Lionel Messi has come to Paris to win the Champions League again and on Wednesday he is finally set to take his first steps for his new club when their European campaign kicks off in Brugge. Five weeks have passed since Messi was introduced as a Paris SaintGermain player and said he was “in the perfect place” to win club football’s biggest prize for the fifth time.
In more than a month, he was seen in the PSG jersey for just 24 minutes as a substitute in a Ligue 1 game in Reims. The 34-year-old was due to make his full debut for the Qatari club last weekend, but he eventually rested against Clermont following his return from international duty with Argentina.
However, PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino is finally set to release the six-time Ballon d’Or from the start at the Jan Breydel stadium against Belgian champions Club Brugge in the Group A opener. Si Neymar and Kylian Mbappe also start. , it will be the first time that the superstar attacking trio will be on the pitch together for the Parisians.
Expectations are very high, both for Messi at his new club and for PSG in the Champions League, a trophy they haven’t won yet but want more than anything. PSG will face Manchester City, backed by Abu Dhabi – the team that knocked them out in the semi-finals last season – as well as RB Leipzig in a squad that could hardly have been more difficult, but they are a team built for go until the end.
“It reminds me of Liverpool when I got there. Liverpool were building a squad to win the Premier League. Here I joined a team that was built to win something. I said to myself: ‘It’s going to be huge,’ “L’Equipe Georginio Wijnaldum, another of PSG’s summer recruits, told the sports daily. They should, at the very least, be far too strong for their first opponents, even though the former European Cup finalists have been Belgian champions in three of the last four seasons.
The last time PSG went to Brugge it was in the group stage two years ago. There was no Messi at the time, and there was also no Neymar, but Mbappe managed a hat-trick in a 5-0 win. This summer, Wijnaldum and Messi were joined at the Parc des Princes by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, full-back Achraf Hakimi and former Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos, as well as Portuguese prospect Nuno Mendes. Ramos has yet to play at all, while Messi has slowly prepared, but PSG have still won five out of five games in Ligue 1, scoring 16 goals. Pochettino, who is without Angel di Maria suspended for the start of the European campaign, was still hesitant to play on PSG’s chances in the Champions League. “It’s a really unpredictable competition … you have to be lucky,” he told UEFA.com. Then again, you can’t have much luck as a manager than having Messi, Neymar and Mbappe on your squad.