Paris Saint-Germain square off with Manchester City at Parc des Princes on Wednesday, in the second semi-final of this season’s UEFA Champions League.
As the only non-ESL club to remain in the UEFA Champions League this season, Paris Saint-Germain are being heavily favoured by the footballing world, as they take on Manchester City in the first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday. It is a must-win home game for the Ligue 1 giants, who will be aware of Man City’s strength at Etihad.
Although very successful in recent weeks, PSG are dealing with a tough schedule, with head coach Mauricio Pochettino having to deal with the Champions League as well as the Ligue 1, with the title race nicely poised, especially after LOSC Lille’s narrow win over Olympique Lyon on the weekend.
Manchester City, on the other hand, are coming on the back of a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur that sealed their first silverware of the campaign, in the shape of the Carabao Cup. They have a healthy ten-point lead at the top of the Premier League table as well, meaning Pep Guardiola does have the privilege of prioritising the Champions League.
The Citizens, though, had a tough time against Borussia Dortmund and had to rely on refereeing mistakes and two of Emre Can’s defensive errors to advance through to the semi-finals. PSG, in contrast, completely outplayed defending champions FC Bayern, showing a brilliant counter-attacking display.
The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both these teams ahead of their blockbuster encounter at Parc des Princes this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) April 27, 2021
Mauricio Pochettino was very cautious with his team selection on the weekend against Metz. He didn’t start Angel Di Maria, who was one of the main factors behind their success over Bayern Munich.
Given that PSG are likely to play on the counter, Pochettino is likely to opt for a full-strength attack, with Kylian Mbappe leading the line, using additional support from Neymar, Di Maria and Marco Verratti. They have seemingly telepathic understanding between each other and could thrive against the Sky Blues.
PSG have another weapon on their hands in the shape of Mauro Icardi. The Argentine has been in sensational form since returning to full fitness and could be introduced in the second half, with Mbappe likely shifting out wide.
In midfield, Leandro Paredes and Idrissa Gueye are favourites to start, with Paredes offering the grit alongside Gueye’s grace. This combination should be critical for PSG, up against a strong midfield unit, meaning even Verratti could drop deep – forming a 4-3-3 during defensive phases.
Defensively, there are hopes of Marquinhos and Abdou Diallo’s return to full fitness. Both the players are likely to be slotted right back into the side, with Marquinhos renewing his central defensive partnership with Presnel Kimpembe, though Danilo Pereira is in line to deputise for him again if needed.
As for Diallo, his more defensive-minded nature makes him a better alternative to Layvin Kurzawa or Mitchell Bakker at left-back. Similarly, Pochettino is likely to opt for Colin Dagba ahead of Alessandro Florenzi on the opposite flank while Keylor Navas’ timely return makes him a guaranteed starter in between the sticks for PSG.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Dagba, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo; Paredes, Gueye, Veratti; Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar
Changes could be in order for the Manchester City setup who are not having to deal with any elongated list of absentees. On the contrary, they will be blessed with the return of John Stones, although it remains to be seen whether the Englishman starts ahead of Aymeric Laporte, who was immense in the recent win over Tottenham.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 27, 2021
Stones, however, is the favourite as he was not involved in any games on the weekend and will be fresh heading into this game as he renews his defensive partnership alongside Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo, who will operate as an inverted full-back as usual, giving his side the numerical superiority in the middle of the pitch.
Speaking of which, Guardiola is likely to make a change in midfield, with the experienced Fernandinho making way for Rodri in the holding midfield slot. He will form the midfield unit alongside Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne, who is the protagonist of Manchester City’s creative endeavours.
With Marquinhos back, though, the Belgian international is set to face a difficult task and will be hoping for some additional support from Bernardo Silva.
The Portuguese is likely to operate in the false nine role ahead of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero. His ability to drop should offer De Bruyne the additional freedom, while the two wide attackers in Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden are set to play their natural game by dropping infield and probing the opposition.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Silva, Foden
- Paris Saint-Germain are winless in their previous three matches with Manchester City in European competitions, only facing Arsenal (4), AC Milan (4) and Juventus (8) on more occasions without ever winning in their history.
- Manchester City eliminated PSG in their only previous knockout tie meeting in European football, progressing 3-2 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final in 2015-16, with Kevin De Bruyne scoring the winner in the second leg at the Etihad.
- PSG are just the third French team to reach the semi-final of the European Cup/Champions League in consecutive seasons, after St-Etienne in 1975 and 1976 and Olympique de Marseille in 1990 and 1991.
- Manchester City are playing in only their fourth semi-final in their European history after the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1969/70 and 1970/71, and 2015/16 UEFA Champions League – they’ve gone on to reach the final once, winning their only European trophy to date in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1970.
- Paris Saint-Germain are looking to reach their second consecutive Champions League final, following their defeat to Bayern Munich in last year’s showpiece. They would be only the ninth side to do so in back to back campaigns, while only Atletico Madrid and Valencia failed to lift the trophy in either of their first two final appearances.
Player to Watch
Amid all the superstars on show, Keylor Navas is perhaps the most important of the lot as his performance in between the PSG goal could go a long way in dictating the outcome of this showpiece game on Wednesday.
The Costa Rican international has already been a star feature in Mauricio Pochettino’s Champions League side, starring in the win over Bayern Munich. He has also emerged as one of Europe’s best performing goalkeepers, attaining a save percentage of almost 80%, which is remarkable even for the best of goalkeepers.
On Wednesday, Navas will brace himself for another tricky evening, up against a Manchester City side who are not only expected to dominate possession but also have wingers who typically like to cut inside and unleash fierce attempts towards goal – making the former Real Madrid custodian one to watch out for in this vital encounter.
Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Manchester City
PSG have performed well above expectations in the Champions League, but largely because their opponents have taken their chances against the deadly attacking trio. In Manchester City, Pochettino will be up against one of the most defensively stable and structured teams in Europe, who are not likely to take too many risks.
Although we do expect Guardiola’s men to concede at least one goal, they are expected to overpower PSG with their attacking prowess and efficiency in front of goal – making them huge favourites to seal a vital win in this away leg.