Doubts swirl around PSG ahead of Bayern showdown
PARIS, Feb 10, 2023 (BSS/AFP) – As always, Paris Saint-Germain’s season will be defined by what happens in the Champions League and there are major doubts about their prospects heading into the first leg of a heavyweight last-16 tie with Bayern Munich next week.
PSG go to Monaco this weekend defending an eight-point cushion at the top of Ligue 1 but the Qatar-owned club have key players on the sidelines and coach Christophe Galtier has concerns in every area of his team.
In midweek they were sent packing from the French Cup in the last 16, losing 2-1 away to their greatest rivals Marseille.
With Kylian Mbappe out injured, PSG were outfought by Marseille, incapable of competing with their opponents’ physicality and intense pressing game.
“We need to do better. We were lacking in too many areas. We need to keep our mouths shut,” said captain Marquinhos.
Marseille are a good side under Igor Tudor, but Wednesday’s performance was nothing new for PSG.
They have already lost twice in Ligue 1 in 2023, away at Lens and Rennes, and those performances suggest a difficult afternoon may lie in store against Monaco, who sit fourth in the table.
Defeat would be no disaster in terms of their prospects of retaining the league title, but their display will be closely scrutinised with the Bayern tie in mind.
Galtier has multiple problems, not least because 25-goal top scorer Mbappe is out of the Bayern first leg with a thigh problem.
The France striker is irreplaceable, Neymar has been in poor form since the World Cup and it is far from certain that Messi can carry PSG’s attack alone.
In defence they are overly reliant on Sergio Ramos, creaking at 36 but needed to play almost every game this season because of a long-term injury to fellow centre-back Presnel Kimpembe.
In Marseille, Ramos gave away the penalty from which the hosts went ahead although he did later score the equaliser.
Above all they have serious problems in midfield, an area that has arguably been their achilles heel ever since Blaise Matuidi left in 2017 and Thiago Motta followed a year later.
Spanish duo Fabian Ruiz and Carlos Soler have not settled, Vitinha’s form has dipped and Renato Sanches has struggled to stay fit.
Again they are overly reliant on one player, Marco Verratti, who has had issues with his own fitness.
The worry must be that an exit from one knockout competition risks being followed soon after by another that would be far more damaging.
“We can’t linger on this elimination,” Galtier said after the Cup loss.
“We need to recover quickly and clear our heads so that our disappointment does not become too big a weight. There is nothing more we can do about it.”
Player to watch: Youssouf Fofana
The Paris-raised midfielder, who featured for France at the World Cup, is excelling again with Monaco despite seeing his former partner Aurelien Tchouameni depart for Real Madrid. He could have a key role to play against PSG this weekend, with his physicality exactly what the league leaders lack in that area.
The 24-year-old could well be the next player to leave Monaco for big money. He even hinted last month that he would love to join PSG. “I come from here so it would be normal for me to ‘come home’, in inverted commas”, he told TV channel France 2.
150 – If Neymar scores it will be his 150th league goal in Europe, combining his spells at Barcelona and PSG.
1 – PSG have won just once in four meetings this season with other teams in the top five in Ligue 1.
16 – Reims saw a 16-game unbeaten run end in defeat at Toulouse in the French Cup in midweek.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Nice v Ajaccio (2000)
Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain (1600), Clermont v Marseille (2000)
Toulouse v Rennes (1200), Angers v Auxerre, Lille v Strasbourg, Montpellier v Brest, Reims v Troyes (all 1400), Nantes v Lorient (1605), Lyon v Lens (1945)