PSG's big Champions League gamble: Mauricio Pochettino remains unfazed by added pressure to win now
Paris Saint-Germain get their UEFA Champions League campaign underway this Wednesday against Club Brugge in Belgium and the French giants are among the favorites for the title once again but are up against fellow hopefuls Manchester City in Group A.
Speaking ahead of the clash at Jan Breydel Stadium on Tuesday evening, head coach Mauricio Pochettino was relishing the expectations on PSG since the summer arrivals of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes.
"We know that we will be judged on our results at the end of this season," said Pochettino. "Pressure exists at all clubs, and we know that the Champions League has been a major objective for PSG for years.
"Maybe we are one of the two teams to beat on paper with Chelsea given our summers and the fact that they are defending champions. They invested more than PSG, though, so they are the team to beat for me. We have recruited and now we need to lay the foundations to be a great team."
For captain Marquinhos, no stranger to PSG finding themselves with great expectations on their shoulders, he welcomed the new interest in the team but insisted that it was for journalists and fans to discuss and not the players.
"We know pressure every year, especially at PSG -- it comes with the territory. Soccer has been like that since I was young. True, with our squad, people talk about us even more and want to watch us. All the better for us, but there is no additional pressure -- only positives.
"Nothing really changes. Like I said, it is important to have players like the ones which we have. They are all experienced and know how to handle it. Of course, we are one of the best teams in the world. I will let the journalists and fans debate that. In any case, once a match starts, there are no stars -- it is all about sacrifice."
On the topic of potentially seeing Messi alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the first time in PSG colors, Pochettino hinted that Club Brugge will be the first opponents to witness the marvel with Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1 to come this weekend.
"Maybe we will see them together at some point during the 90 minutes," said the Argentine of the superstar trio. "It is possible."
Although sporting director Leonardo told Canal+ that PSG plan for Messi, Neymar and Mbappe's association to be for more than just this season, the France international is yet to extend his contract beyond next summer and the Brazilian transfer guru insists that securing his future remains priority after Real Madrid's failed summer swoop.
"We have never thought of doing without Kylian," explained Leonardo. "We did not like Real's behavior, and we never thought about it. The offer was insufficient and less than we paid. Kylian is the difference between something superficial and deep. You cannot argue without something deep like that.
"I do not see him leaving at the end of this season. We have never changed our aim. Kylian's relationship with PSG runs deep. I do not think anybody sees the future without him. I do not see him leaving at the end of the season.
"Not only is he French, but he is also one of the best players in the world. Everyone likes him. He is a fabulous player. When you think of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe -- that is not something for just one year."
With regards to La Liga chief Javier Tebas' regular attacks on PSG with regards to Financial Fair Play and his recent claims that Real can afford Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland next summer, Leonardo suggested that it was born out of Spanish soccer's economic problems.
"Tebas was out of line," he added. "His comments seem to me to be more about him and La Liga, which is not in very good health, more than anything else."
PSG are away at Club Brugge this Wednesday and you can follow Messi, Neymar and Mbappe's first steps together on the European stage exclusively on Paramount+.