Paris Saint-Germain will look to clinch back-to-back victories in the Champions League when they welcome RB Leipzig at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night.
Matchday 3 of Champions League Group Stages will see Parc des Princes play host to a vital Group A encounter as French heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain get set to lock horns with Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men were held to a 1-1 draw by Club Brugge in their Champions League opener, but they made amends with a vital 2-0 win over Manchester City in their most recent European tie. Idrissa Gueye crashed home a thunderous opener from close range before Lionel Messi dispatched a wonderful left-footed curler to register his long-awaited first goal in navy blue and seal all three points forLes Parisiens.
While they have been coming under scrutiny for their lacklustre performances, the Parisian giants are soaring high in Ligue 1 and currently sit atop the table, nine points clear. They are coming on the back of a 2-1 home win against high-flying Angers, with goals from Danilo Pereira and Kylian Mbappe.
RB Leipzig, on the other hand, had a rocky start to life after Julian Nagelsmann’s departure and have been struggling on all fronts so far this campaign. After a heavy defeat to Manchester City in their UCL opener, Die Roten-Bullen fell to yet another loss against Club Brugge on Matchday 2, leaving them at the bottom of Group A.
Leipzig’s Bundesliga fortunes haven’t improved either, as Jesse Marsch’s men come into this tie following a pale 1-1 draw away to Freiburg on the weekend, with Emil Forsberg’s first-half spot-kick cancelled out by Woo-Yeong Jeong’s goal in the 64th minute. Ahead of their crucial clash at Parc des Princes, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both sides.
Team News & Tactics
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Angel Di Maria is serving the final match of his prolonged European ban this week, while Keylor Navas and Sergio Ramos are also doubts with injuries. PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino has to make do with a depleted squad with several players unfit due to late returns from international duty. Neymar is confirmed to be sidelined with groin pain, while Mauro Icardi will also miss the clash for personal reasons.
Pochettino is unlikely to tinker with the 4-3-3 system he has instilled at PSG but will be forced to make several personnel changes. Gianluigi Donnarumma will take his place in between the sticks. Guarding him will be the reliable pairing of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe in central defence.
Juan Bernat made a rare outing on Friday – his first since September 2020 – as he came on as a substitute on the hour-mark against Angers, but Nuno Mendes and Achraf Hakimi are expected to return at respective full-back slots areas this week.
Marco Verratti will run the show from the middle of the park with his incredible passing range. Alongside him will be a workhorse in Idrissa Gueye taking charge of the gritty work. Ander Herrera will make up the midfield trio. The former Manchester United midfielder will provide a creative outlet from midfield while also making late runs into the box.
There’s a conundrum on the wide areas with Angel Di Maria still suspended, Neymar injured (groin), and Julian Draxler doubt (thigh pain), Rafinha was deployed as a right-winger in the most recent game against Angers, and despite being a huge downgrade, the Brazilian is set to join the star-studded PSG frontline of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes; Verratti, Gueye, Herrera; Rafinha, Messi Mbappe
Kevin Kampl and Nordi Mukiele were both able to feature for Leipzig against Freiburg, while Dani Olmo (thigh), Brian Brobbey (thigh), Marcelo Saracchi (knee) and Marcel Halstenberg (ankle) are expected to sit out again for this Champions League clash. On the plus side, Angelino has returned from suspension and may compete for a starting berth at left-back, while Mukiele and Konrad Laimer are also pushing to be called up to the starting XI.
Manager Jesse Marsch is tactically versatile, just like his predecessor in the Red Bull setup. Considering that PSG would be opting for 4-3-3, the American manager may field his Leipzig side in a dynamic 3-4-2-1 system. Peter Gulacsi is a certainty in goal. Protecting him will be a three-man backline of Lukas Klostermann, Mohamed Simakan and Willi Orban.
Mukiele and former Man City defender Angelino will operate in the wing-back roles and will be assigned with the duties to offer width and feed the forwards with quality crosses while holding PSG’s advancing full-backs in check. Kampl and Laimer will feature in the double midfield pivot and will be tasked with keeping the PSG’s midfield in check and press the runners.
The Germans possess the attacking tools enough to cause PSG problems on turnovers with pace and directness. Emil Forsberg and Christopher Nkunku will work the wings. Andre Silva will lead the line on the night. The Portuguese has had a decent start to his Leipzig career and will be looking to register his first Champions League goal this season.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gulacsi; Klostermann, Simakan, Orban; Mukiele, Kampl, Laimer, Angelino; Nkunku, Silva, Forsberg
- This is the third successive Champions League campaign in which PSG and RB Leipzig will face off. PSG defeated Leipzig 3-0 in the 2019/20 Champions League semi-final while both sides register home victories in last season’s group stage games. (RB Leipzig 2-1 PSG & PSG 1-0 RB Leipzig)
- Mauricio Pochettino’s men have won 10 games from 12 in all competitions this term and boast a perfect home record of six wins from six at Parc des Princes.
- Leipzig, meanwhile, only have three wins in their last ten games in all competitions and are also on a five-game winless run on the road following their DFB-Pokal victory against lower-tier side Sandhausen in August.
- RB Leipzig have suffered defeats in four of the last five UEFA Champions League games away from home, with 24 goals involved in those at a rate of 4.8 goals per game.
- PSG have an impeccable record in the group stage, having lost only once from the last 28 Champions League group games (W22 D5), with their last defeat coming against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United back in 2020.
Player to Watch
Despite RB Leipzig’s relatively slow start this season, Christopher Nkunku has been a bright spot at the Red Bull Arena and is on a goal-scoring spree. The silky dribbler’s low centre-of-gravity and quick feet help him get out from closed areas, and his flexible nature is a big asset to turn games on their heads. The Frenchman has elegance, swagger and remarkable technical ability, which makes him a joy to watch on the pitch.
More importantly, he has the end-product to back his flair. He has seven-goal contributions from eight Bundesliga appearances and has exploded in the Champions League with four goals from just two games, bagging a hat-trick against Manchester City. The 23-year-old is next only to Sebastien Haller in the Champions League goals tally this campaign, and the former PSG youngster will look to become the first player to score in three consecutive matches in the competition for Die Roten-Bullen.
Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 RB Leipzig
Despite PSG’s campaign sailing superbly result-wise, there’s something not ticking along, and at times the perfect balance seems to be missing with so many superstars to integrate into starting XI. But that individual quality and attacking impetus makes PSG the favourites to win pretty much any football game.
RB Leipzig are not a team to be taken lightly, especially when Nkunku is on song and determined to prove his value to his former club. Forsberg has a decent strike in his foot and is very lethal at taking shots from outside the box. Leipzig are steadily gaining momentum and getting back on track, but under the lights in Paris, an upset will be too much to expect.
Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts a narrow 2-1 win for PSG with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe producing enough to get the Parisians over the line without Neymar.