Josh Mart previews tonight’s match as PSG welcome Sami Hyppia’s Bayer Leverkusen to the Parc des Princes for the second leg of this UEFA Champions League encounter. The Parisians ran riot in Germany 3 weeks ago, winning by a 4-0 score line, which could easily have been more. PSG will feel as though they have more than the proverbial ‘one foot in the next round’, however Laurent Blanc will want his men to finish the job off in a professional manner with another victory in Paris tonight.
PSG could hardly come into this match in better form. ‘Les Parisiens’ have won 12 out of 15 games in all competitions since the turn of the year, and have being scoring goals for fun with talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic in sparkling form. Saturday’s 3-0 win away win in Corsica against Bastia can arguably be described now as routine; such has been the dominance of PSG in Ligue 1 this season. The win against Bastia moved PSG 8 points clear of nearest rivals AS Monaco in the race for the title. This healthy cushion will enable Laurent Blanc to field strong teams in the Champions League, knowing that the clubs owners crave success in this wonderful competition.
The form of tonight’s counterparts Bayer Leverkusen, however, couldn’t be more contrasting. The German club has won just 2 games since the turn of the year and went on a 5 match losing run in all competitions, before Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Hannover stopped the rot. Realistically, Leverkusen were punching above their weight as they sat 2nd in the Bundesliga for most of the season, ahead of Borussia Dortmund who have struggled domestically this campaign. Hyypia now has the unenviable task of trying to motivate his players to regain some pride after the humiliating defeat in Germany 3 weeks a go.
Squad Selection and Tactics
Laurent Blanc has a wealth of options to choose from in this PSG squad. This is despite injuries to Menez and Camara who are both out with thigh and calf muscle injuries respectively. Some reports suggest that Verratti and Matuidi will be rested so expect Rabiot and Cabaye to deputise if this is the case.
I expect PSG to lineup in a 4-3-3 formation with Van der Wiel and possibly Digne starting in the full back positions. One would expect Thiago Silva to return to the starting lineup, probably replacing Alex at the heart of the defense. The midfield trio is likely to consist of Cabaye, Motta and Rabiot who has featured in a lot of key games this season which will massively aid his development as a young talent. The real problem for Blanc is what to do with his front 3, as some reports suggest Edinson Cavani will return after some personal time away after international duty, but it seems very unfair to drop Lavezzi after the Argentine starred in Saturday’s win at Bastia. It’s a selection headache most managers wished they could have!
The visitors will be without midfielder Hegeler through injury but aside from that Hyppia has a near full strength squad to go from and despite the mountainous challenge ahead, I expect Leverkusen to name a strong side for this match.
Leverkusen are likely to start in a 4-3-2-1 formation with Spahic and Wollscheid at the heart of the defense. One of the main problems for Leverkusen in the first game was failure to seize control of the midfield, so Hyppia could opt for Rolfes to shield the back four, allowing the Castro and Bender to attempt to stamp their authority on proceedings. Leverkusen could do with a big performance from the usually reliable Kiessling who has been in poor form of late. Sidney Sam is likely to return to the starting 11 for this one.
Lucas (PSG) – Lucas has been in brilliant form this season and has won many admirers throughout the world of football for his consistenly good performances for PSG and the Brazilian National team. With this being a world cup year, and places at a premium in a strong Brazil squad, Lucas will know the importance of producing the kind of magic that he has this season, notably on that breathtaking run against Marseille a few weeks ago.
Kiessling (Lever)- Despite his poor form, a striker of his caliber cannot be kept quiet for too long. He notched so many vital goals for Leverkusen last season and the Leverkusen fans and management alike will be hoping he is provided with the kind of service he needs to get out of this rut.
PSG’s biggest danger tonight is themselves. They need to approach the game as if it was 0-0 and simply try to win the match. If they go into in thinking it is game over then Leverkusen have a chance of winning the match, although I believe the tie is beyond them. However, if Laurent Blanc’s men perform how they have done recently, I can only see one winner due to PSG’s superior talent in forward areas.
Prediction: PSG 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen (6-0 agg)