Do PSG now have the best strike force in Europe?

0 0
Read Time11 Minute, 52 Second

The summer transfer window in Europe finally closed on Monday evening following a flurry of eleventh-hour deals.

Now, with the domestic leagues underway and the Champions League on the horizon after the international break, Europe’s elite clubs can crack on with settled squads.

But after a summer as full of bluff and bluster in the transfer market as actual moves, which of the top European sides has emerged the stronger?

Neymar will be remaining in Paris for another six months at least after his summer move from PSG to either Barcelona or Real Madrid failed to materialise before deadline day

Neymar will be remaining in Paris for another six months at least after his summer move from PSG to either Barcelona or Real Madrid failed to materialise before deadline day

Neymar will be remaining in Paris for another six months at least after his summer move from PSG to either Barcelona or Real Madrid failed to materialise before deadline day

After Paris Saint-Germain not only managed to hold on to Neymar for another half-season at least but also sign Mauro Icardi on loan, they certainly have a solid claim to have Europe’s most frightening forward line.

But is that the case and can it deliver them elusive success in the Champions League? We compare the new-look PSG strike force with their main rivals around Europe.

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

For all their established domestic dominance, PSG have found the Champions League a tough nut to crack since their Qatari takeover back 2011 propelled them into the football stratosphere.

They have failed to progress beyond the quarter-finals since and their last three attempts have seen them exit at the last-16 amid great disappointment.

However, this season could be different. They suddenly have a forward line that strikes fear into any opponent – at least when their current injury predicament eases.

Despite a summer of endless speculation that he would return to Barcelona or join Real Madrid, the world’s most expensive player Neymar is still very much in Paris.

It's up to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to resume their productive partnership after injury

It's up to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to resume their productive partnership after injury

It’s up to Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to resume their productive partnership after injury

Mbappe scored 39 goals and contributed 19 assists in a devastating 2018-19 season for PSG

Mbappe scored 39 goals and contributed 19 assists in a devastating 2018-19 season for PSG

Mbappe scored 39 goals and contributed 19 assists in a devastating 2018-19 season for PSG

In the end, both Spanish clubs failed to construct an offer attractive enough for PSG to accept and were unable to pay a transfer fee approaching £200million outright.

The whole circus around the Brazilian will inevitably resume next summer but, for now, Neymar would do well to prove his class by scoring as many goals as possible in the meantime.

He scored 23 goals and contributed 13 assists last season and that’s despite missing a huge chunk of it with a foot injury.

Neymar will be bitterly disappointed he didn’t get his desired move away over the summer and PSG need to ensure his sulk doesn’t last for too long. 

When their current fitness issues clear up, Neymar can resume his productive partnership with Kylian Mbappe, who scored an astonishing 39 goals and contributed 17 assists last season. 

Angel Di Maria (left) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrate a PSG goal against Metz

Angel Di Maria (left) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrate a PSG goal against Metz

Angel Di Maria (left) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting celebrate a PSG goal against Metz

PSG have completed the loan signing of Argentine striker Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan

PSG have completed the loan signing of Argentine striker Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan

PSG have completed the loan signing of Argentine striker Mauro Icardi from Inter Milan

As if those two aren’t frightening enough, the loan signing of Icardi from Inter Milan adds another dimension to their attack.

Despite all the off-field wranglings that have dominated the last few months, the Argentine is a proven goalscorer, with 124 in 219 appearances for the Italian side.

They then have the creative and goalscoring forces of Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria for, what now in effect, will be back-up options.

Not forgetting Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, either, who has already scored three goals in Ligue 1 this season in the absence of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani.

All in all, PSG have assembled a formidable strike force for this season and if they don’t make a breakthrough in the Champions League this time, they may never.

