Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has ordered his side to put Liverpool out of their minds as the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders take on AS Saint-Etienne on Friday evening without the suspended Kylian Mbappé.
Paris Saint-Germain - AS Saint-Etienne
PSG are preparing to begin their latest crack at the UEFA Champions League when they go to Anfield to face last season's runners-up in their opening group game next Tuesday. After successive campaigns of being eliminated in the last 16 under Unai Emery - losing to Barcelona and then Real Madrid - Tuchel has been brought in primarily to improve the capital club's record on the European stage, but just getting out of a group also containing Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli and Red Star Belgrade could be a challenge.
But before that game, Paris are looking to continue their perfect start to their defence of the Ligue 1 Conforama title as they welcome Les Verts to the Parc des Princes for a meeting of two clubs who have been champions a total of 17 times between them.
"I hope that nobody is thinking about Tuesday, that's very, very important for me," Tuchel said at a pre-game press conference on Thursday afternoon. "It is difficult but it is very important in my opinion that we appreciate the effort that we do tomorrow (Friday)."
Mbappé starts three-game ban
One man who could be forgiven for thinking about the Liverpool match already is Mbappé, with the teenage France superstar unable to play against Saint-Etienne due to suspension. He is beginning a three-match domestic ban handed down following his sending-off right at the end of the 4-2 win away at Nîmes Olympique prior to the international break, although Tuchel has spoken out in defence of his player.
"He felt his health had been threatened when it was 4-2 in the last minute. For me it was more of a yellow card offence. The punishment is harsh but we need to get used to it, yet at the same time we need to protect players like him," the German said in an interview with television channel RMC Sport earlier this week.
Watch: PSG beat Crocodiles in six-goal thriller
While Mbappé is absent, the PSG coach must also decide if Neymar Jr. can play the whole 90 minutes after playing the whole of Brazil's friendly victory against El Salvador in the United States, a match which finished in what were the early hours of Wednesday morning in France. Marquinhos also played in that game, with both players scoring. The Liverpool match is on the horizon, but once more Tuchel emphasised on Thursday that the priority for Neymar must be Saint-Etienne.
"The decision is only that he is supposed to be there tomorrow. It's only about what is a risk for tomorrow. It is important that he is on the pitch and wins the game for us then. And then we see for the next thing, but the big players can play a lot of games, and for that we take the decision very carefully," Tuchel said.
The coach has said that Alphonse Aréola will start in goal rather than Gianluigi Buffon, while Spanish international left-back Juan Bernat is set to make his debut after his €15 million move from Bayern Munich. That is because Layvin Kurzawa is now set for two months on the sidelines after undergoing back surgery, but the good news is that Marco Verratti is fit again and could feature.
If the Italian does play, he will be coming up against a side coached by his former assistant manager at the Parc des Princes, as Jean-Louis Gasset returns to Paris for the first time in charge of Saint-Etienne. Gasset was number two to Laurent Blanc at PSG between 2013 and 2016. But while Blanc has not coached since, Gasset is now at the head of an ambitious project with Les Verts, who are the only team other than Paris still unbeaten coming into the weekend.
Watch: Saint-Etienne held by Amiens
Sainté started the season with a 2-1 win over EA Guingamp but have stumbled since, drawing each of their last three games. Their last two outings, away at Montpellier Hérault SC and at home to Amiens SC, have both ended goalless, although Gasset knows another clean sheet this time will not be easily achieved.
'There's always hope' for Gasset
"Paris Saint-Germain have just scored 17 goals in five games, an average of 3.5 goals per game, so it would be a remarkable performance for us to go a third match without conceding a goal," he said.
"To do that we will need to be very focused, vigilant and intelligent. Playing intelligently means not doing anything suicidal. Time will be our friend. The longer the game goes on, the more PSG will begin to have doubts, because they will do everything to do put the game to bed as quickly as possible by suffocating us from the off. And if we concede a goal in the first quarter of an hour, you can become afraid of getting a hiding."
He added: "If they perform to 100 percent, they are unplayable. Otherwise, we will have a chance, only if we play at 110 percent. I don't want the team to pessimistic because the great thing about this job is that there is always hope that we can get something."
Saint-Etienne are without Mathieu Debuchy, whose 92nd-minute own goal at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in April in the last meeting of the teams allowed PSG to snatch a draw. However, Rémy Cabella is in the squad after shaking off a knee ligament problem, while Romain Hamouma and Kévin Monnet-Paquet are also in the squad.
PSG: Aréola; Dagba, Silva (c), Kimpembe, Bernat; Marquinhos (or Verratti), Rabiot, Nkunku; Di María, Cavani, Draxler
Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Kolodziejczak, Perrin (c), Subotic, Gabriel Silva; Selnaes, M'Vila; Salibur, Khazri, Cabella; Diony