John Burn-Murdoch

Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League run came to an end on Tuesday night in a 1-0 defeat to Manchester City (3-2 over two legs) at the quarter-final stage.

After scoring two away goals in the first leg, City came into the match as slight favourites with most bookmakers, but many people were backing the French giants, who were crowned champions of Ligue 1 with eight matches left to play, and currently sit 28 points clear.

In fact, PSG are so far ahead of their domestic rivals, manager Laurent Blanc has been able to field weakened sides ahead of big Champions League matches at a rate unmatched by any other quarter-finalist, ensuring that his strongest side has been as well-rested as possible.

Looking at the domestic matches PSG played immediately before each of their 10 Champions League fixtures this season, their six core players — defined here as the six midfielders or attackers who played the highest proportion of possible minutes across all competitions, after removing games they missed through injury or suspension — were on the pitch for 88 per cent of PSG’s European clashes, but just 57 per cent of the French matches immediately before those games.

Manchester City’s figures also show a focus on European competition, but the magnitude is much less pronounced. Manuel Pellegrini used his biggest stars for 87 per cent of their maximum possible Champions League minutes, but in the preceding league and cup matches he was less able to rest his key players, using them for 74 per cent of minutes.

Last weekend’s matches are a good illustration of the broader pattern: City started with three of their six most-relied-upon players against West Brom, and brought on two more to force the eventual 2-1 win. In all, their core players were on the pitch for 54 per cent of their maximum possible minutes.

PSG, on the other hand, started with only one key player — Blaise Matuidi — against Guingamp, and won 2-0 without needing to bring any others off the bench. Matuidi’s 90 minutes make just 20 per cent of the 5×90 that PSG’s five available stars could have played.

John Burn-Murdoch

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