We’re now just hours away from the kickoff of the most highly anticipated match of Paris Saint-Germain’s season thus far.
On Tuesday night, Thomas Tuchel will lead his squad onto the pitch against his former club, Borussia Dortmund, in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.
The 10-point lead in Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue 1 final, Coupe de France semi-final, and a first-place finish in the Champions League group stage means nothing unless PSG can perform up to expectations against Dortmund.
With so much on the line for Les Parisiens, here is what to look for throughout the match the might be an indicator of good things to come.
PSG Defense Against Early Pressure
Lucien Favre knows his squad is not nearly as talented as PSG’s and beating them over two matches will be a difficult task. Dortmund’s best chance to upset PSG will be at home in front of the Yellow Wall where they are difficult to beat.
I predict Dortmund will come out flying against PSG and try to score early and often with Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho leading the way. There’s been speculation about PSG’s shaky defense and 35-year-old Thiago Silva and Thomas Meunier especially could be exposed against Dortmund’s speedy attackers.
If PSG can weather the storm and keep the score at 0-0, or even get a goal themselves, until the 30th-minute mark, I think that will be a good indication that PSG’s defense is up to the task of keeping Dortmund’s vaunted attack quiet. It will also mean that perhaps PSG has learned from their past where they all too often collapsed under pressure in the Champions League.
Can Neymar Shake Off the Rust?
The Brazilian has missed PSG’s last four matches due to a rib injury and while Neymar has been able to train normally, there is some concern that he may not be match fit.
Paired with Kylian Mbappé for only the second time in the knockout phase of the Champions League since their arrival in the French capital in 2017, Neymar will want to silence his critics who have gone as far as to say he’s one of the worst transfers of the decade.
From the opening whistle, if Neymar is active, engaged, and more importantly, creating goal-scoring opportunities for Mbappé, PSG could be well on their way to the quarter-finals.
Verratti Staying Calm Under Pressure
— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) February 18, 2020
Verratti is one of the best midfielders in the world but he has a reputation of losing his cool and his reckless challenges often result in a yellow card caution. If the Italy international does that against Dortmund and is given a yellow, he will miss the return leg at the Parc des Princes.
Tuchel has options in midfield if Verratti is suspended, but none are up to his quality. It would be a devastating loss and I’m sure the German tactician has told his midfield maestro to keep a cool head and play smart.
The 21-year-old stated he wanted more responsibility at PSG after last season and now he has it. It will be up to the FIFA World Cup winner to lead his team into a hostile stadium and he cannot disappear for any stretch of the match. Dortmund’s defense is suspect at best and he should run at Mats Hummels especially every chance he gets.
Mbappé could score a hat-trick tonight against Dortmund but he has to be a leader if and when times get tough. That means not only scoring goals and creating but also tracking back to win the ball. If he can do that, Mbappé will have another Champions League win over Dortmund.
Where Will Marquinhos Play?
PSG’s most versatile defender only just returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out for weeks. Marquinhos did play 45 minutes against Amiens SC last Saturday but that was hardly ideal leading up to a massive Champions League fixture.
I will be interested to see where Tuchel plays Marquinhos against Dortmund. Marquinhos is a natural center-back but he’s almost as good as a defensive midfielder. Tuchel will have to decide where the Brazilian is most needed and can have the biggest impact.
Whether Tuchel goes with Thomas Meunier, Thilo Kehrer, Layvin Kurzawa, or Juan Bernat, it’s safe to say that the left-back and right-back positions are the weak spots for PSG. I predict Favre will instruct his team to attack down the flanks as much as possible and create from the wings and if PSG’s full-backs aren’t disciplined, it could put unnecessary pressure on the center-backs and Keylor Navas in goal.
The only want to limit the damage is for PSG’s full-backs to only cross the halfway line if they know for sure they can get back and cover the space behind them. Otherwise, they will get embarrassed and it will be a long night for PSG supporters.
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