(Reuters) – Paris St Germain have been labelled as the side to beat in the Champions League since Lionel Messi joined during the close season but coach Mauricio Pochettino warned that he had not yet turned his stellar cast of players into a team.
PSG signed Messi as a free agent from Barcelona to assemble a formidable attacking trio with France striker Kylian Mbappe and Brazil forward Neymar, but they have yet to show what they are capable of together.
“We’re not a team yet. We are a club that has recruited many players this summer. There are some big names but we have to turn into a team,” Pochettino told a news conference on Tuesday on the eve of their opening Group A game at Club Brugge.
“We are a group of players who need to achieve results. There’s a feeling that we’re (PSG and Chelsea) the two teams to beat but Chelsea are the holders so they’re the team to beat especially after strengthening their squad.”
Captain Marquinhos said that there was “no added pressure” to win the Champions League since Messi had signed his two-year contract in a summer when former Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum also arrived.
“We live with the pressure every season, especially when you play for PSG. This is part and parcel of it,” the Brazilian said.
“With the squad we have, people are going to talk about that even more. We are delighted to have such players with us but there’s no extra pressure, there’s only positives to take.”
PSG reached the Champions League semi-finals last season and were runners up in 2020 but have never won Europe’s elite club competition.
Pochettino said he had not decided yet whether Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, who has so far only played half an hour with PSG, would all play at the Jan Breydel stadium, explaining he would make his decision after Tuesday’s training session.
Should they play together, Marquinhos said he had no concerns about how the team would defend.
“If the three of them are up front, they’re experienced players, they know we have to be compact and defend together, and we know the defence has to play high to put them in the best conditions,” he explained.
“If there’s anything to be said I’ll certainly say it.”
Pochettino has choices to make in attack, but perhaps more significantly, he will need to pick between Keylor Navas and Gianluigi Donnarumma to play in goal after the Italian keeper joined the club having led the Azzurri to the European title.
“We’ll decide game by game. I think it’s the fairest thing. The reality is that having those two in the squad makes us happy,” he said.
“The season is long and having them will benefit the club. Every player knows that when you sign for PSG there will be competition. It’s very clear that there are only 11 starters among which only one goalkeeper.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)