PARIS, France, Nov 26 – Paris Saint-Germain’s teenage superstar Kylian Mbappe has told AFP that, for all the Qatar-owned club’s huge investments in recent years, they will need the breaks to fall their way if they are to finally fulfil their dream of winning the Champions League.
The French giants face Liverpool in a crunch group game at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday, when a defeat could end their hopes of even reaching the knockout rounds, unthinkable for a club with their ambitions.
They may have won all 14 Ligue 1 games this season under new coach Thomas Tuchel — meaning a successful defence of the domestic title is inevitable — but PSG underperformed in a 3-2 defeat in Liverpool.
Two draws against Napoli followed, and now another defeat against Jurgen Klopp’s side and a win for Napoli against Red Star Belgrade at the same time would send Paris packing.
“We have struggled a bit so far, but we are still in the running and we have our fate in our own hands. I think that in order to win a competition you need things to click into place,” Mbappe said in an interview with AFP.
“There are games in which you think, at first sight, that nothing unusual is going to happen. And then there is maybe a little moment in the game — it can be a half, or a spell in which you are on top — and your team grows in confidence and things go in your favour, to take you far in a competition like this.”
It is not just on the field that PSG need things to go their way, with Tuchel currently sweating on the fitness of both Mbappe and Neymar for Wednesday’s game.
Mbappe came off with a shoulder injury during France’s friendly against Uruguay last week, while Neymar hurt a groin playing for Brazil the same night. Both players watched from the stands as PSG laboured to a 1-0 win over Toulouse at the weekend.
An injury to Neymar cost Paris dear against Real Madrid in the Champions League last season, and they will be desperate to have both players fit.
– Learning from World Cup –
Mbappe, meanwhile, knows exactly what it takes at this level, having starred in France’s glorious World Cup campaign in Russia, scoring in the 4-2 final win over Croatia.
He also reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with Monaco two seasons ago. In contrast, Paris endured four consecutive exits in the quarter-finals before back-to-back last-16 losses in the last two seasons.
But Mbappe — who turns 20 next month — believes PSG can learn from France’s campaign in Russia, and sees their 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 as a reference point.
“At the World Cup, during the group stage, nobody thought we would go on to win it,” said the forward.
“I had said our aim was to win it and people laughed at me a bit. So it can be difficult to look too far forward, all the more so in the Champions League where there are so many matches.”
PSG have not beaten one of Europe’s biggest names since a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich during the group stage last season, and they can ill afford another below-par performance against Liverpool.
“We are not missing much. It is not much but at the same time it is a lot, because in top-level football it is the little details that are the most important,” admitted Mbappe, who has netted 13 times in 13 games this season.
What Mbappe has achieved is incredible given his age, and he is now hoping for a signature performance in Europe for PSG before finding out whether his glorious year will be capped by the Ballon d’Or — Mbappe is one of the finalists for the prize, with the ceremony taking place in Paris next Monday.
“I always say that the Champions League is the best competition in terms of coming up against top-level players.
“It is a real pleasure to play against great defenders, it helps you progress and brings out the best in you. It is just a pleasure. I want more of it!”