Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP)
Paris Saint-Germain must cope without the injured Neymar and
Edison Cavani to halt the surge of a revitalised Manchester
United if the French champions are to avoid more pain in the
Champions League last 16.
PSG's trip to Old Trafford Tuesday's first leg could not have
come at a worse time for Thomas Tuchel's side as injuries to key
players have pilled up for the Parisians, just as United have hit
form under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Neymar will miss both legs of the tie due to a foot injury and
will joined on the sidelines by Cavani due to a hip problem and
Belgian international Thomas Meunier with concussion.
Midfielder Marco Verratti, who returned from a three-week injury
layoff for Saturday's 1-0 win over Bordeaux, and new signing
Leandro Paredes are also lacking match sharpness.
Such stretched resources is not what the club's Qatari owners had
in mind when a near 400 million euros was splurged on Neymar and
Kylian Mbappe in 2017 with the intention to carry PSG to a
long-awaited first ever Champions League triumph.
However, with the Brazilian and Cavani missing, the spotlight is
on 20-year-old Mbappe to shine on the Champions League stage like
he did in delivering the World Cup for France.
"It's not really his job to replace Cavani and Neymar, he can't
be himself and the other two at the same time," warned Tuchel.
"He has to be free to play his game, play with confidence. We
have to help him with the right support and good service.
"In my opinion he needs to play with a good mindset, be positive
and realise it's part of his development."
A familiar failing of PSG's inability to challenge for the
Champions League in past seasons has been poor form on the road
against elite opposition.
A 6-1 capitulation to Barcelona after winning the first leg of
their last 16 tie 4-0 in 2017 remains a painful memory. But trips
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool in the past two seasons
have also ended in defeat.
Tuchel hinted that United's current form makes them favourites
for the first leg on Tuesday, but warned his side to remain in
the tie for the return in Paris on March 6.
"Over 180 mins I would say it is a 50-50 game," said Tuchel. "If
it's tomorrow with the home side at Old Trafford, if it is a
50-50 game in this moment I am not sure.
"We have a second leg in Paris where we feel very strong and
comfortable in the Parc des Princes."
Solskjaer was back in Norway as Molde manager watching with his
son when the December draw that paired the sides together took
â€œI was watching with Noah and we said 'wow, that's a tough
challenge'," said Solskjaer on Monday.
However, just a few days later he was drafted in to take charge
till the end of the season when Jose Mourinho was fired and has
embarked on a run of 10 wins and one draw since to completely
revive United's fortunes.
"We've given ourselves the best possible opportunity with the way
we've gone into this game because we are confident," added the
"I've found out what kind of team we have. We are playing like a
team, we are agreeing on how we should approach games. If there
was ever a time to go into big games like this it is now."