Football Features

PSG’s Champions League away form could see them fall to first group stage exit since 2004

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:18, 7 November 2023

Paris Saint-Germain could be left cursing their away record if they fail to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.

Group F is the toughest in the Champions League this season, pitting PSG against AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United. However, the French champions will certainly have fancied their chances of making it into the knockout stages.

PSG haven’t failed to make it out of the Champions League group stage since 2004/05, when they fourth below Chelsea, Porto and CSKA Moscow with five points from their six games. That was their last Champions League campaign for eight years, but since their return in 2012/13, knockout stages have been the minimum.

There were four straight quarter-final appearances and three in the last 16 before PSG made their debut in the final. Since their defeat to Bayern Munich, PSG have been knocked out in the semi-finals and then last 16 in each of the last two seasons. That’s 11-straight qualifications from the group stage.

After four games of Group F, PSG are still second, and know they are in control of their knockout stage destiny. But they’ll be desperate for a result in their next game against Newcastle.

PSG travelled to the San Siro with six points from their opening three games, beating Borussia Dortmund and then AC Milan at the Parc des Princes. With a 3-0 victory over the Rossoneri last time out, fans will have been confident of another win on Tuesday.

To swing the tide even further in PSG’s favour, AC Milan hadn’t scored in five Champions League matches since the quarter-finals of last season’s competition. PSG got off to a brilliant start too, with Milan Skriniar opening the scoring, back at the San Siro having left Inter Milan in the summer.

However, it was a short-lived lead. Within a few minutes, AC Milan were level thanks to the brilliance of Rafael Leao. The Portuguese forward started the move with a great run through the middle and continuing pushing as Olivier Giroud shaped up to shoot. It meant that Leao was there in the middle of the six-yard box to acrobatically finish after Gianluigi Donnarumma could only parry Giroud’s shot.

It was the first goal AC Milan had scored in the Champions League this season with their 55th shot, ending a run of 558 minutes without scoring in the competition.

You would’ve thought the goal would wake PSG up but AC Milan were the team that looked most like scoring the third goal of the game. And they did exactly that in the opening five minutes of the second half.

Giroud was the scorer with a header from Theo Hernandez’s cross, beating Skriniar in the air. It was a good goal from AC Milan’s perspective, but PSG should look at their players switching off and distracted by Leao being down in the box and a minor collision with Achraf Hakimi.

Try as they might, ending the game with 17 shots, PSG couldn’t find the equaliser, sending them to another away defeat. It’s now three away defeats in a row in the Champions League for PSG, having been knocked out last season with a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich before their 4-1 hammering at St James’ Park.

PSG have lost three in a row away from home in the Champions League for the first time for five years, having previously done so between December 2017 and September 2018 across spells by Unai Emery and Thomas Tuchel.

It may be a coincidence, and correlation doesn’t always mean causation, but Kylian Mbappe has failed to find the net or assist in any of PSG’s last three away Champions League games. Against AC Milan, Mbappe had three shots and hit the target twice, but it just wasn’t his night again.

Worryingly for PSG, they may be relying on needing a result in their final group game against Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.

Earlier in the day, Dortmund beat Newcastle 2-0 to extend their unbeaten run at home in the Champions League to seven games, conceding just one goal during that time — with four consecutive clean sheets.

Of course, things will be a lot more comfortable if PSG beat Newcastle in their next game.