Football is back. Well, almost.
Much like the Community Shield in England, the Trophée des Champions is a glorified friendly that tells you exactly nothing about the season about to follow it. Last year’s edition saw Paris Saint-Germain win in striking fashion using a 4-2-3-1 formation against Lyon that they barely used again.
However, there are plenty of interesting little threads weaving into Saturday’s showpiece as one side try to hold on to their assets as they slip from their grasp while the other tries to reel in the biggest fish they can.
So, what is there to look out for? Here’s a look at five storylines that we may have a few more answers to by Sunday morning.
1 | A new look Monaco?
After a spectacular 2016/17 season, it was always going to be a summer of change for the Principality club. Three of their biggest stars have already hit the exit (Bakayoko, Mendy & Silva) with the club adamant that they will hold on to the three they still remain at the Stade Louis II (Lemar, Fabinho & Mbappé).
The big questions come in terms of who will fill the gaps that have been created by those sales. Will Youri Tielemans be the perfect foil to Fabinho in that midfield? Is Jorge ready to start or might Djibril Sidibé move to cover the left-back position? And are either of Rony Lopes or Allan Saint-Maximin really ready to step into Bernardo Silva’s shoes?
Leonardo Jardim’s starting line-up will give us some ideas as to what he plans for the campaign ahead. There’s still a few bits of business to be done and Monaco have brought in plenty more young talent, so it will be intriguing to see how he will build his new side.
2 | PSG’s goalkeeping dilemma
A seemingly never-ending drama continues to add new chapters every single year. Many expected Alphonse Areola to finally ascend to the throne, only for the young Frenchman to stutter and relinquish the crown back to Kevin Trapp by the end of last season in PSG’s saga of instability that is their the goalkeeper position.
Unfortunately for the German international, his butterfingers promise that he won’t hold on to the number one spot with too tight of a grip, already dropping a relatively embarrassing clanger in pre-season. It looks increasingly unlikely they will dip into the transfer market this summer, especially with Gianluigi Donnarumma signing a new deal with AC Milan, so it’s between these two calamity cases again.
Who will Unai Emery trust to start off with, Areola or Trapp? And whoever starts, how long of a leash will they have if they cause another storm at the weekend? This will be a battle all season long that yet again may not produce a conclusive answer.
3 | Emery back in control
PSG took away some silverware last season but the wound of missing out on the Ligue 1 title will still sting. Emery redeemed himself somewhat in the final third of the season but he will get no second chances from here on out.
With that in mind, the curtain raiser will be a real indicator as to whether he trusts his own ideals or whether he will stick to what his players seem to prefer. If they experiment with a 4-2-3-1 again, in the belief that another attacker might play on the the wings, then it’s a clear sign that he will only live and die by his own sword.
Should he fold them into the 4-3-3 again, the players have won the internal struggle. It might not be the worst outcome for the Spaniard, given the squad’s experience with the system and the talent at his disposal, but he could struggle to keep everyone happy if the capital club finally make some moves in the window.
4 | The golden child takes centre stage
Most who tune in to this one want to see one player and that’s teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé. The 18-year-old has been in the headlines all summer, linked to crazy money moves to all the biggest clubs in the world.
Regardless of that, he is at Monaco, at least for this game and will start. That formula has so far only led to entertainment for all involved since he became a professional footballer and the Frenchman will expect himself to hit the ground running in order to keep the momentum going heading into the World Cup next June.
Mbappé is a joy to watch and there is a chance that this might be one of the final times we will see him in the red and white. If you aren’t doing anything with your Saturday evening, just know that the kid can be worth the viewing just on his own.
5 | Neymar’s shadow looms large
One Brazilian has dominated the back pages for PSG over the past few weeks and it is not one that they currently own. It would be a humungous statement of intent if Les Parisiens could land Neymar, a top-five player and he would undoubtedly, instantly add great quality to this team.
Lest we forget, the club already have some pretty decent wide men but someone will be forced out by the club. Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler were the big outlays, and are least likely to be shown the exit door, but there is a lot of pressure on Lucas to be as spectacular as possible right away, even if his friendship with Neymar might ironically enable him to stay
What should worry the superstar pair of Di Maria and Draxler is that if PSG remain in a 4-3-3, then it would force one of them to spend most of the season on the sidelines, should a deal be struck with Barcelona. Simple maths tells you three does not fit into one and with no one safe from the axe, all of them will need to show now exactly why they should be the third man in the Parisian’s attack.