Paris Saint-Germain welcomes Lille OSC to the Parc des Princes on Friday afternoon in their return to Ligue 1 action following the international break. It will be the first time PSG has faced Les Dogues since the embarrassing 5-1 loss last April.
PSG enters the match with an eight-point lead at the top of the table, which is far from comfortable compared to previous seasons. With three losses already to his name, manager Thomas Tuchel is under pressure to restore the club’s domestic dominance especially now that he essentially has a full squad in training. According to Tuchel at his pre-match press conference, only Marco Verratti (injury) will miss Friday’s match against Lille and Kylian Mbappé is a question mark due to illness.
Like PSG, Lille has a UEFA Champions League match next week but they have virtually no chance of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League or knockout phase of the Champions League. They also should have players who are slightly better rested as several of PSG’s regular starters only just arrived back in Paris from international duty earlier this week.
Lille currently sits in fifth place and if they have their way at the Parc, they could very well hand PSG their fourth loss of the season in Ligue 1. Tuchel has the difficult task of making sure that doesn’t happen by putting out a strong squad but making sure he doesn’t overwork players who just returned from playing with their national teams or have recently recovered from an injury.
With that in mind, here is who I think the manager will choose to start against Lille:
Forwards: Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, and Pablo Sarabia have all played before this season and should be potent enough to cause issues for Lille’s defense.
I do think that Neymar Jr. will play at some point but I don’t expect him to start the match. I would imagine that he would come into the game around the 60th-minute mark and get a good half-hour ahead of next week’s match against Madrid to test the hamstring.
Kylian Mbappé could start the match but given that he’s had a fever and didn’t play for France against Albania, Tuchel may play it safe here and save him for Madrid or if he’s in the team, bring him on for the final 15 minutes or so to break a sweat.
Midfielders: Idrissa Gueye and Marquinhos are about as steady as it gets. Gueye has slipped a little recently and that may be due to the little injury he picked up with Senegal in October, so I’ll be looking for him to return to his early-season form. Tuchel could go with Leandro Paredes in the midfield as he has a solid international break with Argentina. The manager could also choose Julian Draxler or Ander Herrera. It’s really a mystery.
Defenders: This is the best backline that Tuchel has available to him and likely the defense we’ll see next week against Madrid.
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas, as usual, will be between the sticks. He will be looking to have an excellent game to propel him into next week where he will return to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and face his old team.
Score Prediction: I was originally predicting a draw but then I remembered that the last time PSG played a match on a Friday after an international break, they won 4-1 over OGC Nice. I don’t think this game will be that high-scoring but I can see PSG securing a 2-1 victory with Di Maria scoring the first and a late goal from Neymar to grab the three points.
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