Paris Saint-Germain returns to the pitch on Sunday for the first time since their 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. Girondins de Bordeaux are riding a five-game unbeaten streak and will be looking to avenge their 1-0 defeat last September.
The stakes are slightly lower against Bordeaux as PSG holds a 10-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, but how manager Thomas Tuchel sets up his team and how they perform is very important with the return leg against Dortmund set for March 11.
Tuchel will have to overcome suspensions to Marco Verratti and Thomas Meunier for the match against Dortmund at the Parc des Princes next month and you never know what injuries might strike between now and then.
The match against Bordeaux, and the three following leading up to the Dortmund rematch, will serve as an opportunity for previously injured PSG players to find their rhythm and get back their match fitness. Tuchel will be watching with a close eye to decide if his stars are ready to play the grueling 4-4-2 formation or if he has to deploy something more traditional.
The prep work for Dortmund begins on Sunday and here is who I believe Tuchel will start:
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas
Defenders: Juan Bernat, Thiago Silva, Presnel Kimpembe, Thilo Kehrer
Midfielders: Marquinhos, Ander Herrera
Forwards: Neymar Jr., Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappé, Angel Di Maria
As I wrote after the loss to Dortmund, Tuchel should play a 4-4-2 formation against Dortmund and this is actually the lineup I would go with for that match. The formation has been used for months with success but now is the time for the players to get used to it again.
In goal, Keylor Navas will be looking to keep a clean sheet after giving up seven goals in PSG’s last three games. In front of him, Juan Bernat will hopefully return to the team at left-back after a calf injury kept him out for weeks, Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe will lineup at center-back, and Thilo Kehrer will fill in at right-back.
Kehrer is the player to keep your eye on here. Meunier is sick and will miss the Bordeaux match and he is definitely out against Dortmund due to yellow-card accumulation. Colin Dagba has a knee injury and could be back before March 11 but he’s not likely to be match fit. That means Kehrer will likely be the starting right-back against Dortmund. Getting him used to the position and in rhythm is vital for Tuchel.
In the midfield, Marco Verratti would typically be my choice to start but he is also suspended for the Dortmund match due to yellow-card accumulation. I see him as more of a substitute over the next four matches while Tuchel trots out potential partners for Marquinhos. I think Tuchel will see how the Brazilian performs with Ander Herrera next to him with Leandro Paredes as another option. Unfortunately, Idrissa Gueye was so poor against Dortmund that he likely has fallen down the pecking order.
Upfront, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell Neymar Jr. doesn’t start after his comments post Dortmund about not playing leading up to the Champions League game. Tuchel will go with his Fantastic Four against Bordeaux to get them ready for the biggest game of the season in a couple of weeks.
My prediction is an impressive 3-0 win with Neymar recording a brace and Mbappé chipping in with another.
Want more PSG? Visit the PSG Talk Podcast Network page and subscribe to PSG Talking, The 1970, and 24th & Parc.