PARIS (AP) — Coach Christophe Galtier was good at identifying Paris Saint-Germain’s weaknesses when his former teams faced the club.
Galtier was undefeated in five games against PSG in two seasons with Lille and Nice, without even conceding a goal, so PSG hired the shrewd tactician as its new coach in July.
However, Galtier seems unable to remedy the same problem areas he expertly exploited, and PSG is under heavy pressure for Tuesday’s home game against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their round-of-16 clash in the Champions League.
“We need to do less talking, work hard, analyze things properly,” said Galtier, who has genuine cause to worry.
PSG has lost four of its past 10 games with the defense leaking 13 goals, while Bayern is hitting form having scored 11 goals in three matches.
“Of course our players have their pride, so do I,” Galtier said. “Yes, we’re worried (about facing Bayern). But we must keep a clear head.”
Yet Galtier has a headache up front.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive player at 222 million euros ($237 million), has been anonymous recently for PSG.
Kylian Mbappé was expected to miss the Bayern game with a thigh injury but he recovered more quickly than expected and was named in PSG’s squad along with World Cup winner Lionel Messi, who sat out the Monaco match on Saturday with a sore hamstring.
Also, four of PSG’s five wins during this 10-game spell were against either struggling top-flight teams or small sides in the French Cup. Furthermore, another sloppy performance saw PSG conceding a stoppage-time equalizer in a home draw with Reims.
“The time has come to shut our mouths, we know we have to improve a lot,” PSG captain Marquinhos said after last week’s French Cup defeat to Marseille, imploring his teammates to urgently react.
They didn’t on Saturday, and Galtier lamented a dismal performance in a 3-1 defeat at Monaco which would have been much heavier if goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma had not made seven saves.
The World Cup top scorer Mbappé, who missed the defeats to Marseille and Monaco, posted a message on Instagram in a bid to motivate teammates and fans.
“Let’s stay strong & united,” he wrote.
Yet tensions appear to be running high at a cash-rich club desperate to win the Champions League for the first time, yet also bidding to avoid a second straight elimination in the last 16 after last season’s humiliating defeat by Real Madrid.
Some 50 PSG ultras made their feelings known on Sunday, with the fans jeering the players as they arrived at training.
“I understand the anger of the fans,” Galtier said.
Central defender Presnel Kimpembe tried to appease PSG’s disgruntled supporters after the Monaco game, grabbing a megaphone and addressing them directly as he stood before the away section.
“On the field we’ve been a load of rubbish, we know that,” he said, before imploring their indulgence and tolerance. “Don’t give up on us, we still need you. We’re going to sort things out in the dressing room, do things the right way and we’ll be up for it on Tuesday.”
It’s a familiar refrain that’s been churned out before.
In 2019, PSG became the first team to be eliminated after winning the away leg 2-0, losing to Manchester United 3-1 at Parc des Princes as Kimpembe gave away a last-gasp penalty.
In 2017, PSG was the first team knocked out after winning the first leg 4-0, losing 6-1 at Barcelona.
And last year, Karim Benzema scored a hat trick for Madrid in less than 20 minutes as PSG crumbled in the second half, having again won the first leg.
While the multitude of voices speaking out at PSG sounds somewhat desperate, it also suggests a lack of unity and authority within the club.
It seems like everyone wants to be a firefighter and Kimpembe, after appeasing angry fans, appeared to contradict himself.
“No, there’s no reason to be worried,” he said about the Bayern match, before adding. “We need to wake up. Like I said, it’s not words but actions that count.”
Bayern has won the German league a record 32 times and clinched its sixth Champions League title when it defeated PSG 1-0 in the final in 2020, with former PSG winger Kingsley Coman heading in the winner.
Coman and record-breaker Thomas Müller scored in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Bochum as Bayern stayed unbeaten anywhere since Sept. 17 — i ncluding a perfect six wins in Group C of the Champions League. PSG was second in Group H behind Benfica.
Still, Bayern’s coach Julian Nagelsmann sounded dissatisfied with his side’s showing against Bochum.
“If we play like that on Tuesday then it won’t be enough,” said Nagelsmann, saying his team will up the tempo.
If so, that’s bad news for a PSG side which struggles badly whenever intensity is increased.