Group C of the UEFA Champions League can turn upside down when PSG welcome Liverpool to Parc des Princes in a Matchday 5 tie on Wednesday.
The penultimate matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stage will conclude on Wednesday, with the final eight matches being played. The fortunes in the most tightly knit group of the competition can be altered dramatically when Liverpool meet PSG at Parc des Princes, with just a solitary point separating the two teams.
There is very little to distinguish the four sides in Group C of the UEFA Champions League, with table toppers Napoli and fourth-placed Crvena Zvezda separated by just a couple of points. Liverpool and PSG are second and third, with six and five points, respectively after their first four matches. Therefore, it is all to play for in the two matches on Wednesday.
As far as recent form is concerned, PSG have coincidentally not lost since being beaten by Liverpool in the reverse fixture. Les Parisiens have been largely irresistible in domestic football, having won every single game so far, although they have stuttered considerably in Europe, having been held to successive draws by Napoli.
Liverpool, on the other hand, were handed a shock 2-0 loss by Crvena Zvezda in their most recent Champions League tie – a result that blew Group C wide open. The Reds haven’t exactly been convincing in the Premier League either, having been far from their best in each of their last three games, despite winning on two of those outings.
The reverse fixture, played at Anfield on Matchday 1, had ended in a narrow 3-2 win for Liverpool, with Roberto Firmino sealing all three points in injury time. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Thomas Tuchel had been sweating over the fitness of two key players ahead of the visit of Liverpool, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe recovering from injuries they had picked up during the international break. But, the PSG boss has confirmed the good news for home fans, with the star duo passed fit to start on Wednesday.
Stanley Nsoki is thus, the only player who is set to be unavailable for the hosts due to a hamstring injury. With all his first-choice players available though, there can be no excuses for Tuchel & co. on Wednesday, with a win being of utmost importance.
The manager should line his side up in the 3-4-2-1 formation that has yielded some positive results for PSG of late, even though there have been a few concerns surrounding the system as well. Alphonse Areola is likely to start ahead of Gianluigi Buffon in goal, while the back-three is expected to have familiar faces in Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe.
Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat should be the two wing-backs, with the duo being ever presents in the Champions League for PSG. The midfield duo pick themselves as well, with Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot having a lot of responsibilities on their shoulders to ensure the hosts dominate the battle in the middle of the park.
Up ahead in attack though, all of the onus will be on the superstar trio of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani, with the trio having all to do if PSG are to leap into the top two of Group C. Cavani’s hold-up abilities, in particular, will be important, with Neymar and Mbappe overloading the half spaces to link up with the striker.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Areola; Marquinhos, Silva, Kimpembe; Meunier, Verratti, Rabiot, Bernat; Mbappe, Neymar; Cavani
Jurgen Klopp has no major concerns hampering his preparations for the key UEFA Champions League encounter against PSG, with only Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke missing the trip to the French capital.
Joe Gomez and Sadio Mane had been initial doubts for the visitors due to an ankle injury and illness, respectively. But, the two players trained on Tuesday before boarding the flight to Paris. Gomez should thus, return to the starting lineup on Wednesday, partnering Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Liverpool defence.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson are the X-Factors in this Liverpool side, the former with his abilities on dead ball while the latter’s pinpoint deliveries are a thing of beauty. Meanwhile, Klopp is likely to revert to his trusted 4-3-3 formation, with James Milner returning to the side.
The Englishman is known to relish the big stage, and with workhorses such as Georginio Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson by his side, Milner will hope to pave the way for the Reds’ dominance in the middle of the park.
Up ahead in attack, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Mane are automatic selections, although Xherdan Shaqiri could be a dark horse if Mane is not deemed to be 100 per cent.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
- PSG have won their only previous meeting with Liverpool in Paris, coasting to a 3-0 win back in April 1997.
- Liverpool have lost both of their away games so far in the Champions League this season. The Reds have never lost all three on the road in the group stage of the competition.
- PSG are unbeaten in their last 20 group stage games at home in the UEFA Champions League (W15 D5), with their last loss coming at the hands of CSKA Moscow in December 2004 (3-1).
- Liverpool will be hoping to avoid becoming the fifth English team to lose four or more consecutive UEFA Champions League away games, and the first since Manchester City in 2012.
- The key men – Neymar has been directly involved in 13 goals in his 11 Champions League appearances for PSG (9 goals, 4 assists), while Kylian Mbappé has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Champions League group stage games (6 goals, 5 assists).
Player to Watch
With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe returning from recent injuries, Edinson Cavani will have a major role to play for PSG on Wednesday. Not only will the Uruguayan striker be the main target man in the final third for the hosts, he will also need to do well with his hold-up play to constantly keep Neymar and Mbappe in the game.
Cavani will also be the first line of defence for Les Parisiens, with Tuchel tasking him to press aggressively to put the Liverpool defenders under pressure. If he can do his job to a T, the experienced striker will have produced his best performance in the UEFA Champions League, while also helping PSG take a big step towards booking a place in the Round of 16.
PSG 1-1 Liverpool
Group C is the most tightly knit group in the UEFA Champions League, and it is for a major reason. The bigwigs have faltered, while Crvena Zvezda have not shied away from taking the few chances that have been presented to them. As far as the game at Parc des Princes is concerned, there should be very little to differentiate the two sides.
One can expect both PSG and Liverpool to give it their all, with a loss being catastrophic. But, the pressure cooker situation could bring the best and worst out of the two giants, the latter possibly being in the final third, where a number of chances are likely to be created.
The Hard Tackle predicts a keenly contested affair, but one in which PSG and Liverpool will both be quite wasteful. In the end, it should end in a score draw, but not with an expansive scoreline, like in the reverse fixture two months ago.