After a successful pre-season tour of Japan, Ligue 1 Uber Eats champions Paris Saint-Germain are now gearing up to face Coupe de France winners in the Trophée des Champions against FC Nantes in Israel on Sunday.
Paris Saint-Germain - FC Nantes
- Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Ligue 1 Uber Eats champions PSG head to Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv this weekend to take part in the traditional season opener against last year's surprise Coupe de France winners Nantes.
Mauricio Pochettino has been replaced by Christophe Galtier as coach since securing Paris's 10th league title, and many column inches have now been dedicated to working out how the new man might fit each of Messi, Neymar and Mbappé into his preferred 4-4-2 formation.
A new fashion for Galtier?
It was a system Galtier used, almost without fail, in steering LOSC to the Ligue 1 Uber Eats title ahead of PSG in 2020/21, and one he continued to employ with OGC Nice last season.
But Galtier is an elite-level coach, and he has adapted his formation so suit the players at his disposal - at least if their time in Japan in pre-season is anything to go by.
PSG have beaten Kawasaki Frontale, Urawa Red Diamonds and Gamba Osaka to the tune of 11 goals scored and just three conceded in the land of the rising sun, and they have done so using a new 3-4-1-2 formation, which as well as accommodating MNM gives Sergio Ramos a platform to orchestrate things from the back.
Galtier is cautiously optimistic about how things have been going so far.
Galtier: 'expressed ourselves'
"We've had good attacking combinations," he said ahead of the Gamba game which PSG won 6-2. "I liked the way my players have expressed themselves loud and clear on the pitch, it allows us to be dangerous and create lot of chances.
"But we're evolving in a new system, in a 3-4-1-2, so we have to learn it. We experience a lot of imbalances and have thus conceded far too many chances on our goal. It's a big focus for the coming weeks. We want to be able to have many attackers involved but at the same time keep a fair balance."
Paris have a mostly clean bill of health, with Julian Draxler and Timothée Pembélé (both knee) their only definite injury absentees while Kylian Mbappé will be suspended and likely replaced by Pablo Sarabia.
Vitinha, the flagship summer arrival from Porto, is likely to start in central midfield alongside Marco Verratti, although his Italian colleague's minutes might be managed following calf issues late last term, while Gianluigi Donnarumma has been confirmed as the club's No.1 ahead of Keylor Navas.
Fellow new man Hugo Ekitiké, a striker who joined from Stade de Reims on loan, might have to settle for a place on the bench, especially with Messi, Neymar and Mbappé each having found the target against Gamba.
Take-off for les Canaris
Nantes figure to have their work cut out regardless of who lines up against them in Israel, although they have won two of their last three meetings with PSG, most recently beating them 3-1 in February, with Randal Kolo Muani, Quentin Merlin and Ludovic Blas on target.
Kolo Muani has since left the club for Eintracht Frankfurt, but Nantes have done some strengthening of their own in signing midfielder Moussa Sissoko from Watford and promising forward Evann Guessand on loan from Nice.
Nantes knocked out FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, AS Vitré, Stade Brestois 29, SC Bastia and AS Monaco on the way to May's Coupe de France showpiece, before former PSG coach Antoine Kombouaré outdid Galtier's Nice in the final.
Watch: Highlights of Nantes' 3-1 win over PSG in February!
Nantes have also had a positive pre-season, bouncing back from defeat to EA Guingamp with consecutive 2-0 wins over SM Caen and FC Lorient, and Kombouaré plans to extend the winning streak on Sunday.
"The Trophée des Champions has been in people's minds since the restart!" he said. "It may only happen once in our lives to compete for this trophy.
"The goal is to be ready for this match. We want to play a big game even if we expect, with the arrival of Galtier, a group of players who will want to show their best to the new coach. It'll be difficult but we're preparing, like last season, to pull off an upset."
Left-back Charles Traoré has a ruptured cruciate ligament, but Moses Simon appears to have shaken off a thigh complaint so Nantes should otherwise be at full-strength.
Sissoko and Guessand are expected to be given competitive debuts with attacker Mostafa Mohamed likely to be given more time to acclimatise after arriving on loan from Galatasary.
PSG: Donnarumma; Marquinhos, Ramos, Kimpembe; Hakimi, Vitinha, Verratti, Mendes; Sarabia, Messi, Neymar
Nantes: Lafont; Appiah, Girotto, Pallois; Corchia, Blas, Sissoko, Chirivella, Fabio; Guessand, Simon