And suddenly everything changed… While PSG held first place in their group, Joao Mario scored Benfica’s sixth goal against Maccabi Haifa (6-1) and allowed the Portuguese to finish top thanks to a greater number of away goals. And statically, that changes a lot of things for Christophe Galtier’s men.
Since the introduction of the new format of the competition in 2003, with the final phase preceded by the group phase, 13 of the 19 winners have finished in first place in their group, or 68%. Above all, during the last three editions, only the first in their group have won the trophy. Real Madrid last year, Chelsea in the 2020-2021 season and Bayern Munich in 2020… against PSG.
First place gives advantages
A group first place theoretically offers a more affordable confrontation. The team finishing first can only face a second, avoiding in-form formations on the European stage. Thereby, PSG could inherit Bayern MunichReal Madrid or Manchester City, instead of weaker teams such as Club Brugge or Eintracht Frankfurt.
This place of leader also makes it possible to receive in the return match of the round of 16. Pushed by his public, the first can reverse situations, it seems insurmountable. PSG learned this the hard way in 2017. On the lawn of Barça, the players of the capital suffered the famous “raised”in the wake of Neymar and Messi (6-1).
Real Madrid, the example to follow
Over the last three editions, the six finalists have finished in first place in their group, like PSG in 2020. The most striking remains the 2020/2021 edition. Of the eight teams still in contention in the quarter-finals, seven finished in first place. The exception was called Juventus, then at the start of its descent to European neutrality, punctuated by its elimination on Wednesday evening.
Worse, the emblematic courses of PSG in the Champions League began with victorious group matches. In their 2020 final, Marquinhos’ partners edged out Real Madrid in the pool. The following season, they finished first ahead of RB Leipzig and then failed in the semi-final against Manchester City.
If its European future has darkened somewhat, PSG can think of the epics of Real Madrid. During Madrid’s dominance between 2017 and 2019, Karim Benzema’s teammates were crowned twice as they finished second in their group (2017 and 2018). Liverpool, in 2019, won the competition, as they finished behind… PSG in the group stage. Something to give hope to Parisians. Waiting for the draw Monday, November 7 at 12 p.m.