Less than two weeks ago, Paris Saint-Germain were lucky to record a 3-0 win over FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League group stage at the Parc des Princes. The visitors hit the goalpost no less than three times and caused all sorts of problems for Unai Emery’s men. For the second leg of the tie in Switzerland, PSG will need to take all three points once again to keep pace with group leaders Arsenal and set up a winner-take-all match in London on November 23.
Since losing to Toulouse in late September, Paris have recorded five wins in six matches and they’ll want to keep that form going against a Basel side that will be difficult to break down in their home stadium. Basel will definitely feel they have no reason to fear the reigning French champions though, especially after PSG showed some signs of vulnerability at the Parc, and a win would put them in a great position to finish third in the group and advance to the UEFA Europa League.
In the two games since PSG and Basel last met, Paris have been bolstered in attack by the vast improvement of Hatem Ben Arfa and Jesé Rodríguez. Coupled with the improvement of captain Thiago Silva—who looked suspect in the first leg—and the return of Javier Pastore—who will likely feature off the bench due to a recent injury—Paris will go in as favorites and Emery appears to have more weapons at his disposal this time around.
The only key player missing for Emery will be Serge Aurier (ankle injury) but Thomas Meunier is a more than capable backup and should be up to the task.
Will Adrien Rabiot Start?
This is the question on everyone’s mind as his performances in recent weeks have many supporters calling for him to be thrust into the starting lineup on a more consistent basis. The major problem will be who loses their place to make room (Emery’s preferred midfield trio is Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, and Blaise Matuidi). As we recently pointed out, there’s still a problem determining where his best position in midfield is. Last time out against the Swiss side, Rabiot took up Motta’s spot in midfield due to an injury and it won’t be a major shock if Emery left Rabiot in the starting lineup. However, he may well see Motta’s experience as invaluable in this kind of game and give the 34-year-old the nod.
I expect Basel to continue their tactics from the first leg—sitting deep and looking to hit on the counter. If anything, the first match showed their threat is not one to take lightly and Les Rouge-et-Bleu must look to be on their game from the opening whistle.
Starting XI Prediction:
(4-3-3): Areola; Meunier, Marquinhos, Silva, Kurzawa; Verratti, Motta, Matuidi; Lucas, Cavani, Di Maria.
Subs: Trapp; Maxwell, Kimpembe, Krychowiak, Rabiot, Jesé, Ben Arfa
Basel 1-3 PSG
Photograph by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images