Paris Saint-Germain will seek revenge for last season’s semi-final exit when they host Manchester City in Champions League Group A clash at Parc des Princes.
UEFA Champions League returns this midweek with an enticing prospect of witnessing two of Europe’s biggest heavyweights going head-to-head as French giants Paris Saint-Germain take on English champions Manchester City. The two teams reignite their fierce rivalry after colliding in last season’s semi-finals when Pep Guardiola’s troops won both games to crush the Les Parisiens’ European dream once more.
Both sides will be eager to get their hands on the coveted Champions League trophy since they have yet to add European silverware to their illustrious domestic cabinet despite all their riches. The Citizens came close last term but stumbled in the final against Chelsea, while PSG also lost the final to Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 season.
PSG finally put the dream trio of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar on the field together for the first time in their Champions League opening game against Club Brugge. Although the trio had their moments and flashes of brilliance, the team as a whole was uninspiring and settled for a 1-1 stalemate to begin their European campaign. PSG have just brushed off the competition in Ligue 1 so far and maintaining their unblemished record with a 2-0 victory against Montpellier on the weekend.
Manchester City, meanwhile, are brimming with confidence and are coming on the back of a 1-0 win over title rivals Chelsea on Saturday, with Gabriel Jesus’ diverted effort proving to be the ultimate decider. Despite an underwhelming start to their campaign, the Citizens are well back on track to contend on all frontiers and started their Champions League campaign in a dominating fashion, thrashing RB Leipzig 6-3 at Etihad.
The Hard Tackle will now take a closer look at both sides ahead of the blockbuster encounter between two super clubs in football.
Team News & Tactics
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 27, 2021
In a big boost for PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, Lionel Messi has returned to training and may feature against Manchester City. The Argentine superstar was spotted in training after missing the Ligue 1 encounter against Montpellier due to a bruised knee. At the time of writing, it is still unsure if he is fit enough to start, but he looks certain to make the matchday squad for the game.
Sergio Ramos and Marco Verratti are set to be remained sidelined with respective injuries, but in a piece of positive news, Layvin Kurzawa, Juan Bernat, and Colin Dagba have all successfully returned to training without any effects and would be available.
Pochettino deployed a 4-3-3 formation last weekend and may stick to the same setup with some personnel changes against Man City. Keylor Navas could keep his place between the sticks despite stiff competition from Gianluigi Donnarumma for the No. 1 spot. A tried and tested defensive pairing of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe would guard the goal in central defence.
Nuno Mendes was rested on the weekend, and he may replace Abdou Diallo in the left-back slot while Achraf Hakimi would fill in the other flank. Both full-backs are expected to bombard forward, causing problems with their pace, creativity and scoring ability, especially Hakimi, who has a track record of scoring important goals in the Champions League.
Idrissa Gueye will operate in the holding midfield role to orchestrate the game with his passing and excellent ball distribution. Ander Herrera and Leandro Paredes will join him to form a midfield trio. The former Man United man would be a creative outlet from midfield and will also make those late runs into the box.
With Angel Di Maria missing through suspension, former Schalke man Julian Draxler might get a start on the right-wing alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to form a three-man frontline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes; Herrera, Gueye, Paredes; Draxler, Neymar, Mbappe
In his pre-match press conference, Pep Guardiola confirmed that Ilkay Gundogan is set to miss City’s trip to Paris through injury and will remain sidelined until after the international break while Aymeric Laporte and Rodri got through the Chelsea win unscathed and without any effects. Guardiola will prefer a 4-3-3 system and can name a similar lineup to that was fielded on the weekend at Stamford Bridge.
John Stones, who was placed on the bench at Stamford Bridge, is pushing for a start after recovering from his injury but will have to wait for his chance with Laporte and Ruben Dias in fine form. Ederson would be the indisputable choice in goal with his unrivalled distribution and shot-stopping ability benefiting the Citizens.
Kyle Walker remains a guaranteed starter in the right-back slot as his recovery pace would be crucial in dealing with Mbappe. Joao Cancelo will be the preferred left-back and would be in an engaging duel up against Draxler and Hakimi. The Portuguese full-back will try to exploit the midfield spaces when advancing forwards.
Rodri will play the deep-lying playmaker role with his exceptional passing ability and effecting screening in front of the backline. He will be joined by Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva in the three-man midfield.
Riyad Mahrez could get a start ahead of Gabriel Jesus on the right-wing. Ferran Torres may be deployed in the striker role with his quick thinking and sharp movements an asset to the frontline. Jack Grealish will also get a run on the left wing with his trickery, direct dribbling and creative impetus, making him the most potent threat in the City attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Torres, Grealish
- Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City will meet for only the sixth time ever in history; the French giants are yet to register their first victory in this fixture (D2 L3). Only Juventus had a worse record of winless run against a single opponent (8).
- Les Parisiens have failed to keep a clean sheet in all of their four attempts against Man City in the UEFA Champions League and have lost all, which includes the two defeats in both legs of the semi-final last season.
- PSG have lost four of their last five games played against English sides in the competition, only winning once. They also haven’t won any of the last three games against English teams while playing as hosts. (Losing to Man Utd in 2019, 2020 and Man City 2021)
- PSG are in a poor run of form in UEFA Champions League and haven’t won any of the last four games in the competition (D1 L3).
- Man City have won eight of their last nine Champions League games and are unbeaten in their last ten away games in the competition (W8 D2).
Player to Watch
Neymar has been criticized for his flamboyant nature at PSG, but it’s hard to disregard that he always shows up as a leader on big occasions. His skill, ball control and dribbling are fun to watch for the neutral, and while he lacks the defensive ethic, his work rate has recently improved under Pochettino. His performance against Club Brugge was uninspiring, and he will be looking to improve upon that.
The 29-year-old enjoys playing in Champions League games of this calibre, and it will be intriguing to watch how will he link up with Messi against such high-quality opponents. We have only seen the fragments of the partnership so far, and the best is yet to come.
Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 Manchester City
Both sides contain world-class players capable of turning the game’s complexion with a single miraculous moment or a piece of skill. Man City are a better team collectively and are in a good run of form, but one cannot deny the supreme individual quality of PSG players.
PSG’s unbeaten record in Ligue 1 does not tell the whole picture; they have had several underwhelming average performances, but one can expect them to step up for the big game at Parc Des Princes. It is a difficult task to separate these teams. Hence, The Hard Tackle is predicting an entertaining 1-1 draw with both sides sharing the honours.