The Champions League has broken Paris Saint-Germain's manager in the past. Laurent Blanc was sacked for losing the quarter-finals for a weak Manchester City team in 2016. Unai Emery has never recovered from a collapse in Barcelona the following year. If PSG lost to Liverpool on Wednesday night, and were eliminated in the group phase, it was impossible to see how Thomas Tuchel could survive.
But they won, 2-1, and after being happy, the players danced on the pitch long after the end, it was possible to feel a change, or at least the beginning of something. For the first time in more than a year, PSG have beaten other top teams in Europe. This is a kind of result that can make managerial ownership, not a break. And Tuchel couldn't hide his pride and excitement in the post-match press conference.
What really stands out in Tuchel's comments is the feeling that PSG is starting to underneath it. Never felt, under Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc or Unai Emery, as if the club had made a lot of progress. The stories are the same, when they try and fail to reach the Champions League semi-finals, something they still haven't done.
However, the great achievement of Tuchel is to show this back as a young team with a mission. He talked first about how much experience he had than PSG, who was technically correct, but felt a strange complaint when he had Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel di Maria and Gianluigi Buffon in the field. But Tuchel spoke afterwards as if his team had proven something for the first time out there, and made a mental breakthrough that was long delayed in doing so.
"This is our last chance to show that we can fight," Tuchel said, in his right French and developing at his press conference. "Liverpool have an extraordinary mentality and this is why it is necessary to show that we can play and fight this team. This is our last chance to really show that we can play big matches against big teams. This is a big step for us. "
Jurgen Klopp has complaints about PSG's acting, but he was impressed by their appearance and Tuchel's tactical courage. "When you look at the composition of the players, the approach they choose is full risk. Especially at first, they will try anything as long as their feet will take them. And with the quality they have, it's strong enough to handle. "
What this means in practice is 4-4-2 with Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani up front, and Neymar and Angel di Maria tucked from a wide area, and with Marquinhos and Marco Verratti sitting in front of the defense to protect them. And after much criticism that they can't play with the right level of intensity to defeat serious opponents, they tore Liverpool in the first round in a way that you don't often see PSG teams playing.
Even more impressive is the two-way relationship between the team and the crowd, each of which feeds energy from the other, each player cultivates it whenever he has free time. This is equivalent to courses at big clubs, but at PSG everything is a procession so often that so much emotion feels new. Tuchel of course likes it too.
The challenge now, if PSG is successful, is to replicate this same intensity in the last 16. Last year they withered on two legs against Real Madrid but if they play like this in February then no one wants to come here. Not even a back-to-back-to-back champion. Tuchel finally lit a fire here and now he must stay on. "We must preserve this spirit," he said. "Very good for creating a new atmosphere, new culture. We have no experience, and now we feel something. "
Maybe they will lose again in the last 16 or quarter-final, as they always do in the Qatar era. But if they don't, and this is the year they finally made it to the serious stage, then tonight against Liverpool it will be remembered as the night when the penny finally fell.
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