Wednesday, 8pm, BT Sport 1
It’s the stuff of dreams for a club like Atalanta making it this far in the Champions League. After four games in the group stages it didn’t look on at all, as they’d only one point and it looked like they weren’t getting through
They were pretty impressive in earning that single point though, against Man city in the San Siro, and anyone that’s been following football this last couple of years should know that the Bergamo-based side and they’re a very, very good team.
They’ve scored 98 times in Serie A alone this season – that’s 22 more strikes than champions Juve – and if you look at Expected Points, a stat based on the quality of chances created by teams over a season, Atalanta should’ve won the Italian league based on that metric
So this is not going to be easy for PSG.
The big question for them is are they going to be rusty?
Since March, the Franch side have played just a couple of friendlies post-lockdown and a pair of cup finals, and they only scored one goal in those, over 210 minutes after one of those went to extra-time.
And that’s always really been the concern with PSG in the Champions League, that they’re undercooked because of the standard of competition in France.
However, they have lost just once in their last 29 competitive games. That was against Dortmund in the first leg of their last-16 tie, but what was really impressive there is they went and won the second-leg with no home crowd 2-0 back in Paris to get through.
The Ligue 1 champions hadn’t shown that kind of fight before.
They lost to United last year, and there was the magnificent tie against Barcelona a few years before too where they fell to pieces, so PSG really do need to start delivering on big occasions.
I think the result against Dortmund is quite telling, so for that reason I’d side with the Parisians to get through in this tie.
Atalanta are missing Josip Iličić, he’s been a massive player for them this season with 15 goals and 5 assists in the league – that’s a goal contribution once every 83 minutes he’s on the pitch.
For PSG, outside of their forward talent, their most important play will be Idrissa Gueye, formerly of Everton. He’ll be crucial in their defensive efforts to break up Atalanta prolific attack. And they’ve Champions League-winning experience in the goal if needed, with ex-Real Madrid stopper Keylor Navas between the sticks, so I think this is set up for PSG to have a really good crack at the Champions League, and that starts with getting through against Atalanta.
In the goalscorer markets, I have to look at Neymar.
There are plenty of questions about the Brazliian since he arrived in Paris, but if you look at his league record, he’s delivered a goal or assist every 63 minutes he’s played.
In the Champions League, that’s slightly higher at 70 minutes, but it’s still a pretty good strike-rate. The problem is he hasn’t played all that much, especially in the knockout stages.
He missed the second leg against Madrid a couple of years ago, and both games against Man United last season through injury.
He wanted to come to PSG to stand out on his own rather than being overshadowed by Messi and possibly win a Ballon D’Or. If he’s going to ever do that he has to stand up on occasions like this. I’d back him to do it here.
With all the soft penalties we’re seeing as well, it’s worth saying he’ll probably be on penalty duty for PSG in this too, so that just adds to the case for him to net.
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