Frontline rating: 9.5/10  

Edinson Cavani is also a proven goalscorer but may have to play second fiddle this season

Edinson Cavani is also a proven goalscorer but may have to play second fiddle this season

Edinson Cavani is also a proven goalscorer but may have to play second fiddle this season 

BARCELONA

Barcelona dominated the title race in Spain last season but were stunned by Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals.

As if to ensure this didn’t happen again, they spent big on boosting their forward line by paying the £107million release clause for Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.

The French forward has been a proven goalscorer for a long time and should receive even more scoring chances at Barcelona to improve on the 21 goals he managed for Atletico last season.

His two goals and an assist in Barcelona’s 5-2 win over Real Betis, the highlight of what has been a surprisingly mixed start, showed a tantalising glimpse of what he can do.

Antoine Griezmann represents a fine upgrade for Barcelona's forward line this season

Antoine Griezmann represents a fine upgrade for Barcelona's forward line this season

Antoine Griezmann represents a fine upgrade for Barcelona’s forward line this season

We’ve yet to see Lionel Messi this season because of injury but obviously we need no introduction to his superhuman talents.

An astonishing return of 51 goals and 22 assists last season proves Messi isn’t going to slow down as he advances into his 30s.

Messi will be motivated by the Champions League heartache of the past few seasons and will desperately want to win the trophy for a fifth time to cement his place in football posterity.

We await our first glimpse of Lionel Messi this season as he recovers from injury

We await our first glimpse of Lionel Messi this season as he recovers from injury

We await our first glimpse of Lionel Messi this season as he recovers from injury

Another currently struggling with injury is Luis Suarez but once he returns the Uruguayan can expect to match or exceed last season’s 25-goal return.

Then there’s Ousmane Dembele – he hasn’t quite looked a Barcelona player ever since he arrived and the fact the club were willing to sell him in part-exchange for Neymar says everything.

Now that he’s staying at the Nou Camp for the foreseeable, it’s time for Dembele to prove what he can do.

Frontline rating: 8.5/10

Ousmane Dembele will be staying at Barcelona after the collapse of the Neymar deal

Ousmane Dembele will be staying at Barcelona after the collapse of the Neymar deal

Ousmane Dembele will be staying at Barcelona after the collapse of the Neymar deal

REAL MADRID

After a disastrous 2018-19 season, Real Madrid were always going to respond with astronomical outlay in the summer transfer market.

They certainly bolstered their attack with the £88m signing of Eden Hazard from Chelsea, which came after they’d bought £54m Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt and the teenager Rodrygo from Santos.

But with James Rodriguez returning from loan at Bayern Munich and not being sold on, and Gareth Bale somehow resurrecting his favour with Zinedine Zidane, they certainly have a surplus of attacking options.

They have so many that even newcomer Jovic was being touted for a loan move away for the season before the window closed.

Eden Hazard was Real's marquee signing of the summer but has been sidelined with injury

Eden Hazard was Real's marquee signing of the summer but has been sidelined with injury

Eden Hazard was Real’s marquee signing of the summer but has been sidelined with injury

Luka Jovic was signed for £45m from Eintracht Frankfurt to supply plenty of goals

Luka Jovic was signed for £45m from Eintracht Frankfurt to supply plenty of goals

Luka Jovic was signed for £45m from Eintracht Frankfurt to supply plenty of goals

That didn’t happen and he lined up alongside Karim Benzema, with support on the flanks from Bale and Lucas Vazquez in Sunday’s draw at Villarreal.

Throw Isco, Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Brahim Diaz and Mariano Diaz into the mix and Real certainly aren’t short of forward options.

At the moment, it’s pretty clear cut who plays because various players are on the sidelines injured but Zidane will find it difficult to keep everyone happy when they return.

Gareth Bale scored twice in Real's weekend draw at Villarreal and could yet return to favour

Gareth Bale scored twice in Real's weekend draw at Villarreal and could yet return to favour

Gareth Bale scored twice in Real’s weekend draw at Villarreal and could yet return to favour

Despite the obvious class of Hazard and the proven goalscoring ability of Benzema, there isn’t quite the same fear factor about Real’s attack as some of their rivals.

