PSG having special year

Paris Saint-Germain is chasing Tommy Gemmell, Stevie Chalmers and the rest of the 1967 Glasgow Celtic squad, the so-dubbed Lisbon Lions that are without peer as the sole soccer club to win the Ultimate Quadruple.

Europe’s continental treble is a holy grail. Twice, Barcelona has won its league, main domestic tournament and Champions League trophy in the same season. Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Celtic each did it once.

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That’s the élite of the élite, but Celtic is special.

Toss in a secondary national tournament crown, and there’s our unofficial Quadruple. Gemmell and Chalmers scored in the 2-1 victory over Inter Milan in Lisbon to cap Celtic’s audacious 1966-67 season.

This Champions League finale again is in Lisbon, on Aug. 23. Fitting, since PSG is on a mission to replicate Celtic’s trek toward immortality. Manchester City is a 9-to-4 favorite to lift the trophy with the big ears, Bayern Munich is 5-2, PSG 9-2.

Les Parisiens might never get another Quadruple opportunity. It starts Friday, in our featured match of the week that pits PSG against Saint-Étienne in the Coupe de France finale at the Parc de Princes in Paris. MyBookie installs PSG as a minus-111 favorite, giving two goals.

Odds are subject to change by kickoff, but that considerable margin is justified. Over its past 28 official matches, PSG is 24-1-3. It has thrashed Saint-Étienne twice this season, by a combined 10-1 score.

Mauro Icardi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé keep foes on their toes, and heels. But the danger man is Ángel Di María, whose 0.99 rate of goals plus assists per 90 minutes is France’s best.

Of all 98 Big Five clubs, PSG is tops in passing success (89.9%) and, with a flair that has been fading from the game, dribbling (15 per game). Only Barcelona (63.2%) and Man City (62.2%) have higher possession rates than PSG (61.8%).

Unlike its four big brothers, Ligue 1, 10 matches shy of a full 38-game season, shuttered during the coronavirus hiatus. PSG was awarded its seventh crown in eight seasons. However, it has never appeared in a Champions League championship match. In fact, Marseille, in 1993, is the lone French side to win the world’s most prestigious club tournament. (Lyon has a 1-0 edge heading to a second leg at Juventus on Aug. 7.)

That track record makes some question the French Ligue 1’s typical inclusion among the Big Five, with England, Germany, Italy and Spain. Dutch clubs have won six CL trophies, Portuguese teams four.

So PSG carries a club and country burden. Having beaten and tied Spanish-champion Real Madrid in the CL group stage will provide confidence as the competition level is about to increase sharply.

Managed by former German defender Thomas Tuchel, PSG was anything but amicable in friendlies, smacking Le Havre and Beveren by a combined 16-0. Tuesday, in what might have been more than a match, it beat Celtic 4-0.

Le Havre manager Paul Le Guen is rooting for PSG.

“I admire” Les Parisiens, he told PSGTalk.com. “They are champions, stars, but also champions who are preparing. I am very clear. I think they have the means (to win the Champions League), and widely. I hope this time is the right one.”

On July 31, PSG plays Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue finale, the second-tier tourney that will be scrapped to create space for the Champions League’s expanded future slate. So the time for PSG to join Celtic as Quadruple Royalty is now. It’s all lined up for PSG, whose Champions League quarterfinal against Italian upstart Atalanta begins Aug. 8.

PSG has been treating all opponents indiscriminately, as if nothing and nobody will deter its grand quest. It is ready to roll. It all starts with Saint-Étienne. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Thursday

Cagliari at Lazio, Total 3 (Even): The visitors have scored a single goal in their past five matches. Keep an eye on Ciro Immobile, the Lazio striker who has scored 29 of his squad’s 68 goals, a 43% rate that tops Italy. Just try to not say his name to the tune of “Le donne è mobile.” UNDER

Sunday

Brighton at Burnley +140: In its past seven matches, Brighton has tallied three goals. At least owner Tony Bloom, the high-stakes gambler known worldwide as “The Lizard,” has secured a fourth consecutive Premiership season. Burnley, since the restart, has won 15 points in Premiership matches, behind only Man U (20) and Man City (18). BURNLEY

Last week: 1-2

Season: 2-7