PSG face Borussia Dortmund in their final group-stage encounter in Germany on Wednesday, with more than just Champions League survival at stake.
Things could not be tighter in Group F, which had all eyes on it when the draw was announced, with PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan all still in with a chance to join already-qualified Dortmund in the knockout stages.
PSG would not only qualify, but would also lead the group, as they now lie second with seven points, three behind Dortmund and two ahead of Newcastle and Milan.
PSG’s campaign got off to a flying start on matchday one, with goals from Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi ensuring a 2-0 win, giving them a stronger head-to-head record with the Germans should both teams end the group level on points.
Since then, they’ve been up and down, with a catastrophic 4-1 away defeat to Newcastle and a 2-1 loss at Milan followed by a 1-1 draw against the English team on matchday five.
Newcastle’s first UCL campaign in 20 years could be cut short when they play seven-time winners Milan, with both teams on five points and needing a win to have any chance of qualifying.
Rafael Leao is back for Milan. The Portugal attacker has been out with a hamstring injury for the past month, but Milan are hopeful he will be able to start at St James’ Park and replicate his mesmerizing performance against PSG a month ago.
Milan will need the version of Leao that tore PSG apart if they are to advance to the last 16, as a bitter home loss to Borussia Dortmund in their most recent group match has taken qualification out of their hands.
Leao has four goals and three assists this season, however his performances have been criticized. His equalizer in the 2-1 home win over PSG was his first in nearly two months.
“Criticism motivates me; keep talking because I’ll respond on the field,” Leao stated after the PSG win, which was his last goal before suffering a hamstring injury a few days later in Lecce.
As things stand, Milan must beat Newcastle, which is not an impossible job given the 4-1 thrashing Eddie Howe’s club received at Tottenham on Sunday, but they also need group leaders Dortmund to beat PSG.
After a 3-0 defeat in Paris in October, Milan must finish with more points than PSG or face relegation to the Europa League or, if they fail to win in England, elimination from all European competition.