Champions League: repeated penalties for French clubs

Four. This is the number of points accumulated by the French teams of Rennes, Paris and Marseille after the first leg of the Champions League. Four points out of 27 possible. It is as much as Club Bruges, that Paris had swept 6-0 back and forth in the previous edition, and normally quicker to shine in the Europa League. In detail, this gives 7 defeats, 5 goals scored, 16 conceded in 9 games in total. Superlatives are lacking.

To attend the successive punishments on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in October, we would have almost forgotten that in August Ligue 1 still had two of its representatives (Lyon and Paris) in the last four of the most prestigious European competitions. This week is particularly disastrous. We have to go back to October 2011 to see the three French representatives lose on the same day.

What harm can gnaw the clubs of Ligue 1 so that every year or almost, the early eliminations are barely linked to the autumn period consumed ? The finals in Paris in 2020 and Marseille in 2018 give the illusion that French football is part of European dance. Above all, these are only isolated exploits that mask a much more contrasting reality.

This 2020-2021 vintage even more than the others. For the first time since 2002-2003, there could be no club from the “League of talents” in the round of 16 of C1. In principle, Marseille should not be relied on to remedy the emerging fiasco. Failing to extricate themselves from the hens, the Olympians are paralyzed by the specter of a less prestigious record: if they lose again against Porto at the Vélodrome in three weeks, the winning club in 1993 would become “forever the first” from thirteen consecutive defeats for a club in the competition. Sad irony: next, Bayern has just chained a fourteenth victory in a row, unheard of.

Plans B, C or D exist

After the sinking of the Luz stadium on Tuesday (0-3 defeat against Porto), one word stood out more than the others to summarize the autopsy of the Marseille course: «Ridicule.» “Our goal now remains to polish our image, because for the moment, it is ridiculous”, dropped Marseille coach André Villas-Boas. “We are simply not at the level of this competition. We must try to show another face because there we are bordering on ridiculous “, abounded Steve Mandanda, who could have removed the “limit”. Zero points, zero goals, zero shots on target in Porto. Zero point, therefore, which forces OM, as often in its last participations, to fight for a third qualifying place in the Europa League. “The Losers Cup”, as Villas-Boas described it.

Even the PSG, which, failing to reach the last four each year, is used to flying over its group stages, this time finds itself under the threat of inglorious elimination, in one of the most weak that he had to play, without disrespecting Manchester United, Leipzig and Basaksehir.

So yes, Paris arrived decimated (Neymar, Mbappé, Verratti, Icardi, Draxler were all injured) Wednesday in Leipzig. But when we look at the long litany of absent executives over the last few seasons, which is moreover on the eve of crucial meetings for the club, plans B, C or D exist, and have had time to be thought, consolidated. Especially with the pool of players available to PSG.

“If things aren’t going well, it’s not the coach’s fault”, tempered the Parisian defender Marquinhos at the end of the match. We would like to believe it. But looking at the German coach’s calamitous tactical approach, without any game plan when Neymar is not on the pitch, there is room for doubt. Wednesday, it was surprisingly a strong first half hour, followed by a football void. And the dependence on Neymar and Mbappé – obvious and glaring – does not explain everything. Why interchange the positions of this same Marquinhos, imperial in the central hinge, and recruit Danilo? “Defender, this is not my job. Me, I am a midfielder ”, repeated the latter at the microphone of Telefoot.

Great European games

One statistic would sum up the offensive void imagined by Tuchel: a shot attempted in the second half, certainly at ten. Two shots on target. And as valiant as they are, it was not the successive entries of Mitchel Bakker and especially Thilo Kehrer (for Sarabia?) Which were going to shake up the situation. Three points in three days: the lowest total of PSG in the competition with 1997-1998 and 2004-2005, the only two seasons in which he had failed to get out of the first group stage in C1. By recovering its stars, Paris could still get by. But to see the closed faces of the bench at only 2-1, the internal quarrels, where Tuchel and the sporting director Leonardo seem irreconcilable, how to envisage seeing the Parisians re-enter for a final?

Read alsoChampions League: there is London in doubt about the form of Rennes

Difficult, on the other hand, to blame Stade Rennes. Because the Bretons are discovering for the first time the big European games of the C1, what is more by having traveled twice to Seville, winner of the last Europa League, and Chelsea, which we often find among the quarterfinals. -de-finalists. And perhaps with this status of novice – and although it is rarely relevant to discuss arbitration decisions – Rennes was still pretty damned wronged by Mr. Zwayer’s score on the whistle. President Nicolas Holveck did not say anything else as soon as the meeting was over. “We are certainly refereed like Petit Poucet, the new kid, and that is difficult to accept.” You just have to take a brief glance at the networks and listen to the English observers: the penalty and the red card whistled against Dalbert five minutes before the break (Rennes were down 1-0 against the course of the game, they will lose 3-0) are “A crime against the spirit of the game It is the pinnacle in the midst of a grotesque process that is killing this game we love so much”, to use the words of journalist and VAR slayer Hervé Mathoux. Certainly.

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group E - Stade Rennes v FC Krasnodar - Roazhon Park, Rennes, France - October 20, 2020  FC Krasnodar's Kaio in action REUTERS/Stephane Mahe     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The Rennais will be less forgiven, however, this first day when they should have won at home against a Krasnodar well under his belt, while he was leading the scoreboard. The kind of underperformance reminiscent of those to which the Bretons had accustomed us when they played the Europa League. It resumes this Thursday evening: Lille and Nice will try to make us forget the French rout, and give us a little hope. Because it may only be the first leg of the Champions League which has just ended, we already believe in it.

Romain Métairie

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