Manchester City will set their sights on the final of the UEFA Champions League when they take on PSG in the semi-final second leg on Tuesday.
Pep Guardiola will be hoping to break his duck in the UEFA Champions League with Manchester City, who will on Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, in the second leg of the semi-final.
The Citizens are being tagged as huge favourites to progress to the final thanks to a 2-1 win in the first leg that saw them not only secure the victory, but also score two invaluable away goals. It essentially means that PSG must score thrice if they are to have any chance of reaching the final for the second consecutive season.
It is an improbable task up against a Manchester City defence that has conceded only 24 goals in the Premier League this term. However, if there is any club capable of achieving that feat it is PSG, boasting a truly incredible attacking unit that will be desperate to seek retribution after being completely outplayed in the second half of the first leg.
The visitors, though, are coming on the back of a hard-fought 2-1 win over RC Lens that helped them remain in the Ligue 1 title race and due to face an equally important game against Rennes on the weekend.
Manchester City, in contrast, could have sealed their Premier League title on Sunday had it not been for the game between Manchester United and Liverpool being postponed in light of a fan invasion at Old Trafford. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola has had the privilege of resting his key players and his men are huge favourites heading into this contest.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their blockbuster encounter in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
Pep Guardiola is set to ring in the changes from that side faced Crystal Palace – a game that saw him offer a breather to his key players including Ruben Dias, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden among many others.
Dias, in particular, is set to play a vital role at the heart of the four-man Manchester City backline alongside John Stones. The two fared really well in the first leg, offering no space for Kylian Mbappe to run into while also containing Neymar for the most part of the second half.
Kyle Walker, too, remains a guaranteed starter in the right-back position as his pace will be critical in dealing with Mbappe. But things could get a bit interesting on the opposite flank, where Oleksandr Zinchenko made quite an impact after coming on for Joao Cancelo. However, in a game where Guardiola is likely to shift the dynamics of the team, he could opt for the more experienced Cancelo at left-back.
There could be a major overhaul in the midfield unit, with Rodri being the only player likely to retain his place in the side. His ability to distribute possession, coupled with his excellent positioning sense makes him an invaluable part of the Manchester City side, especially because it allows the likes of Gundogan and De Bruyne to express themselves more freely going forward.
Both these attacking midfielders could be vital in the second line of press. They will look to put pressure on PSG ball carriers and create crucial turnovers that should allow De Bruyne to pick passes and unleash the pace of wide attackers like Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.
In case of possession, Manchester City will look to utilise the acting false nine in Bernardo Silva more, though it means the likes of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus might have to settle for a place on the bench once again. The Portuguese international has often caused himself a menace in the first line of press and PSG centre-backs need to be careful of his presence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Silva, Foden
Mauricio Pochettino tried his best to shuffle his pack during the weekend over Lens, notably resting Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maira and Leandro Paredes while Marco Veratti appeared from the bench.
PSG have Idrissa Gueye unavailable this midweek after the midfielder picked up a red in the first leg. So one could expect Veratti to shift into a deeper midfield role alongside Paredes in the double pivot. It will offer Pochettino the opportunity to add extra firepower in the attacking department and the Argentine currently has two options.
Julian Draxler has been performing well in the Champions League and has a good connection with the likes of Mbappe and Neymar. However, in Mauro Icardi, PSG will have a genuine target man, who has also been in great form in Ligue 1. We are expecting Icardi to get the nod ahead this midweek, spearheading the PSG attack.
Icardi’s presence in the number nine slot could be good news for Neymar and Mbappe, with the latter, in particular, likely to shift to a more familiar wide attacking role where he will have the opportunity to utilise his pace and trickery up against Walker.
Di Maria, too, is hoping to replicate his first half performance in the first leg, by not only keeping the opposition occupied but also drop deep during possession phases and offer defensive support for his defenders. This time around, he will likely have to provide cover for Alessandro Florenzi, who appears to be the only viable option at right-back after Colin Dagba got injured against Lens.
Elsewhere in defence, Pochettino should persist with the tried and tested defensive combination of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe, though both are in need of improvement after a horrific second-half display in the first leg.
Meanwhile, there might be a change in the left-back position, where the young Mitchell Bakker might make way for the more defensive-minded Abdou Diallo. Pochettino certainly cannot risk having Layvin Kurzawa up against Riyad Mahrez, knowing he simply cannot concede any goals in this away leg.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo; Paredes, Veratti; Di Maria, Neymar, Mbappe; Icardi
- Manchester City are unbeaten in all four previous European meetings with PSG, winning their last home match against them in April 2016 in the second leg of that season’s Champions League quarter-final.
- PSG have only faced AC Milan (four times) more often without winning in the Champions League than they have against Man City (three). They won away at Manchester United earlier in the campaign and are the sixth team to face both Manchester clubs away in the same European season, but none of the previous five won both games.
- Manchester City have won their last six Champions League matches and victory here would see them break the record for the longest ever winning run by an English team in European Cup/Champions League history. Three other sides have won six in a row: Manchester United (1965/66), Leeds United (1969/70) and Arsenal (2005).
- Excluding this tie, in the history of the European Cup/Champions League, there have been 47 instances of an English side winning the first leg of a two-legged knockout out tie away from home, and on all 47 occasions, the English side has progressed.
- PSG progressed from their last Champions League knockout tie losing the first leg, recovering a 2-1 first leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund in last season’s last 16 to progress 3-2 on aggregate. However, in their major UEFA European history, the French side have never progressed after losing the first leg of a knockout tie at home.
Player to Watch
Kylian Mbappe has a point to prove after being fiercely criticised for his performance against Manchester City. He struggled in tight spaces and could not find his way around the excellent defensive duo of Ruben Dias and John Stones. The lack of spaces to run in behind, it seems, minimises his attacking potential and Guardiola has been quick to identify it.
That said, the Frenchman has been in inspiring form in Ligue 1 in recent weeks and after being rested in the win over Lens, he will be determined to prove a point this midweek as PSG look to cause take Manchester City by storm.
For Pochettino, it will be essential that Mbappe gets deployed out wide rather than in a central attacking role, as it gives him an opportunity to properly utilise his pace. But one thing that is certain is that the youngster is due a big haul and his performance against City could go a long way in dictating the fate of his team in this difficult game.
Manchester City 3-1 Paris Saint-Germain
This is always a difficult game to predict as both sides possess quality players who are capable of changing the complexion of the match with one magical moment. It was evident in the first leg, especially with the Man City team collectively managed to make a comeback and brush aside the PSG defence.
This time around, things could be much trickier, as PSG will look to attack right from the beginning. The Ligue 1 giants, though, do lack composure and temperament in their squad, and might even crumble defensively during their attacking stance. As such, we are expecting a big 3-1 win for the hosts, who are likely to prevail due to their smart approach in games.