With Thiago Silva, Ángel Di María and Julian Draxler all on top form, PSG may not need their two stars on Wednesday night
PSGs transfer policy finally seemed to have caught up with them this summer, with their fixation with big-name forwards leaving other areas of the squad drastically underdeveloped. The choice of Neymar, Mbappé, Edinson Cavani, Ángel Di María and Julian Draxler in attack was balanced out by the retirement of Thiago Motta, another year on the clock for 35-year-old Dani Alves and 34-year-old Thiago Silva, an ongoing contract dispute with Adrien Rabiot and the questionable fitness of Marco Verratti and Layvin Kurzawa. With FFP rules proving problematic, defensive replacements were again unforthcoming as PSG remained ludicrously top-heavy.
Most worryingly for Liverpool however is the revitalising of some more familiar names. Thiago Silva has long been a shadow of the defender that left Milan for Paris, hardly the best centre back in Europe since, or even in the PSG dressing room, but the intelligent, physical, proactive stopper has returned with force under Tuchel. Angel Di Maria meanwhile has quietly moved beyond a sulking, ill-disciplined spell that saw him dropped by Emery as he baulked at playing out of position, and is now hitting some of the best and most consistent form of his career. The Argentine is proving particularly pivotal in driving the team forward and playmaking across the attack with a new found intensity, even accepting a wing-back role on occasion without complaint.
Read more Those deficiencies were on show in their 3-2 defeat at Anfield in September. Their blunt possession style left them lacking in ideas; their 4-3-3 was one-dimensional; and their lack of defensive options forced centre-back Marquinhos into an awkward midfield role. The teams individual class nearly distracted from their wayward display when Kylian Mbappé scored a late equaliser after an incisive run from Neymar but, once more, PSG were outsmarted at the top level. Since then, however, QSIs one major summer addition – Thomas Tuchel – has started to have an impact.
1 | Despite Montpellier uncharacteristically dropping points, albeit owing to a moment of madness from Paul Lasne, Andy Delort was again among the goals for La Paillade. Neither, to be fair, had much to do with him, the first coming from an opportunistic scramble and the second deliciously set up by Ellyes Skhiri’s backheel and Gaëtan Laborde’s square ball, but it is undeniable that he is back to his best. Moves to Mexico and England failed to work out for Delort, but his output for Montpellier (seven goals in his last eight matches) has given Michel Der Zakarian’s prosaic attack the focal point it lacked last year, and despite Sunday’s draw, they should continue to battle near the top of the division.
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Tuchels move to three centre-backs and a more versatile style is improving the team, a development exemplified by their uncharacteristically stoic display at Marseille last month and the control they exerted in the first hour in Naples. Neither were era-defining displays, but both showed clear progress from the mental collapse in losing 6-1 at Barcelona, the cowering exit at Manchester City the year before and their drab exit to Real Madrid last season. Tuchel has been at the heart of this long overdue evolution, improving tactics, rejuvenating the team and bringing previously marginalised players to the fore.
PSG have benefitted from Tuchels now fully adopted move to a trio of centre backs and a more versatile and effective style, a development exemplified by a uncharacteristically stoic away display in Le Classique last month and the control they exerted over the first hour in Naples. Neither being era-defining displays, but clear signs of a shift away from the mental collapse in losing 6-1 at Barcelona, the cowering exit at Manchester City the year before and being completely out thought by Real Madrid last season. Tuchel’s nousin rejuvenating tactics and team are at the heart of this long overdue evolution, while bringing a host of previously marginalised players to the fore.
PSG have long been plagued by a mistrust of young players, but developing talents now form a sizeable chunk of the team, foremost among them being the 19-year-old French winger Moussa Diaby. In just 448 minutes of league action this season, Diaby has two goals and five assists, his pace, vision and directness proving incisive. His fearless intensity was underlined when he ignored calls from Neymar and Mbappé, much to their ire, during a counter-attack at Monaco to run on and shoot himself. While Diaby might have picked out a pass, his lack of deference was refreshing. He may become key for Tuchel before long.
Thilo Kehrers unheralded arrival from Schalke has also proven a source of satisfaction. The 22-year-old German defender grew up in Rwanda so is fluent in French, which has helped him to settle quickly. He played in a back three for Schalke when they finished second in the Bundesliga last season, so is well suited to Tuchels approach. After a shaky start, Kehrers has form improved and Tuchel picked him instead of Presnel Kimpembe for the trip to Napoli.
Never has there been a club so single-minded as Paris Saint-Germain. While trophies are the aim for every modern giant, one particular competition has become an all-consuming obsession for Les Parisiens since QSIs arrival. Finally progressing under Thomas Tuchel, Wednesday’s meeting with Liverpool could prove a pivotal moment in their pursuit of Champions League glory. However, not for the first time, ill-timed injuries have thrown Parisian preparations into doubt as the fitness of Kylian Mbappé and Neymar, both injured on international duty, remains in significant doubt. But as Tuchels PSG evolves, Liverpool still have much to fear.
Most worryingly for Liverpool, however, is the way some more familiar names have been revived by Tuchel. Thiago Silva had long been a shadow of his former self, hardly the best centre-back in the PSG dressing room never mind Europe, but under Tuchel he once again looks like an intelligent, physical, proactive defender. Di María was dropped for sulking when he was played out of position by Unai Emery but he has moved past that ill-disciplined spell and is now hitting some of the best form of his career. He is driving the team forward, proving creative across the attack with a newfound intensity, even accepting a wing-back role on occasion without complaint.
