Paris Saint-Germain gets set to welcome last year’s Champions league runner-up Manchester City to the Parc des Princes on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 3 p.m.
This will be the second group stage match for both clubs in Group A, a group which also includes Belgian side Club Brugge and German side RB Leipzig. PSG failed to beat Brugge in its first Champions League match of the 2021/2022 campaign, having to settle for a 1-1 draw in what was one of the shocks of the opening two matchdays. On the other hand, City thrashed Leipzig 6-3 sent a resounding message not only to those in Group A, but all other clubs participating in Europe’s premier footballing tournament.
Both PSG and City have had great starts to their respective domestic campaigns as well. “Le Parisians” have won all eight of their opening matches in Ligue 1 and are nine points clear at the top. In the six games City has played this season, they’ve won four, drawn one,\ and lost one. The Citizens currently sit in second place in the English Premier League table, one point behind Liverpool FC.
Not only have Paris and City had an almost identical start to the new season, but they’ve also had a fairly similar track record in injuries sustained by key players over the past couple of weeks. City’s starting center back duo of Aymeric Laporte and John Stones sustained muscle injuries on international duty, with Nathan Ake having to fill in alongside Ruben Dias in the starting lineup.
Furthermore, midfielder Rodrigo Cascantae has been dealing with a muscular issue and fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has also been treating an injury. Finally, Oleksandr Zinchenko suffered a calf injury in domestic competition.
Of these five players, only Laporte, Stones and Rodrigo will be able to make the trip to Paris. Zinchenko and Gundogan are yet to fully recover from their injuries, and will not be able to participate on Tuesday.
Shifting gears to Paris, winger Lionel Messi sustained a bone bruise in the Parisians match against Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday, Sept. 19 which kept him out of the team’s following two league matches against FC Metz and Montpellier Herault SC, respectively. According to Saber Desfarges — a reporter for the French program “Telefoot” — Messi is now 100% fit to play against City on Tuesday.
Another key Parisian player, midfielder Marco Verratti, sustained an injury to his knee on Sept. 7 which has left him out of the past five PSG matches. However, Desfarges was able to confirm that Verratti has recovered from the injury and will be in the group to take on City on Tuesday.
In the pre-match press conference, Paris manager Mauricio Pochettino commented on Verratti’s availability. “Marco Verratti can be part of the squad. He has trained well in the last few days,” he said.
While Paris has only dealt with two injuries in comparison to City’s five, the impact both Messi and Verratti have on the pitch means their absences would be the most costly by far. This is mainly due to Verratti, a crucial player for the PSG midfield and provides stability to an area that rarely thrives without him. Paris’ recent matches have shown this as recent opponents have dominated the midfield without the Italian international.
Messi is one of the greatest players in the world and the impact he has on the pitch goes without saying. He creates a large amount of space for his fellow attackers Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe, as the defense will mainly be focused on the Argentine international. Furthermore, he creates a multitude of opportunities for his teammates in the opposition’s final third, something he’s shown throughout his career. Most importantly, he can create something out of nothing, which will be useful against an organized City squad that makes it difficult for opponents to thrive in the attack.
While the return of Verratti and Messi will definitely help strengthen certain areas of the squad, one thing they will not be able to control is the team’s finishing ability, or lack thereof. PSG has been continuously plagued by their inability to finish their chances in attack. This has occurred on multiple occasions this season, and is something that has unnecessarily kept opponents in the match.
Midfielder Ander Herrera expanded on the need to take advantage of their opportunities if they wished to get a positive result against City. “We must be more efficient and mark the occasions. We must be more ‘killer,’” he said.
Herrera also stated that, while PSG does have great players, they cannot rely on them to go and win the match by themselves. “We have great players who can make the difference but we need a strong block behind. We need everyone,” he said.
Pochettino kept it simple as it relates to his overall thoughts on the upcoming clash.
“It’s a football match. Anything can happen. We will have to apply our ideas while limiting their qualities,” he said.
“Canal Supporters,” a French sports media outlet which covers all things in relation to PSG, predicts the starting lineup for the Parisians will be as follows: Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal, a backline that consists of Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos and Achraf Hakimi. In the middle of the park, Verratti would line up alongside Idrissa Gana Gueye and Herrera. Finally, the front three would consist of Neymar, Mbappe and Messi.
Harry Latham-Coyle of Yahoo Sports UK predicts City will line up with Ederson in goal, and a backline that consists of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo. Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, and Bernardo Silva would make up the midfield, while Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres and Jack Grealish would be the forward partnership.
While this isn’t a must win game per se, failing to get a result at home would truly ramp the pressure up on a Parisian squad that has already dropped points against an inferior opponent in Brugge. Paris must make a statement on Tuesday to prove to those in their group and to the rest of Europe that they are still the favorites to win this year’s Champions League.