Sports Investment in 2011, PSG won a grand total of two Ligue 1 titles.
It would be wrong to say that the club had no history to speak of before the game-changing investment of a nation-state. But they were certainly not a powerhouse – not in France and not in Europe, despite their success in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996. PSG’s financial might has allowed them to dominate domestically in the last decade, with eight title triumphs in the last 10 years. But they are yet to make the breakthrough in the Champions League. Worse still, they have suffered considerable heartache along the way.
PSG reached the final in 2020 but lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich. Last year, they threw away a 2-0 aggregate advantage to suffer defeat by Real Madrid in the round of 16. They had already done similar against Manchester United in 2018/19. Two years prior to that, PSG thrashed Barcelona 4-0 in the home leg of their last-16 tie but somehow contrived to lose 6-1 in the return fixture.
PSG have assembled arguably the most talented front three in soccer history, with Neymar and Lionel Messi either side of Kylian Mbappe. Yet that was not enough to get Mauricio Pochettino’s side over the line in Europe last term, and the Argentine was replaced over the summer by Christophe Galtier. The Ligue 1 title is taken for granted at the Parc des Princes these days, so. Galtier will be judged on the Champions League and the Champions League alone.
It could be argued that Juventus have underperformed in the Champions League even more than PSG throughout their history. Whereas the latter have only become a force in the last decade, the Bianconeri have been the dominant force in the Italian game since shortly after the European Cup was launched in 1955.
Juventus have won 36 Serie A titles, almost double the number of the next-best Milan and Inter (19 each). Yet they have been crowned champions of Europe just twice, in 1985 and 1996. They have been outdone by both of those domestic rivals in the Champions League, with Inter lifting the trophy three times and Milan doing so on seven occasions (only Real Madrid have more triumphs to their name).
Max Allegri’s men are among the outsiders in 2022/23 with the best online sportsbooks. The group stage draw has been reasonably kind: although their games against PSG will be tough, Juventus will back themselves to finish ahead of Benfica and Maccabi Haifa.
Yet the Bianconeri can take nothing for granted after their recent disappointing displays in Europe. They have been knocked out of the Champions League by Ajax, Lyon, Porto and Villarreal in the last four years. Benfica, then, will fancy their chances of upsetting the odds and qualifying for the round of 16.
Allegri enjoyed a successful first spell in charge of Juventus between 2014 and 2019. He won the Serie A title in each of his five seasons at the helm, and also led the club to two Champions League finals. Yet when he departed the Allianz Stadium three years ago, Allegri could not find another job. It is not known whether he did not receive many offers or was approached by several clubs but turned them down. Either way, he remained out of work until returning to Juve in 2021.
Allegri’s first season back was tough, with the Bianconeri finishing fourth in Serie A and being knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16. The jury is out on whether he is the man to get them back to the summit of the Italian game. Allegri has a tendency towards conservatism which looks out of place at the elite level in 2022.
That shortcoming could prove costly at the Parc des Princes. Juventus will sit back and look to soak up pressure, hoping that they can hold PSG at arm’s length. But unless they commit bodies forward on the break and show some degree of attacking ambition, Juventus will come unstuck. Defending for 90 minutes is not a recipe for success.
This is unlikely to be a classic game, but we fancy PSG to get the job done in front of their own fans. Go for a home win to nil as Group H gets under way with a meeting of its two heavyweights on Tuesday.
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|PSG vs Juventus
|Parc des Princes, Paris, France
|Tuesday, 6 September 2022, 15.00 PM EST
|How to watch
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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