This time, twelve months ago, the world was a very different place. With that, I include the perceived quality of a Champions League last eight tie between Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta.
In many ways, with the media focus ever-shifting towards the financial gap between clubs and the mire it will eventually land us in, in terms of competitive football, Atalanta, much like Leicester City, are the exceptions to this rule.
What I’m saying is that we as a people probably need Atalanta to get through this tie on Wednesday at 20:00 for the sake of football – but let’s step back and see how it’s billed.
Only Bayern Munich (98) and Manchester City (102) scored more goals in the big five European leagues than Atalanta managed in the 2019-20 season and that should give us all hope.
PSG, with their Qatari cash influx, have long been the poster boys for the gentrification of football on a grand scale, while their opponents here are the anarchists trying to upset the order at the top table.
And this narrative isn’t all hyperbole and no substance; the prices clearly reflect that they have every chance of qualifying, so you should be glued to this game for many reasons.
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Unfortunately, fairytales are exactly that. While Atalanta can certainly find the net, you do tend to feel that, should this go to extra-time, which I suspect it might, that the Parisian reinforcements can send them into the final four and somewhat remove their tag of perennial underachievers on the European stage.
Should a neutral venue favour Atalanta? Somewhat, but they’re without their partisan following, that, in their absence, saw their form dip ever so slightly and it clearly made a difference not being able to ride that wave of euphoria that came with the unexpected.
If anything, this not being in the Parc des Princes should help PSG get over the traumatic experiences they’ve had there year on year. Well, as traumatic as winning trebles every second year domestically can be – but you know what I mean.
In a single-leg contest, there’s no strategy here and I think people will see the benefit of this again when both sides go gung-ho rather than strategically wait out for the second leg and treat this simply as setting the table for the second leg narrative.
And realistically, I’m not sure, based on their respective exploits, that either are capable of stopping the other from scoring so over 3.5 goals looks tempting here.
This is going to be an old-fashioned cracker and I’m very much telling my Da to watch it so he can stop sending around WhatsApps proclaiming football is dead because goalkeepers are playing it out from the back.
This lands in here simply to perk up the price somewhat, and if you take a look at the prices of players to score anytime, Neymar is the most appealing by some way.
He does generally perform on the biggest stage, only to be let down by those around him and I suspect this will be absolutely no different.
Tips for PSG vs Atalanta on Wednesday at 20:00
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