Paris Saint-Germain are aiming to regain their place at the top of the Ligue 1 table when they take on AS Monaco on Sunday.
Following a slow start to the campaign, Paris Saint-Germain have steadily improved under the leadership of the newly-appointed Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine, in fact, has registered nine wins in just 11 games in all competitions – a run of results crowned by a recent 4-1 triumph over FC Barcelona in midweek.
PSG’s excellent form under Pochettino has also seen them make an excellent comeback, with the Ligue 1 champions now just in touching distance of their competitors in Olympique Lyon and LOSC Lille, both of who are level with 55 points at the top of the table. Lyon are leading due to a superior goal difference but have played one more game than both PSG and Lille.
A win against AS Monaco this weekend, therefore, could go a long way in piling the pressure on the two table toppers. Lyon are already set for a stern test against Marseille – giving PSG an ideal opportunity to regain their lead at the top.
However, Monaco are no slouch, having improved considerably under Niko Kovac this season. They are one of the most in-form teams in the division, with their run of eight consecutive wins in all competitions only halted by a draw with Lorient last weekend.
Flying high in the fourth position, any upset on Sunday could see Les Monegasques bridge the gap to third-placed PSG to just two points – a result that could prove to be critical in the context of this season’s title race.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at how these two teams stack ahead of their crucial match-up in Ligue 1 this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
PSG were without their star creators in Neymar and Angel Di Maria during their midweek dash over Barcelona. The duo continues to remain on the sidelines, paving the way for Moise Kean to retain his place in attack alongside Mauro Icardi and star man Kylian Mbappe, although Pochettino does have Pablo Sarabia as a potential alternative.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 19, 2021
The front three should play a key role in the line of press. It will be a different game compared to the Barcelona one, with PSG expected to dominate the possession and probe the Monaco defence for the most part, rather than playing on the counter. So it will be interesting to see whether Mbappe could be effective once again, especially without Neymar and Di Maria.
In midfield, the return of Marco Verratti from injury has been a boon for the home side. The Italian international has added that pinch of creativity that was missing in the middle of the park. His qualities could once again be needed in the slightly advanced midfield role, while Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes look to continue in the double-pivot.
Julian Draxler is another option should Pochettino opt to rest, although that is unlikely as PSG do not have an incoming midweek game. The German, however, is likely to be employed as a substitute along with Ander Herrera as their energy and dynamism could be useful in probing the Monaco backline.
Meanwhile, in the defensive third, Pochettino is likely to persist with the same unit that featured against Barcelona. The central defensive combination of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe has been solid, to say the least.
Youngster Mitchell Bakker might be hoping for a berth at left-back, ahead of Layvin Kurzawa, but he will likely be reserved for the upcoming game against Dijon next weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Gueye, Paredes; Kean, Verratti, Mbappe; Icardi
AS Monaco head coach Niko Kovac has mostly operated with an interesting 4-4-2 formation this season, with two banks of four providing a lot of cover for the goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte.
The Croat experimented with the young Krepin Diatta on the flanks against Lorient, but could once again recall star player Aleksandr Golovin in the right midfield slot. The Russian international had scored a hat-trick in his last league game and his overall creativity could be essential as Monaco look to probe PSG on the counter.
𝙉𝙞𝙠𝙤 𝙆𝙤𝙫𝙖𝙘 🗣 "We’re not heading to Paris [on Sunday] to test our luck; we want to do the best we can." #PSGASM
— AS Monaco EN (@AS_Monaco_EN) February 19, 2021
Indeed, Golovin and Sofiane Diop’s ability to thread passes behind the backline should be critical in unleashing the two centre forwards in Kevin Volland and Wissam Ben Yedder, who bagged a brace in the draw with Lorient. It will be interesting to see whether or not they can replicate their performance against a much stronger PSG setup.
Defensively, Kovac is likely to persist with the same lineup that started against Lorient. Djibril Sidibe and Guillermo Maripan have become first-team regulars recently, following a slow start to the campaign. Their collective experience could be useful alongside an otherwise inexperienced duo of Benoit Badiashile and Caio Henrique.
The latter duo, though, might be influential in instigating Monaco’s build-up play, with Henrique, in particular, hoping to use his quality to launch counter-attacks. The midfield combination of Youssouf Fofana and Aurelien Tchouameni could also be critical in that regard.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Lecomte; Sidibe, Maripan, Badiashile, Henrique; Golovin, Fofana, Tchouameni, Diop; Ben Yedder, Volland
- PSG have lost only one of their last eight games against Monaco in Ligue 1, but it was the most recent one in November during the reverse fixture.
- PSG have won only 22% of their home games against Monaco in Ligue 1 in the 21st century, drawing nine times in 18 matches while losing six. It is their lowest win percentage against an opponent at home in the top-flight over that period.
- Monaco are unbeaten in their last 10 games in Ligue 1, the best current run in the division and their best run since December 2017-April 2018 (17).
- PSG have won six of their seven games in Ligue 1, only losing against Lorient on January 31st.
- PSG are winless in their three games against other sides current in Ligue 1’s top four positions this season (2-3 at Monaco, 0-1 at home against Lyon and 0-0 at Lille).
Player to Watch
Kylian Mbappe is set to attract the spotlight once again following a midweek hat-trick against Barcelona. His starring performances in Ligue 1 and in Europe have already made him a subject of discussion, especially at a time where kingpins like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are enduring an evident decline, though perhaps not so much in their overall productivity.
Mbappe and Erling Haaland, in particular, have garnered worldwide attention for their performances and might well emerge as the next big rivalry in football. Being the more established star, it is important for the Frenchman to end the ongoing campaign on a strong note as he hopes for yet another big-money move in the summer.
On a more immediate topic, Mbappe’s pace and dynamism could be critical for PSG as they aim to breach the Monaco backline that should offer him no gaps whatsoever.
PSG 2-1 AS Monaco
PSG have come a long way since their 3-2 defeat to Monaco in the reverse fixture. They have improved their solidity in defence with the combination of Marquinhos and Kimpembe while the attacking trio of Mbappe, Icardi and Kean have been firing in all cylinders under Pochettino.
Monaco have also looked quite strong under Kovac, but are likely to fall prey to the unquestionable talent boasted by their rivals this weekend. Hence, we are expecting a narrow 2-1 win for the hosts.