Champions League group stage recap: Potent Paris pushed into second spot
Friday, 10 February 2023
Christophe Galtier's side sparkled in the main but lost out on first place when Benfica came up on the rails.
Article top media content
The irresistible trio of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar were the main contributors to a 16-goal haul for the star-studded Paris side, who won all four games against Juventus and Maccabi Haifa.
Top spot proved elusive, though, thanks to two draws against Benfica and a late blitz from the Portuguese side on Matchday 6 that allowed them to sneak to the summit by virtue of scoring more away goals.
Campaign so far
Group H runners-up: W4 D2 L0 F16 A7
Top scorer: Kylian Mbappé (7)
06/09: Paris 2-1 Juventus (Mbappé 5 22; McKennie 53)
14/09: Maccabi Haifa 1-3 Paris (Chery 24; Messi 37, Mbappé 69, Neymar 88)
05/10: Benfica 1-1 Paris (Danilo 41 og; Messi 22)
11/10: Paris 1-1 Benfica (Mbappé 40pen; João Mário 62pen)
25/10: Paris 7-2 Maccabi Haifa (Messi 19 45, Mbappé 32 64, Neymar 35, Goldberg 67 og, Soler 84; Seck 38 50)
02/11: Juventus 1-2 Paris (Bonucci 39; Mbappé 13, Nuno Mendes 69)
Campaign in ten words: Parisian juggernaut powers through with MNM magic and Galtier guile.
UEFA.com Paris reporter
When Mbappé opened Matchday 1 with a stunning goal conjured by Neymar, the French champions looked poised to race into the knockout stage for an 11th successive season. The route was not quite so smooth, but a glittering squad showed a new-found resilience when required, notably against Benfica. With Messi now looking at home in Paris, and Christophe Galtier getting his superstar front trio firing, this could be the year the French capital finally welcomes European club football's biggest prize. They will, however, be left wondering just how Benfica pipped them to top spot in the group.
How do Paris play?
How else are you going to play with Mbappé, Neymar and Messi in your side? Galtier's Paris have been, naturally, on the front foot throughout, but the new coach has instilled a certain defensive discipline helped by midfielders Marco Verratti and Vitinha providing as much industry as inspiration. Injuries were key to the switch from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 for the resounding Matchday 5 win against Maccabi Haifa with Galtier's team showing a tactical flexibility that will surely serve them well.
Fantasy star performers
Kylian Mbappé – 62 points
Lionel Messi – 43 points
Neymar – 26 points
In: Ilyes Housni*, Timothee Pembele
Out: Ayman Kari, Keylor Navas, Pablo Sarabia
Clubs had until 24:00 CET on Thursday 2 February to register a maximum of three new eligible players prior to the knockout stage. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition.
- Messi became the first player to score in 18 successive Champions League seasons, moving ahead of Karim Benzema (17).
- Mbappé (23 years and 317 days) became the youngest player to score 40 Champions League goals, breaking the previous record set by Messi (24 years and 130 days).
- Paris have now scored in their last 44 Champions League group stage matches, since a 1-0 defeat against Real Madrid in November 2015.