Olivier Echouafni’s youthful side ran Lyon close in the league in 2019-20 and have a chance to go all the way in Spain
PSG are not getting used to playing in Europe. The coach, Olivier Echouafni, has a lot of experience, particularly in the 42-year-old Formiga, but other than the evergreen Brazilian only two players (the midfielder Nadia Nadim and the goalkeeper Ariana Criscione) are in their 30s.
The core of players are between 22 and 25 years old, which has led to excitement building in the capital. The Parisiennes are talented but lack experience, as they showed when they lost the Coupe de France final against Lyon on penalties.
Echouafni prefers his team to play in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, depending on the players at his disposal. PSG have a solid defence led by the captain, Irene Paredes, often ably assisted by Paulina Dudek. Echouafni has opted for Ashley Lawrence at right-back since the restart to replace the departing Hanna Glas and Eve Périsset. In midfield, Formiga is still a formidable asset with her ball recovery and she is set to have the 23-year-old Grace Geyoro next to her.
Up front, the Parisian potential is impressive with Kadidiatou Diani and Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s speed and skill terrorising opposing defences. Those two often form a lethal attacking lineup together with Nadim. “We want to continue what we did last season,” Echouafni said recently. “The players know what is expected of them: to win and to play with style. We have a quality group and good players who have joined us. We also have two wild cards, Signe Bruun and Sara Däbritz, back from injury.”
Which players have the club signed this summer and can use from the quarter-finals?
PSG has strengthened this summer and the biggest-name arrival is without a doubt Switzerland’s Ramona Bachmann (29) who arrives after three seasons at Chelsea. “She will bring to the group experience, her individual quality, her technique, her speed, and her eye for the goal,” said Echouafni. He also secured the return of the goalkeeper Charlotte Voll to replace Katarzyna Kiedrzynek. Bénédicte Simon, on the other hand, compensates for the departure of Périsset to Bordeaux, though she is unlikely to be in the starting XI.
The 48-year-old Echouafni’s first job in women’s football was right at the top: with the French national team. He was in charge for a year before being replaced by Corinne Diacre after losing to England in the quarter-finals of Euro 2017. He rebounded quickly though and was appointed PSG coach in 2018. He likes to see young players progress and wants his team to express his attack-minded playing style on the field. He likes the 4-3-3 formation because it “brings density” to the middle. He is innovative, though, and not stuck to a particular formation.
Since her arrival at PSG in 2017, Diani has continued to grow as a player. At club level she has become more and more consistent and is now an essential player for the national team too. Diani has just signed a new contract which keeps her at PSG until 2023 and which has made her one of the highest paid players in league with a salary of €450,000 (£405,000) a year.
Did you know?
The defender and captain Paredes has joined the Common Goal movement, started by Juan Mata, which invites footballers to donate 1% of their salary to the charity of their choice. It was her teammate in national team, Ainhoa Tirapu, who convinced her to become part of the initiative. She then introduced the goalkeeper Arianna Criscione to the project and since then the Canadian Jordyn Huitema has also joined.
Which player could surprise everyone in Spain?
In the two official matches she has played since the restart, Geyoro has shown that she is in very good shape. The French international is a clever reader of the game and does not hesitate to go forward. She has improved in front of goal and scored a career-best seven last season. “I have worked a lot on my finishing. The coach insisted that I improved that area of my game,” she said.
What is the realistic aim for PSG in the WCL?
Frustrated to have finished the championship in second place and then to have lost the Coupe de France against OL (0-0 after extra time, 3-4 in penalty shootout), the Parisians are hugely motivated to end the season with victory in the Champions League. It is a tough ask, but not an impossible one.
PSG has never won the Champions League but have been in two finals, losing 2-1 against Frankfurt in 2015 and on penalties against Lyon in 2017.