Wednesday promises to provide an enthralling clash as the high-powered offenses of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain do battle in the Champions League semifinal first leg.
Both sides lead their respective domestic leagues in scoring this year, with PSG having scored 77 goals through 34 games and Pep Guardiola's City posting 69 in 33. While City waltzes towards its fifth league title since 2011-12 and third in four years, PSG finds itself in the midst of an actual title challenge in Ligue 1 for just the second time in nearly a decade.
24 hours to go... IT'S ON!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 27, 2021
New manager Mauricio Pochettino, who arrived in Paris at the turn of the year, has already overseen some brilliant Champions League victories. Just a month into his tenure, PSG went to the Camp Nou and embarrassed Barcelona in a resounding 4-1 victory that saw Kylian Mbappé cement his place as the heir apparent in the home of the current king with a hat trick. Despite a second-leg loss in the next round, a 3-2 victory a week earlier proved enough for PSG, last year's losing finalist, to gain a bit of revenge over reigning champion Bayern.
For all its success in Europe this season, PSG has dropped points at crucial moments in Ligue 1, including a shock 3-2 defeat to Lorient, at the time rock bottom of the league in 20th place. Defeats to Lille, currently holding on for dear life to a one-point lead atop the league table, third-placed Monaco, a point behind on 71, and another side fighting off relegation in Nantes may mean a fourth consecutive title eludes the Parisians.
Pochettino's side enters into this clash of the titans having won its last three games following that potentially disastrous 1-0 defeat to Lille. Guardiola and Man City, on the other hand, bounced back from an FA Cup defeat to Chelsea with victory over Aston Villa in the league and against Spurs to claim a fourth straight League Cup. City's 2-1 victories over Borussia Dortmund in both legs of the last round came on either side of a 2-1 defeat to Leeds in the Premier League, just its fourth loss of the season.
Both sides have been transformed in recent years from mere members of the pack to giants of the game as a result of massive cash injections from new owners (see: monarchies). But while the introduction of Qatar Sports Investment to PSG and Abu Dhabi United Group to Man City has resulted in domestic dominance, it has yet to translate to supremacy on the international stage and a place at the pinnacle of the European game as Champions League winners. For years now both clubs have felt the pressure of knowing that anything less than Champions League success constitutes failure.
@neymarjr: "When I joined Paris, the objective was always to win the Champions League. We reached the first final in the club's history last season, and we're a team that is still progressing" pic.twitter.com/ivQgfnfaCA— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) April 27, 2021
Since his arrival in England, Pep has turned a Manchester City side, which was already amongst the strongest in the country, into a machine that racks up trophies seemingly with ease. But while he has failed as yet to get City over the line in Europe, Pochettino finds himself with a chance to help PSG do so just four months into the job, having already claimed some impressive scalps along the way.
Be sure to clear your schedules for a 3 p.m. ET kickoff Wednesday on CBS Sports Network — you won't want to miss this one.