Talking Tactics: Paris problems may give Galtier Valentine's Day heartache
Paris Saint-Germain are on course for a ninth Ligue 1 title in 11 seasons — yet a maiden Champions League crown remains elusive.
The big spenders are into the knockout rounds of Europe’s premier competition for the 12th year running but have made it beyond the quarter-final stage on only two occasions.
Christophe Galtier’s men welcome Bayern Munich to the French capital this evening in the first leg of an intriguing last-16 tie, with the German giants also among this season’s leading contenders for glory.
Ahead of the contest, we ponder PSG’s campaign to date and assess whether they are finally ready to conquer the continent.
Glancing at the Ligue 1 table suggests it has been business as usual for Les Parisiens this term.
Five points ahead of Marseille in second place, they are firmly on course for another French title but that relatively comfortable position has only been attained in the last few weeks.
A month ago, Galtier’s side were locked in a tight battle with surprise package Lens before Franck Haise’s side suffered a damaging four-game winless streak.
Going into last weekend, PSG were eight points clear at the summit but suffered a humbling 3-1 loss to third-placed Monaco in a contest where they only managed two shots on target.
Upcoming clashes with Lille and Marseille look set to shape their league season, with a recent Coupe de France exit to the latter making it even more imperative that they win the league at a canter.
Of course, what PSG achieve on a domestic level will be disregarded should they secure a first Champions League success.
However, if 56-year-old Galtier is to achieve what predecessors such as Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino could not, he will have to overcome some challenging circumstances.
As often seems to be the case in Paris, dressing-room disagreements have been making headlines.
After Saturday’s defeat to Monaco, various reports in France suggested star winger Neymar was involved in a bust-up with two of his own team-mates in Vitinha and Hugo Ekitike.
Asked about the incident, the Brazilian forward did not rush to deny it when telling reporters: "It happened, a little discussion, we didn't agree.
"It happens to us every day, but I love them all. It is like with my girlfriend. There is respect but it happens to have discussions."
Rumours have since emerged that PSG officials are ready to offload Neymar next summer, undoubtedly adding more awkwardness to a tense situation
Injuries and illness
Even without Neymar, the megastar duo of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe would strike fear into any defence — though both are injury doubts to face Bayern tonight.
Messi, 35, has shown signs of fatigue since inspiring Argentina to an iconic World Cup triumph and a muscle problem saw him sit out of the Monaco defeat.
Meanwhile, the mercurial Mbappe, 24, was initially ruled out for three weeks after suffering a hamstring pull, though Galtier has since hinted he could return earlier than first thought.
Both players trained yesterday and, while they may not be risked from the start, could well play a role against the Bavarians.
PSG’s star-studded squad has also been weakened by a stomach bug that struck down several players and staff in the last week, meaning there could yet be more notable absentees from the home team sheet.
Change of approach
Galtier has admitted that a change of approach may be in order to secure a positive first-leg result against Julian Nagelsmann’s Bundesliga leaders.
A 3-4-2-1 formation was the ex-Nice boss’ preferred set-up earlier this term but he has deployed a back four in more recent times with mixed success.
Asked whether he could consider reverting to his old formation against Bayern, Galtier explained: "It’s a system in which we performed very well in the first part of the season.
"I changed my system after the draw against Benfica, I wanted to have more compactness in midfield, more possession, with more technical quality. We had that in some matches.
"But I don’t rule out fielding a team with three centre-backs when everyone comes back to form."
Factoring in shaky form, injury woes and growing tensions, perhaps drastic action is not a bad idea.