Lee Kang-in returns to the UEFA (European Football Association) Champions League after four seasons as a member of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).
PSG announced Squad A, which will participate in the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League group stage, on the club’s official website on the 7th (Korean time), saying, “Coach Luis Enrique has selected players to play in the Champions League group stage.” With this list, they will participate in the group stage schedule that runs until December, and Lee Kang-in is also included in the list, announcing his return to the Champions League stage after four seasons.
Lee Kang-in, who transferred to PSG this season and received jersey number 19, was included in the list without any surprise. Key striker Kylian Mbappe, who had been in conflict all summer and then resolved it, was also named. On the other hand, Sher Ndour, who was recruited at the same time as Lee Kang-in, was not included in this list. Marco Verratti, who is likely to move to Al-Arabi in Qatar, as well as Hugo Ekitique, Sergio Rico, and Lebain Qurzawa were also excluded from the list.
PSG was placed in the same group as Borussia Dortmund (Germany), AC Milan (Italy), and Newcastle United (England) this season. They are evaluated as the so-called group of death.
Dortmund is a strong team that competed for the title with last season’s Bundesliga champion Bayern Munich until the last round. AC Milan also reached the semifinals of the Champions League last season, signaling the revival of a traditional club. Newcastle also grew against the background of Saudi Arabian capital and emerged as an emerging wealthy club in the Premier League. This is a group where no team is easy.
Lee Kang-in, who played in the Champions League with Valencia in the 2019/20 season, returned after four seasons and played in the Group of Death. Lee Kang-in, who was a promising prospect who had just entered Valencia’s first team at the time, played in five of Valencia’s six group stage games. Although he mostly appeared as a substitute at the end of the second half, he gained experience against European powerhouses such as Chelsea, Ajax, and Lille.
Afterwards, there were no opportunities as Valencia fell away from the Champions League qualifications due to weakened power, and he was transferred to Mallorca, a team in the bottom half of La Liga, so he was unable to compete in the Champions League. However, based on his performance in Mallorca last season, he joined France’s strongest team, PSG, and took on the challenge for the first time in four years.
Lee Kang-in also did not hide his expectations when the group of death was formed. After the group draw results were revealed, Lee Kang-in posted a red and blue heart emoticon, a biceps emoticon, and a soccer ball emoticon symbolizing PSG on social media, indicating that he would show a good performance in the Champions League as well.
PSG will play its first group match against Dortmund at home on the 20th. Then, on the 5th of next month, they will travel to Newcastle and play the second match of the group stage.
Lee Kang-in is likely to participate in the Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China from mid-September to early October. It is highly likely that we will not see Lee Kang-in play in the Champions League until the matches against Dortmund and Newcastle. The third group match against AC Milan on October 26th is expected to be his Champions League debut wearing a PSG uniform.
Meanwhile, Lee Kang-in is concentrating on recovery after suffering a thigh injury last month. Lee Kang-in, who joined PSG this summer, started in his first pre-season game, but suffered a hamstring injury in the game and went down, missing all three games of the Asian tour in Japan.
He returned to action in the third game of the Coupang Play Series against Jeonbuk Hyundai held in Korea on the 3rd of last month. Lee Kang-in, who came on as a substitute in the second half and was on the pitch for about 20 minutes, returned to France and started in the league opener against Lorient, earning a lot of trust from manager Luis Enrique. In this game, he did not record any offensive points, but showed his unique dribbling and sharp passing and was selected as the best player of the game.
Lee Kang-in continued to play as a starter in the second round match against Toulouse. There were predictions that strong competitor Ousmane Dembele would be brought in and Mbappe, who had been training in the second team, would return to the first team and start on the bench, but Lee Kang-in played as a left-wing striker and led the PSG attack.
However, after the game, he was hampered by injury again. Lee Kang-in finished the game after being replaced by Mbappe in the 6th minute of the second half, but news of his injury was reported on the club’s website after the game. PSG announced Lee Kang-in’s injury, saying, “Lee Kang-in injured his left quadriceps muscle. He will receive treatment until the end of the next international break.”
Initially, it was expected that it would take a long time to recover, as the possibility of participating in the Asian Games was uncertain, but Lee Kang-in recovered quickly and began rehabilitation training. On the 25th of last month, PSG released a photo of Lee Kang-in training indoors on the club’s SNS account. Lee Kang-in, who injured his thigh, appeared to be strengthening his lower body muscles by performing heavy squats and lunges. He also cycled and focused on his recovery.
On the 3rd, he uploaded a photo of himself undergoing personal training on social media, announcing that his return was imminent. The goal is to participate in the league match against Nice on the 16th. Whether or not to be selected for the Asian Games will be decided on the 13th.