First Real test for PSG
PSG must find a way forward without Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar as Real Madrid come calling for their UEFA Champions League Matchday 1 clash at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night.
Wednesday, 18 September 2019
UEFA Champions League Group A, Matchday 1
Parc des Princes, Paris
Paris Saint-Germain - Real Madrid CF
PSG's season so far can hardly be characterised as troubled in terms of their results; they have won five of six competitive outings, including the Trophée des Champions and four league wins. However, Neymar's summer transfer saga has definitely been a destabilising influence and injuries to Cavani and Mbappé have meant that coach Thomas Tuchel has had to dig deep into his squad early in the season.
And so, without a suspended Neymar - who delivered the side with a wonder goal in the injury-time 1-0 league win over Strasbourg at the weekend - he will do so again on Wednesday, knowing the importance of getting off to a good start in Europe's top club competition.
Tuchel: 'A special match'
"It's a tough game, a big game, but it's the first. It's not going to decide anything. I want us to play with courage, play to win and make our fans enjoy it," said the former Mainz and Dortmund boss, whose side have nonetheless lost their last three European matches in a winless run of five against the giants from the Spanish capital. "It's a special match because it's Real Madrid and because it's Paris Saint-Germain. We have to put in a good performance to give ourselves confidence. That's the goal."
The German tactician is tipped to hand starts to four summer signings, notably Argentine striker Mauro Icardi, who played the first hour of the Strasbourg match but is yet to show what kind of goal-scoring form he has brought with him across the Alps from Inter.
Tuchel: 'I have faith in my players'
"I don't know exactly what shape Mauro's in, how many minutes he can play. I don't know if it's him who'll start the game or [Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting, or both. We're missing some forwards, and we have to find solutions," admitted Tuchel, who will likely field Pablo Sarabia and Angel Di Maria on either side of the former Inter man in a 4-3-3. "But I have faith in my players. I'm sure we'll have a strong team on Wednesday."
Idrissa Gueye and Marco Verratti should patrol the centre of the park with Marquinhos stepping forward into the holding midfield role he grew into last season, while newly signed goalkeeper Keylor Navas - who showed some extremely sharp form at the weekend - should start against his former club.
Instant reunion for Navas
"Of course it's a special game for Keylor. He was Real's goalkeeper for several seasons and he did well there. The position of goalkeeper is special, with special rules," said Tuchel of the Costa Rica number one. "You have to be very strong mentally, and even more so when you're Real's goalkeeper. That means I'm very happy he's with us now. He's very good, calm, always smiling, and has a good attitude."
Marquinhos' place in the centre of defence should be taken by fit-again World Cup winner Presnel Kimpembe, while Thomas Meunier and Juan Bernat occupy the flanks.
Real, meanwhile, are enduring their share of injury troubles, with captain Sergio Ramos, Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric, young gun Marco Asensio, playmaker Isco and veteran left-back Marcelo all out of action. Coach Zinedine Zidane still has an ultra-impressive squad to call on, however, with a host of ex-Ligue 1 Conforama talent likely to take the field: Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez, Raphaël Varane and Ferland Mendy.
Paris Saint-Germain: Navas; Meunier, Thiago Silva (c), Kimpembe, Bernat; Verratti, Marquinhos, I. Gueye; Sarabia, Icardi, Di Maria
Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Eder Militao, Varane, F. Mendy; James Rodriguez, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema (c), E. Hazard