Gianluigi Donnarumma is set to make his first competitive appearance since helping Italy win UEFA EURO 2020 as Ligue 1 Uber Eats leaders Paris Saint-Germain play host to surprise packages Clermont on Saturday (kick-off 5pm CEST), but Lionel Messi and Neymar are among a host of stars who will not feature.
PSG vs. CLERMONT
Donnarumma signed a five-year deal with PSG in the summer, one of the marquee signings of a star-studded transfer window that has given coach Mauricio Pochettino a wealth of options all over the pitch.
The 22-year-old Italy international has watched his new side's last two league games from the substitutes' bench, but with Keylor Navas, who has played all four top-flight matches so far, having only returned from international duty with Costa Rica barely 24 hours before kick-off, Donnarumma could pull on a PSG shirt for the first time.
Pochettino is keen to maintain the suspense, however, over who he will pick.
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“We haven't decided yet who will play in goal tomorrow. Obviously Gianluigi Donnarumma is an option. Mauro Icardi and Presnel Kimpembe have been training normally and we hope they can play tomorrow. Kylian Mbappé is happy. He is very balanced and emotionally stable. He has always kept the same state of mind," said Pochettino, who saw his star French forward return early from international duty to speed his recovery from a calf problem, and Mbappé remains a doubt to start.
“As for the South Americans, Leandro Paredes, Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi and Neymar, they will not be in tomorrow's squad. It’s just common sense. It is also clear that [new signing] Nuno Mendes will not start tomorrow's game because he has just arrived at the club. He is a player with a great potential that the club was following very closely before he signed here. It's a good move by the club to bring in a player of this calibre."
Pochettino: 'Difficult match'
Messi and Neymar, who featured in the controversial Brazil-Argentina FIFA 2020 World Cup qualifier, will miss out against Clermont, who are the first newly promoted side to go unbeaten in their opening four Ligue 1 Uber Eats matches since Guingamp in 1995/96.
"It will be a difficult match. Clermont is a team that play very well and has been coached by the same coach for many years. They haven't lost a game yet this season," explained Pochettino, whose team come into the game with a maximum haul of 12 points to sit two points clear of the field, and four points ahead of their Round 5 opponents.
"It will be a difficult match where most of our players have played three matches with their national teams. At 3 o'clock this morning, some players were still playing for their countries. Tomorrow we have to play well. Our objective is to take the three points."
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While PSG are without a host of names, including Sergio Ramos who suffered a calf strain as he battles his way back to full fitness, Clermont suffered a major blow when top scorer Mohamed Bayo was ruled out of the game after the Guinea international was forced to delay his return to France due to the coup d'etat in the African country.
Bayo has been central to Clermont becoming the division's second-top scorers — behind PSG — and though their talismanic forward will be missing, Florent Ogier insists Pascal Gastien's side will be positive.
"We are really ambitous. We're not going to be pretentious, but I already know what the coach will say. He's going to want us to bring back some points. In the dressing room, it's the same: we don't want to lose," said the experienced centre-back, who — at 32 — is getting his first taste of top-flight football.
"We're going to try [and win]. We'll have a very good pitch on which to play our games. We saw against OL that we could, during periods in the second half, cause them problems with the ball. We have to base ourselves on that. Firstly, the idea will be to play as we normally do, to not take into account who we are up against."
PSG: Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos (c), Kehrer, Diallo; Danilo Pereira, Gueye, Herrera, Wijnaldum; Draxler, Icardi.
Clermont Foot: Desmas; Zedadka, Ogier, Hountondji, N’Simba; Gastien, Iglesias (c); Dossou, Berthomier, Rashani; Hamel.