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Europe still a step too far for dominant PSG

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain are not even midway through their five-year-plan to win the Champions League but their second consecutive French Ligue 1 title feels like little more than a consolation.

Having splashed over 200 million euros ($278.5 million) on transfers since completing their takeover in 2012, Qatari investors QSI expect PSG to be a force to be reckoned with on the European stage.

Under Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc, however, the French champions were eliminated in the quarter-finals of Europe's premium club competition in 2013 and 2014, both times on away goals by Barcelona and Chelsea respectively.

"We've had a very nice season, which we sealed with this title," Blanc said after PSG won the League Cup last month.

"But to have an outstanding season, we will need to shine on the European stage," he added.

"The club, the media, the fans and the staff are obsessed by this objective. Yes, we will have to be ready because everybody is obsessed."

"We had a great season apart from the last month. Next year we have to be back to win the Champions League," captain Thiago Silva told Canal Plus on Wednesday.

PSG were knocked out by Barca in the Champions League last season without losing a game, held to a 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes before drawing 1-1 at the Camp Nou in the return leg.

This season, it seemed they would reach the next level after beating Chelsea 3-1 at home, but they paid the price for Blanc's tactical limitations and the team's lack of experience in a 2-0 defeat in London without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Meanwhile, the capital side have been crushing the opposition in France, winning the French title with two games to spare.

CAVANI DOUBLE

They added the League Cup, beating Olympique Lyon 2-1 in the final thanks to a double by Edinson Cavani.

The Uruguay striker disappointed in the Champions League last eight but showed his worth at the Stade de France.

PSG reached new heights domestically, arguably becoming one of the best ever French league teams, even if they failed to match Nantes's achievement in the 1994-95 season when the Canaries lost only one game.

Yet, they look set to break Lyon's record of 84 points (2005-06), as well as passing the record for most victories (25) set by Nantes (1966 and 1980), Stade Reims (1960) and Monaco (1961).

Stade Reims's 1960 record goal difference of plus 63, though, seems out of reach despite Ibrahimovic's performances.

The Sweden striker has scored 25 goals from 31 league appearances, leading Cavani (16 goals in 30 games) in the scoring charts.

PSG's blessing could be Monaco's rise to the top level after Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev invested massively in the principality club during the close season.

Monaco will finish second in Ligue 1 after losing Colombia striker Radamel Falcao through a knee injury midway through the campaign.

Falcao's comeback next season, and likely further financial investment from Rybolovlev, could mean PSG will face proper competition, especially if they are punished by UEFA over financial fair play regulations.

($1 = 0.7183 Euros)

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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