The last time Paris Saint-Germain kick-started their UEFA Champions League campaign, it was with a team that featured Lionel Messi and Neymar, one that beat Juventus in the opener. The two football legends didn't score that night and PSG were later eliminated from Europe's top competition in the pre-quarterfinals for the fifth time in seven years. (More Football News)
The early exit again highlighted how PSG's strategy of assembling star-studded teams without a real backbone has not worked.
The owners have changed their master plan during the off-season, though, and it's a revamped PSG that take on Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday as the group stage of the elite European tournament kicks off.
As usual, the French champions spent a lot of money on new recruits, but they no longer seem obsessed with the need for big names.
Taking part in the group stage for the 12th time in a row, the PSG squad facing Dortmund on Tuesday is radically different from the one that was knocked out by Bayern Munich last season.
PSG also transformed their midfield, hiring Kang-in Lee and Manuel Ugarte. At the back, Bayern Munich's Lucas Hernandez was added, as well as Milan Skriniar.
In addition to Messi and Neymar's departures, Sergio Ramos and Marco Verratti have also left, while PSG switched to a 4-3-3 formation under new coach Luis Enrique, who does not have to bother with accommodating Neymar, Messi and Mbappe together.
The cash-rich Qatari investors, who took over in 2011, hope their new strategy will finally help them replicate the club's domestic dominance on Europe's biggest stage. But, the new players have not gelled into a solid unit yet and Enrique's possession-based system has not yielded immediate results.
In the French league, PSG have managed only eight points from five matches, their worst total since the 2010-11 season, and lost at home to Nice 3-2 over the weekend. PSG looked shaky and lacked attacking creativity, as Skriniar and Dembele delivered below-par displays.
Enrique, however, said he was not troubled by the result.
“If we're talking about the three goals, two of them were deflected by our defenders,” the coach said.
“I'm not worried at all. I think that on Tuesday we'll play better, I'm sure we'll be better. I'm optimistic, even if it's a match against a difficult opponent.”
Following the feud between Mbappe and club officials over a contract dispute, the France striker has been a source of confidence for Enrique. After overcoming a small knee injury, Mbappe returned with two goals against Nice and should spearhead the attack against Dortmund.
(With AP inputs)