Nonetheless, they should have enough firepower for a more sustained assault on the season’s honours than they mustered last year.

Frontline rating: 8/10

MANCHESTER CITY

Manchester City didn’t see the need to strengthen their forward line over the summer and it isn’t too hard to understand why.

They racked up 169 goals in all competitions, including 95 in the Premier League and 30 in the Champions League, with Europe’s elite prize the only one to elude them.

Pep Guardiola has a formidable array of creative and scoring talent at his disposal.

Sergio Aguero has just passed the 400 goal mark in his professional career and looks like he could continue scoring forever – 32 in all last season and six already this.

Sergio Aguero scores in Manchester City's 4-0 win over Brighton last weekend

Sergio Aguero scores in Manchester City's 4-0 win over Brighton last weekend

Sergio Aguero scores in Manchester City’s 4-0 win over Brighton last weekend 

The young Brazilian Gabriel Jesus looks set to supply City with goals for some years to come

The young Brazilian Gabriel Jesus looks set to supply City with goals for some years to come

The young Brazilian Gabriel Jesus looks set to supply City with goals for some years to come

Gabriel Jesus looks set to be a superb heir to the Argentine and took the move into English football effortlessly in his stride given his still tender age.

Raheem Sterling has been absolutely outstanding in all aspects of his game since coming under the tutelage of Guardiola, while Kevin De Bruyne continues to take the breath away and will hopefully get a fully fit season.

David Silva is the kind of masterful player that we should just appreciate in the English game while we still have the chance, while Bernardo Silva continues to get better.

Raheem Sterling continues to excel and improve in all aspects of his performances

Raheem Sterling continues to excel and improve in all aspects of his performances

Raheem Sterling continues to excel and improve in all aspects of his performances 

City still have Leroy Sane after his expected move to Bayern Munich failed to materialise though he’ll be out until February with his knee ligament problem.

Riyad Mahrez rounds off a City forward line that can most definitely be compared favourably to most of the front lines in Europe.

They will, quite rightly, be ranked among the favourites to win their first Champions League title. Could this be their time?

Frontline rating: 9.5/10

Leroy Sane suffered a cruel injury blow last month that prevented a move away from City

Leroy Sane suffered a cruel injury blow last month that prevented a move away from City

Leroy Sane suffered a cruel injury blow last month that prevented a move away from City

LIVERPOOL

In terms of lethal attacking triumvirates, few can top Liverpool’s at the moment. They are the reigning European champions, after all.

Mohamed Salah scored 27 goals, Sadio Mane 26 and Roberto Firmino 16 across all competitions last season, amounting to 60 per cent of Liverpool’s total goals between them.

While they normally work harmoniously in tandem, there were a few frayed tensions on show in Saturday’s win at Burnley when Mane took umbrage at Salah failing to pass to him in a better position then being subbed off.

Liverpool's front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino celebrate a goal

Liverpool's front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino celebrate a goal

Liverpool’s front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino celebrate a goal

Mane makes his annoyance known after being taken off in Saturday's match at Burnley

Mane makes his annoyance known after being taken off in Saturday's match at Burnley

Mane makes his annoyance known after being taken off in Saturday’s match at Burnley

But it’s undoubtedly a forward line to strike fear into most defenders and the early season evidence is that Jurgen Klopp’s team will certainly be challenging for the Premier League and maybe also in Europe.

This is also an established forward three now – they know one another’s games inside out and when Liverpool are at their free-flowing best, that really shows.

Unlike many of their European rivals, they can hit the ground running in this regard and, well, they have with four wins from four.

The sale of Daniel Sturridge has removed a little bit of back-up but they still have Divock Origi, who proved himself a more than useful understudy last season with some crucial goals.