Read more The most impressive transformation, though, has come from Julian Draxler. He enjoyed a supreme start to his PSG career as a left winger after signing from Wolfsburg in January 2017, but it looked as if he would go the way of Lucas Moura once Neymar and Mbappé arrived in Paris. However, he has been a serene presence alongside Verratti in anchoring the midfield of late. His guile, range of passing and effortless technical ability have helped him develop a burgeoning partnership with the Italian and supplant Rabiot in the process. Taking the ball from PSG has proven remarkably difficult of late.
Most impressive has been Julian Draxlers transformation. Despite a supreme start to his PSG career as a left winger, signing from Wolfsburg in January 2017, the arrival of Neymar and Mbappé seemed to end the German’s run in Paris as it did Lucas Moura’s. However, having moved deeper in midfield under Emery, Draxler has been serene alongside Verratti in anchoring the PSG midfield of late. His guile, range of passing and effortless technical ability have aided a burgeoning partnership with the Italian, supplanting Adrien Rabiot in the process. Taking the ball from PSG has proven remarkably difficult of late.
Cajoling eye-catching displays from three elite players may not amount to an earth-shattering feat from Tuchel, but the heights reached by Thiago Silva, Di María and Draxler represent dramatic turnarounds and impressive management. With Diaby and Kehrer showing hunger and maturity, and Cavani enjoying more freedom in the absence of Neymar and Mbappé – his outrageous flick and volleyed finish against Toulouse on Saturday made it 14 league wins in a row for PSG this season – the Parisians might not need their €400m strikeforce on Wednesday night.
• Andy Delort was again among the goals for Montpellier in their 2-2 draw with Rennes. Neither had much to do with him – the first coming from an opportunistic scramble and the second deliciously set up by Ellyes Skhiris backheel and Gaëtan Labordes square ball – but he is undeniably back to his best. Moves to Mexico and England failed to work out for Delort, but his output for Montpellier (seven goals in his last eight matches) has given Michel Der Zakarians prosaic attack the focal point it lacked last year. Despite their draw on Sunday, Montpellier should continue to battle near the top of the division.
• Reims continued to climb the table slowly, recording a 2-1 win over hapless Guingamp on Saturday. The Champagne club still boast the divisions poorest attack, but their retooled defence – with Julian Jeanvier and Roman Metanire replaced by the Belgian duo of Thomas Foket and Bjorn Engels – has been at the heart of their rise. They are now up to eighth in table after five games without a defeat, a remarkable feat given none of their players has scored more than two goals.
Read more • Lyons dull win over Saint-Étienne was just about deserved, as the introduction of Maxwel Cornet sparked the club into an improved second-half display that culminated in Jason Denayers near-post winner. Now in second place after their fourth win in five, Lyon hardly looked the part of Ligue 1s second-best team, and will find those credentials sorely tested when they visit Lille on Saturday. Les Gones, already without the injured Léo Dubois, will also have to make do without Rafael, whose horrendous, two-footed tackle on Yann MVila is likely to earn him a lengthy ban.
Show Hide _ Lyon 1-0 St ÉtiennePSG 1-0 ToulouseCaen 0-1 MonacoDijon 0-0 BordeauxNantes 1-1 AngersReims 2-1 GuingampStrasbourg 0-1 NîmesMontpellier 2-2 RennesNice 2-0 LilleAmiens 1-3 Marseille
Kylian Mbappe admits Paris Saint-Germain have struggled in the Champions League but does not believe they are far off from having things click into place.
The Parisians have only managed a victory against Red Star in the group, drawing Napoli twice and losing away to Liverpool.
However, PSG still have control of their fate, with wins over Liverpool and Red Star all that is needed to ensure advancement to the knockout stage.
Mbappe, who is a fitness question for the Liverpool match after getting hurt while on international duty with France, doesnt believe he and his team-mates are far off everything falling into place.
“We have struggled a bit so far, but we are still in the running and we have our fate in our own hands,” Mbappe said.
“We are not missing much. It is not much but at the same time it is a lot, because in top-level football it is the little details that are the most important.
Mbappe thinks that moment when things do click could happen at any point – perhaps even out of the blue.
“There are games in which you think, at first sight, that nothing unusual is going to happen, he said. And then there is maybe a little moment in the game – it can be a half, or a spell in which you are on top – and your team grows in confidence and things go in your favour, to take you far in a competition like this.”
PSG were handed a difficult group when placed in with Napoli and Liverpool, something that Mbappes team-mate Angel Di Maria has lamented previously .
But it is that level of opposition which excites Mbappe, and he hopes to square off against many top clubs in the future.
“I always say that the Champions League is the best competition in terms of coming up against top-level players, he added.
“It is a real pleasure to play against great defenders, it helps you progress and brings out the best in you. It is just a pleasure. I want more of it.”
Both Mbappe and Neymar missed their clubs 1-0 win over Toulouse last weekend as they nursed injuries picked up while playing for their countries.
However, Thomas Tuchel indicated the pair would train Monday , increasing the likelihood they will be available for the crunch clash against Liverpool at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.