UEFA Champions League

Messi to start as PSG face City?

Publish on 28/09/2021 at 11:00 - S. WILLIS


Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino could hand a start to Lionel Messi and a fit-again Marco Verratti as the capital club play host to main Group A rivals Manchester City in Matchday 2 action at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night.

UEFA Champions League Matchday 2

Group A

Parc des Princes, Paris

Paris Saint-Germain - Manchester City FC

- Kick-off at 19:00 GMT

While Paris Saint-Germain have gotten off to a stunning start of eight wins from eight matches in Ligue 1 Uber Eats in 2021-22, the club's expensively assembled front three of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar is yet to hit its stride - a fact on display in the capital club's 1-1 Matchday 1 draw away to Bruges.

'Real success together'

Nevertheless, Pochettino is tipped to field an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation when Pep Guardiola's side come calling on Tuesday, with Messi - out injured for PSG's 2-0 win over Montpellier at the weekend - a chance to start alongside his illustrious attacking partners.

"Leo is progressing very well, and I think he'll be in the squad, but I don't know if he'll start," said the PSG boss of his compatriot. "His adaptation? He's the best player in the world, but he's still a human like everyone else. He also needs to adapt to this new team, new culture and new country. He was at Barcelona for 20 years, everything is new here for him. With time, I have no doubt that everything will go well and we're going to have real success together."

Verratti to figure?

But the presence - or otherwise - of the diminutive Argentine isn't the only selection issue for Pochettino, who could welcome back a certain diminutive Italian to the fold after a post-Euro injury absence.
"Marco [Verratti] has trained well in the last few days," said the PSG boss of the deep-lying playmaker, or regista, whose steadying influence many believe the side has sorely missed in the early stages of the season. "We think he'll be part of the squad. I don't know yet if he can start, but it's a possibility we'll see him play."

'A match for the players'

The fact that Manchester City pose just about the stiffest test Paris Saint-Germain are likely to face in the remainder of 2021 is certainly not lost on Pochettino, but the PSG boss seems prepared to trust his stars to bring the magic out on the pitch.

"We're a work in progress. It's not an opinion, it's a fact," said Pochettino in his pre-match presser. "We have to look at where we have come from and where we are today. We're going to face Manchester City and the best coach in the world, Pep Guardiola. We're going to try and cause them problems with a lot of desire, determination, and also by applying our ideas and limiting their qualities, and finding weaknesses to exploit. It's a match for the players in which they can show their potential."

Full strength - or thereabouts

The Argentine is tipped to field exciting full-backs Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes on either side of the first-choice central defensive pairing of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe - and in front of Gianluigi Donnarumma - with industrious midfielders Ander Herrera and Idrussa Gueye to partner Verratti - or Gini Wijnaldum - behind what is perhaps the most impressive front three ever assembled.

Meanwhile, Guardiola will be without Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko but otherwise has a full-strength squad to choose from.

Fasten your seatbelts!

Probable teams

Paris Saint-Germain:
Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos (c), Kimpembe, Mendes; Herrera, Gueye, Verratti; Messi, Mbappé, Neymar

Manchester City FC:
Ederson; Walker, Dias (c), Laporte, Cancelo; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Torres, Grealish