Although fit-again Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani are both a chance to play in PSG's Champions League trip to Bruges, coach Thomas Tuchel believes it will be teamwork that maintains the club's perfect record so far this season.
Tuesday, 22 October 2019
UEFA Champions League Group A
Jan Breydel Stadium, Bruges
Club Bruges KV - Paris Saint-Germain
Injury problems have been the bane of Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel's existence this season, especially as the fitness travails of Cavani, Mbappé and Neymar et al. have taken up plenty of oxygen as far as his team's narrative is concerned, when what the German coach prefers to focus on is how his team plays as a whole.
'The best solution for the team'
Tuchel's summer signings were telling of what he wanted to achieve in the current campaign: Ander Herrera, Abdou Diallo and Pablo Sarabia are talented players brought in from big sides, yes, but above all they are team players who implement the game plan and don't stop running.
So, when asked whether Mauro Icardi has edged ahead of Edinson Cavani in the attackers' pecking order as Tuesday's UEFA Champions League trip to Belgium to take on Club Bruges - match that could see Paris take a strangleohold on top spot in Group A - Tuchel just about rolled his eyes.
"I don't think about that," he replied, refusing to be drawn on a comparison between the club's all-time leading goal scorer (Cavani) and a loan signing from Inter with three goals to his name at the capital club (Icardi). "I'm thinking about the best solution for the team for this match in Bruges, and nothing else. There is no question of hierarchy. Playing a Champions League match away from home is the most complicated thing there is. It is this challenge that we must talk about, not a hierarchy between the attackers."
Mbappé in, Gueye out
Nonetheless, fans are excited to know that Ballon d'Or nominee Kylian Mbappé will definitely play - either starting or ending the match off the bench - while Cavani will be on the bench as Paris look to hand current Belgian first-division leaders Bruges a first competitive defeat of the season.
However, Neymar is out injured, as is Idrissa Gueye, who has been crucial in PSG's midfield this season, helping to clinch a 3-0 win over Real Madrid on Matchday 1 and a 1-0 win away to Galatasaray on Matchday 2, results that have the capital club sitting atop the Group A standings.
"We will miss Idrissa very much because he is a key player," declared Tuchel, tipped to field Herrera in midfield alongside Marco Verratti and Marquinhos, while Icardi should start at centre forward with Mbappé and the in-form Angel Di Maria on either side of him. "But Ander [Herrera] or Leo [Paredes] have shown that they are able to play with the same level".
Di Maria on fire
At any rate, Paris should be full of confidence after handing Nice a 4-1 drubbing at the weekend, a win that came thanks to Di Maria, often seen as the club's 'fourth' attacker, who showed skill, poise and team ethic as he collected two superb goals in played a key role in the other two.
As to how Bruges will look to take on the French champions, one man in the Parisian ranks has a privileged perspective: Thomas Meunier, who won the Belgian title with Bruges in 2016 just before his move to Paris Saint-Germain.
"It's a pretty fanatical club with English-style fans. The culture there is very English-speaking. In Galatasaray, they could have won, in Madrid, they could have led 3-0 early in the second half. It could be a banana skin for us. We'll have to be careful, and not underestimate them," explained Meunier, who spent five years at the club. "The danger comes from everywhere because they have a very complete squad. But the key player is Hans Vanaken, the captain. He's a super-talented player and he can make the difference at any time."
Club Bruges KV: Mignolet; C. Mata, Mechele, Deli, Sobol; Schrijvers, Rits, Vanaken (c); Diatta, Dennis, Tau
Paris Saint-Germain: Navas; Meunier, Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat; Herrera, Marquinhos, Verratti; Mbappé, Icardi, Di Maria