After the capture of Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain will be hoping to continue their excellent start to the month when they take on RC Strasbourg on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain’s capture of Lionel Messi has sent shockwaves across the footballing world. Joining the club on a free transfer, following a 21-year association with FC Barcelona, the Argentine has enhanced the club’s reputation in every way possible, from social media to merchandise revenue.

On Saturday, Le Parisien will be aiming for more success as they play hosts to RC Strasbourg at Parc des Princes. Winning the Ligue 1 title is certainly a priority for Mauricio Pochettino’s men this season, who had lost out on the title to LOSC Lille last term. The club remains determined to avoid a similar scenario this time around.

PSG kick-started their 2021/22 Ligue 1 campaign with a narrow 2-1 win over Troyes. It was a much-needed victory, especially after losing Trophee des Champions to Lille at the start of the month. And with a majority of their rivals drawing their first game, three further points on Saturday could certainly give the hosts an early boost in their bid to regain the title.

RC Strasbourg could be an interesting opponent, though, having been able to preserve their top-flight status by finishing 15th last season. The club had largely fared decently under the leadership of Thierry Laurey. But this time around, the onus will be on the new coach Julien Stephane to get them over the line once again.

Strasbourg endured a 2-0 defeat in their opening game in Ligue 1. They must pick themselves up quickly if they are to avoid a humiliation that could go a long way in demoralising them in these early parts of the campaign. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over their chances of pulling off an upset in this important Ligue 1 encounter this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Paris Saint-Germain

The footballing world will undoubtedly be keen on witnessing Lionel Messi donning the PSG kit as soon as possible. But Saturday’s encounter against Strasbourg might come a bit too soon for the Argentine international.

Fortunately, PSG have an array of other talented players who are more than prepared to make an impression this weekend. Besides, Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria are all technically available, so it won’t be surprising to see them all starting on the bench.

Lionel Messi might not be ready to start a game for PSG just yet. (Photo by Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi might not be ready to start a game for PSG just yet. (Photo by Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images)

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, Kylian Mbappe is a surefire starter alongside Mauro Icardi and Julian Draxler as leaders of the PSG frontline. Di Maria and Neymar are likely to be utilised as second-half substitutes.

Pochettino opted for a 4-3-3 formation last week, which did well to accommodate Danilo Pereira, Georginio Wijnaldum and Ander Herrera in midfield. The trio should start once again as they offer excellent variety to the table, with Herrera, in particular, emerging as a creative force in the middle of the park.

Defensively, Achraf Hakimi scored in his Ligue 1 debut with a stunning volley. He remains a favourite at right-back, although his offensive endeavours will force Pochettino to field a defence-oriented left-back in Abdou Diallo.

The Frenchman’s versatility allows PSG to operate in a back-three if required, with the former Dortmund star dropping in alongside Thilo Kehrer and Presnel Kimpembe at centre-back. Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos remain unavailable, with the latter still struggling with his injury problems.

As for the goalkeeping slot, Gianluigi Donnarumma had arrived in Paris last week but may have to settle for a place on the bench as PSG continue with Keylor Navas.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Hakimi, Kehrer, Kimpembe, Diallo; Danilo, Wijnaldum, Herrera; Draxler, Icardi, Mbappe

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RC Strasbourg

RC Strasbourg have no shortage of attacking talents, but the focus will certainly be on Kevin Gameiro. The former Atletico Madrid man returned for a second spell at the club, although he may not get the nod ahead of Ludovic Ajorque and Habib Diallo as leaders of the Strasbourg attack this weekend.

Stephan’s side had operated with a 4-4-2 in their first game. We are expecting a similar shape this time around, knowing it offers more compactness, especially in the middle of the park where Dimitri Lienard and Jean-Ricner Bellegarde can hope to neutralise the opposition’s approach play as much as they can.

They will be aided by the wide midfielders Adrien Thomasson and Majeed Waris in the second line of press, although the latter may get the freedom to press forward more often than not.

Regardless of their quality forward, though, Strasbourg must remain resilient at the back. The onus will be on the central defensive duo of Alexander Djiku and Ibrahima Sissoko to offer that solidity at the heart of the club’s four-man backline, with additional support from the full-backs Karol Fila and Anthony Caci.

Another important player for the visitors this weekend is Matz Sels in goal. It appears the Dutchman has replaced veteran Eiji Kawashima as Strasbourg’s number one in between the sticks. However, he needs to significantly improve on his 56% save percentage tally from last season.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Sels; Fila, Sissoko, Djiku, Caci; Thomasson, Lienard, Bellegarde, Waris; Ajorque, Diallo

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Key Stats

  • PSG have only lost one of their last seven Ligue 1 games against Strasbourg since 2017/18 (when Strasbourg returned to Ligue) – winning their most recent three. The sole defeat came in December 2017 at La Meinau.
  • After their win over Troyes on Matchday 1, PSG could start a Ligue 1 campaign with two wins for the first time since the 2018/19 campaign.
  • Strasbourg have only won four of their last 19 Ligue 1 games, having won their first three in 2021.
  • Paris are unbeaten in their 30 Ligue 1 home games against Strasbourg, a French top-flight record for one team at home against a specific opponent.
  • PSG have lost three of their 10 Ligue 1 home games under Mauricio Pochettino (W7). Under the Qatar ownership, no PSG coach has ever lost four home matches in the top-flight.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Embed from Getty Images

While unlikely to start, Lionel Messi has trained with the squad heading into this game. As iterated earlier, there is a significant chance of him starting on the bench and potentially making his debut at Parc des Princes on Saturday. It will be an exciting yet bittersweet moment for fans, who had seen him play almost the entirety of his career in a Barcelona shirt.

From Messi’s perspective, a strong start could be essential in this new chapter of his career. Fresh from the Copa America triumph in the summer, the Argentine will be full of confidence and perhaps even more so alongside his compatriots like Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria and coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Should the 34-year-old does make his debut, it will also be interesting to see how he is accommodated alongside the other star players. Many favour him in the right-wing position, but it won’t be surprising to see Messi playing in a number nine role as PSG do lack the services of a proper number nine aside from Icardi.

Prediction

Paris Saint-Germain 3-0 RC Strasbourg

Paris Saint-Germain are the undisputed favourites heading into this encounter. The smart addition of players like Hakimi and Wijnaldum has significantly enhanced their possession quality and given a nicer balance to the squad. The arrival of Messi could further strengthen their ranks in the offensive department.

Although the majority of the star players are likely to play a minor role in this affair, PSG are still way too strong for Strasbourg, who are destined to struggle defensively, especially after the departure of star player Mohamed Simakan.

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