These are the champions!…” the famous UEFA Champions League anthem echoed through every crevice

Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe via Zimbio

“These are the champions!…” the famous UEFA Champions League anthem echoed through every crevice of Bayer Leverkeusen’s BayArena on Tuesday evening. And this time, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra may have been on to something.

While all eyes were fixed on the highly touted showdown at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, Paris St. Germain was busy dismantling Bayer Leverkeusen in their first Round of 16 Champions League encounter. It was not just the 4-0 scoreline, but also the way that the 2013 Ligue 1 champions so ruthlessly dispatched Bundesliga’s second-placed team that bears recognition.Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe via Zimbio

In fact, PSG’s absolute dominance should have sent a warning shot to the managers of all Champions League teams, including holders Bayern Munich.

Le Parisiens were heavily favored going into this match, and rightfully so. At the moment, Laurent Blanc’s squad sits five points ahead of second-placed Monaco in Ligue 1, having won three of its last four matches. But in hindsight, the German club never really had a chance.

It was clear from Leverkeusen’s 4-2 and 5-0 Group Stage drubbings at the hands of British Premier League underachievers, Manchester United, that Sami Hyppia’s team was not expected to make any waves in Europe going forward. With Leverkeusen a full 13 points behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, any comparisons to Klaus Topmoller’s 2002 team, which lost to a Zidane-inspired Real Madrid in the final, can be put to bed.

At the same time, reaching the Round of 16 of the Champions is no small feat. Each team to do so receives €3.500.000, in addition to the prize money from each Group Stage victory. On the other hand, the quality expected in this round means that such lopsided victories are generally rare. That PSG still managed to put on a show, then, testifies to their sheer quality. To score four goals in a knockout round Champions League match is impressive in itself, but to keep a clean sheet in the process is an even greater achievement. The truth is that Leverkeusen were out-classed from start-to-finish. PSG simply had too much fire power.

PSG has received a fair amount of criticism for its recent domestic performances. Considering that its star-studded squad has won just three-of-its-last-six matches (and a 3-0 home win against Valenciennes aside, none by commanding margins), perhaps that criticism has been deserved. Yet the way that Les Rouge-et-Bleu dominated in every aspect of this game should send shivers down the spines of the managers of the remaining Champions League squads.

In contrast to their opponents in black, not one PSG player put in a bad shift. Zlatan Ibrahimovic in particular stole the show, netting a well struck penalty as well as a sizzling left-footed one-timer to add to his impressive goal tally. In defense, Thiago Silva put in a captain’s performance, marshaling the back line with the experience that you would expect from the former Milan man. Marco Veratti pulled the strings in the midfield, setting up his all-action battery-mate Blaise Matuidi with a peach of an assist just three minutes into the first half. Even new boy Yohan Cabaye got in on the fun, scoring his first PSG goal with a guided shot to the upper right corner.

“I could see we have a very focused team – everyone was waiting for this game for a long time,” PSG manager Laurent Blanc said in the post-match press conference. “When you’re in that mindset everything is fine, plus we scored a goal in the third minute, which makes things easier.”

How often do you hear managers in professional football so giddy over their team’s performance?

While there is no tactical blueprint for winning the Champions League, one requirement, and indeed something nearly every champion has had in common over the years, is significant squad depth. Bayern Munich, for example, boast a squad featuring even bench players that any manager in Europe would be happy to start with. PSG can boast much the same squad composition.

Significant doubts remain, however, as to whether PSG can conquer the ultimate prize in club football. With just three domestic titles and no appearances in the European Cup/Champions League finals, the team still has much to prove.

Are PSG currently on the same level as Bayern Munich or Barcelona? Probably not considering both their lack of European success and their featherweight domestic competition. But take nothing away from their nearly faultless performance on Tuesday night. Given the right draw and similar performances in upcoming rounds, the team could well find itself booking hotel tickets in Lisbon come May.

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