Paris Saint-Germain are one step closer to securing the top spot in their UEFA Champions League group following their 4-0 win over R.S.C. Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. PSG’s potent attack of Kylian Mbappé, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar Jr. led the charge with one goal each and Angel Di Maria tacked on one in the 88th minute for good measure.
The victory puts Les Parisiens 3 points ahead of FC Bayern Munich with a goal difference of 12. With home wins over Celtic FC and Anderlecht in the coming weeks, the December 5 clash between PSG and the reigning German champions could be relatively meaningless in terms of the standings in Group B. After last year’s debacle of finishing second to Arsenal FC in the Champions League group stage, this outcome should satisfy supporters and set PSG up for an easier route throughout the competition.
As for the Wednesday’s match against Anderlecht, all of the headlines–including this one–will go to MCN but Alphonse Areola deserves plenty of praise. He has been instrumental in PSG not allowing a single goal in the Champions League this season and he is the unquestioned number one goalkeeper for Unai Emery. Anderlecht peppered his goal for 90 minutes to the tune of 13 shots (6 on target) and Areola answered the call every time. Last year’s starter, Kevin Trapp, has remained relatively quiet but if he can’t get minutes at PSG he may be on the move next summer.
Areola’s heroics are especially impressive when you consider the defense playing in front of him. Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe paired together well in the absence of Thiago Silva but it was the fullbacks who constantly put the back line under pressure. Layvin Kurzawa is officially in a slump and it doesn’t appear as though more playing time is the solution. Yuri Berchiche, who was brought in last summer, was left on the bench but you have to wonder how much longer Emery will keep him there. Dani Alves had a poor match as well but he’s been on such an impressive streak since arriving from Juventus FC a few months ago that his starting place isn’t likely in jeopardy. Having said that, Belgium international Thomas Meunier deserved to start and play on his home soil. The right-back is coming off a two-goal performance against Dijon FCO and 34-year-old Alves should be rested whenever possible as to save his legs for the knockout stage of the Champions League.
I mentioned his goal earlier but Mbappé deserves a paragraph all to himself. Watching the France international with PSG you often forget that he is only 18-years-old. Whenever he touches the ball it feels as though you’re seconds away from witnessing something truly spectacular. The same is with Neymar but you would expect that of him given his experience with FC Barcelona. This is the first big club Mbappé has played for and it doesn’t appear as though the bright lights have phased him one bit. His goal in the 3rd minute was his eighth in the competition as a teenager, which is more than any other player. Given his incredible skill and pace, I have a feeling this won’t be the last record he breaks.
Other notable occurrences during the match include yellow cards for Thiago Motta and Mbappé as well as Di Maria’s late goal. You really don’t want players getting yellow cards in the Champions League so that they avoid accumulating enough to miss a match. PSG can ill afford to be without either player in the European competition so both will need to be careful moving forward. Then there’s Di Maria’s cheeky finish in the second half. The Argentine has lost his place in the starting lineup and along with Trapp, could be leaving the French capital next summer if not sooner. The goal will hopefully show potential suitors that he can still perform at a high level and PSG will be able to recoup some of the transfer fee they paid Manchester United in 2015.
We’ll have more on this match on the next episode of PSG Small Talk but in the meantime, check out some of our favorite images from the match and be sure to check back this weekend for our coverage of Le Classique.