Neymar Jr. and Edinson Cavani are out, but Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel says his side will maintain a commitment to attacking football in Tuesday's Champions League last 16, first leg against Manchester United.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
UEFA Champions League last 16, first leg
Manchester United - Paris Saint-Germain
Paris already knew that Neymar would miss both legs of the tie against the three-time European champions with a metatarsal injury before Cavani was ruled out with a hip problem suffered while scoring a penalty in the weekend win over Girondins de Bordeaux.
Being without their all-time leading scorer as well as the world's most expensive player means the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders - overwhelming favourites in the eyes of most when the draw was made in December - now look very much up against it.
"It's like would Manchester United miss (Paul) Pogba if he were not there? Or Marcus Rashford? You cannot replace quality players like this," admitted Tuchel at Monday's eve of game press conference.
"Neymar is one of the key players in Europe. We miss him a lot, and now we miss another key player with 'Edi'," added the coach, while pointing out that Marco Verratti only had 60 minutes in his legs after returning from three weeks out with an ankle problem.
The visitors are also without Thomas Meunier, who is sidelined after suffering mild concussion against Bordeaux, and the ongoing absence of Adrien Rabiot means Marquinhos is likely to start in central midfield. Despite all the problems, Tuchel can still field Kylian Mbappé, Ángel di María and Julian Draxler, a trio who have scored 37 goals between them this season.
'In our DNA'
"We have our identity," Tuchel said when asked if he would opt for a more defensive system. "It is not easy to change the identity if we lack key players. It's true we are missing two key attackers, but change our identity for that? I dont know if this is the time.
"We have a tradition. We play attacking football - we are Paris, we usually play that way, it is in our DNA, and to change that is difficult, but I am sure that there will be moments where we will be very deep because I expect Manchester United to be very attacking."
PSG have not won on any of their last three visits to England and it will be a tall order against a United side who have won nine and drawn one of 10 games since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho in the dugout.
Tuchel said: "It's completely different. They play with a lot of confidence. They score lots of goals, take the lead early and are on an impressive run. Playing them now is one of the toughest challenges we can have. Over 180 minutes it's 50-50, but tomorrow (Tuesday) at Old Trafford I'm not sure I would say that."
The Red Devils are aiming to make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2014 and they have their tails up just now, with French stars Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial both in fine form. Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian are out, but otherwise United are at full strength as they look to take a lead to Paris for the return on March 6.
"We've given ourselves the best possible opportunity because of the way we've come into this game," Solskjaer said. "We're confident and we're looking like a team. If there was ever a time to go into big games, it's now."
Man Utd: De Gea; Young (c), Lindelöf, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial
Paris SG: Buffon; Kehrer, Silva (c), Kimpembe, Bernat; Marquinhos, Verratti; Alves, Draxler, Di María; Mbappé