takes the opportunity to preview PSG’s crucial UEFA Champions League quarter-final encounter with English giants Manchester City.
For PSG, this is seen as a huge chance to progress through to the semis, after they avoided the ‘deadly’ trio of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the draw for this stage.
Manchester City will also be relatively pleased in drawing the Parisians as they comfortably advanced to the quarter finals for the first time in the club’s history. The first leg in Paris promises to be a cracker, with both sides so eager for success in Europe’s elite competition.
PSG enter this match in good form, both domestically and in continental completions. Last months impressive 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea was a mini catalyst for PSG, after a somewhat sluggish period of play beforehand.
The problem is that PSG have been guaranteed to win the Ligue 1 title for so long, that players (perhaps understandably) seemed to take their foot off the gas for some matches. But two wins and one defeat in all competitions since the Chelsea match suggest a change in attitude and application, especially when you consider that run includes a massive 9-0 away romping of Troyes, in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored 4. Saturday’s 4-1 win against high flying Nice was very pleasing after a poor showing against Monaco before the international break.
Manchester City seem to have thrown it all away in the Barclays Premier League this season. Most argue that they have the best squad, and their spending eclipses that of even PSG, but since Pellegrini announced Pep’s arrival in February, the citizens have only won a quarter of the 12 matches in all competitions, a run which has seen them lose to bitter rivals Manchester Utd and also slip to 4th in the league standings.
This is a perhaps too simplistic view on City’s shortcomings, as in truth they have had problems for most of the season. The return of Kevin De Bruyne against Bournemouth at the weekend seemed to inspire City, as they trounced the Cherries 4-0 away from home. Pellegrini will hope that advancing to the next round here will provide Man City an opportunity to make history in a rather disappointing campaign.
Team News and Tactics
Laurent Blanc has been very quick to dismiss any media speculation that this tie will be a walkover for PSG due to Man City’s relative inexperience of this stage and their injury concerns. He has his own injury problems ahead of this one with Marco Verratti missing with a groin injury and Pastore very doubtful with a calf problem.
With this in mind, I expect PSG to lineup in their typical 4-3-3 formation, with Trapp continuing in goals behind a back four of; Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Maxwell- an all Brazilian defence! Midfield is the interesting area for PSG as without Verratti, Blanc has some big decisions to make.
I expect him to play the three left footers together; Thiago Motta, Matuidi and Rabiot as their respective styles seem to complement one another well. PSG will no doubt be led by Ibrahimovic, who notched a hat trick at the weekend. Di Maria and either Lucas or Cavani will flank the talismanic Swede.
PSG have Ibrahimovic, Matuidi and David Luiz all one booking away from a suspension which would make them miss the second leg if carded tonight.
Manchester City also have many injury concerns. Captain Vincent Kompany is out with an ongoing calf injury, whilst Raheem Sterling and now Yaya Toure are all ruled out through injuries too. Joe Hart has been struggling for fitness but I expect him to start.
With this in mind I expect Man City to lineup in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Hart will likely start in goals despite recent injury problems behind a back four of Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala and Clichy. With Toure absent, I expect Fernandinho and Fernando to start in the deep midfield positions, which will be given the task of helping City defend when PSG break.
I think that the front 4 players will be the same as v Bournemouth at the weekend, with MOTM De Bruyne starting from the left, with Silva as the No.10 and Navas wide right. This attacking 3 can easily interchange, so don’t expect a rigid midfield behind star man Sergio Aguero in attack.
Ibrahimovic (PSG) – Ibrahimovic has been in stupendous form of late, scoring goals left right and centre. Zlatan has confirmed that he is set to leave Paris in the summer when his contract expires, and he seems hungrier than ever to add to his already marvellous honours list. Man City beware…
De Bruyne (Man City) – City have missed De Bruyne whilst the Belgian has been out with injury, but maybe no one realised quite how much until he came back against Bournemouth at the weekend. He transformed City’s attacking play and made them look like a proper elite team again. PSG will struggle to pick him up as he never seems to be in the same place twice.
Laurent Blanc says that he predicts two games of ‘difficulty and delicateness’, and he could well be right. Both sides will be so keen to press home some sort of advantage at the Parc des Princes tonight- PSG will want a win and clean sheet whereas City will be desperate for the away goal to take to the Etihad. I expect a good game here, with PSG coming out on top.
PSG 2-1 Manchester City