Frontline rating: 9/10

Divock Origi has proved himself as a very willing and able understudy to the front three

Divock Origi has proved himself as a very willing and able understudy to the front three

Divock Origi has proved himself as a very willing and able understudy to the front three

JUVENTUS

They may have won yet another Serie A title but last season was something of an underwhelming one by Juventus standards.

Despite signing Cristiano Ronaldo for the purpose of winning the competition, Juve crashed out of the Champions League to Ajax in the quarter-finals from a position of strength in the tie.

Now Maurizio Sarri and his cast-iron football philosophy will try and improve on that and they’re not short of forward talent.

Cristiano is the natural place to start. 28 goals in his first season in Italy was a fine start and there were glimpses of his brilliance, especially his hat-trick against Atletico Madrid in the last-16.

Juventus have the magic of Cristiano Ronaldo at their disposal - but are they reliant on him?

Juventus have the magic of Cristiano Ronaldo at their disposal - but are they reliant on him?

Juventus have the magic of Cristiano Ronaldo at their disposal – but are they reliant on him?

Paulo Dybala may have to become accustomed to a place on the bench this season

Paulo Dybala may have to become accustomed to a place on the bench this season

Paulo Dybala may have to become accustomed to a place on the bench this season

Juve will need the 34-year-old to replicate that kind of goal return this season but he’s become used to such expectations.

It looked for much of the summer that Paulo Dybala, the man sidelined to make way for CR7, would be sold with Manchester United and Tottenham among those interested.

But he’s still in Turin and may be spending quite a bit of the season on the bench given Sarri’s preference for Gonzalo Higuain up front.

Gonzalo Higuain is back in Juventus colours and likely to have the favour of Maurizio Sarri

Gonzalo Higuain is back in Juventus colours and likely to have the favour of Maurizio Sarri

Gonzalo Higuain is back in Juventus colours and likely to have the favour of Maurizio Sarri

Higuain failed to make much of an impact at Chelsea during his loan spell but prospers in Italy and will be given plenty of chances by Sarri.

Juve also have Mario Mandzukic, Juan Cuadrado, Federico Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa at their disposal.

But you sense they will be still reliant on those moments of Cristiano magic if they are to cross the final frontier of European glory.

Frontline rating: 8.5/10

BAYERN MUNICH

It hasn’t been the easiest summer for Bayern Munich, with their failed pursuit of Leroy Sane suggesting they are losing their efficient touch in the transfer market.

However, they managed to redeem themselves with the signings of Philippe Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona, and Ivan Perisic, on loan from Inter Milan, to bolster their attacking threat.

Their arrivals have managed to quell fan disgruntlement that stalwarts Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery had not been replaced adequately.

Philippe Coutinho celebrates with Ivan Perisic as Bayern Munich's new boys combine to score

Philippe Coutinho celebrates with Ivan Perisic as Bayern Munich's new boys combine to score

Philippe Coutinho celebrates with Ivan Perisic as Bayern Munich’s new boys combine to score

Robert Lewandowski celebrates after continuing his impressive start to the season

Robert Lewandowski celebrates after continuing his impressive start to the season

Robert Lewandowski celebrates after continuing his impressive start to the season

On paper, Bayern certainly have some attractive options up front. Leading the line is Robert Lewandowski, who scored 40 goals in all last season.

He has already started this season with seven goals in five outings so there’s certainly been no dulling of his attacking sharpness.

There’s the evergreen Thomas Muller but he may have to be satisfied with an impact sub role this season.

Thomas Muller (right) could have to get used to starting on the bench this season

Thomas Muller (right) could have to get used to starting on the bench this season

Thomas Muller (right) could have to get used to starting on the bench this season

That’s with Bayern appearing to favour speed on the flanks with Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Perisic, with Coutinho occupying the No 10 role.

It all looked impressive in their 6-1 rout of Mainz at the weekend but tougher challenges await and it will be interesting to see if the new arrivals can take them further in Europe.

Frontline rating: 8/10