PSG - Man City: possible starting line-ups for the Champions League
Mauricio Pochettino will unleash Neymar, Di María and Mbappé in the Parc des Princes and it will be up to Pep Guardiola to figure out how to counter them.
Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola will renew their rivalry at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday evening as Paris Saint-Germain host Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals. Both managers have taken their previous sides to the final of Europe’s elite club competition, Pochettino with Spurs and Guardiola with Barcelona, while PSG reached the showcase game last season only to be beaten by an irresistible Bayern Munich.
Guardiola won the Champions League twice while at Barcelona but has never been past the semi-finals with either Bayern or Manchester City, a stick his detractors are only too keen to wield when discussing the former Spain international’s managerial legacy. Pochettino’s achievement in taking Tottenham to the final is arguably more impressive than Guardiola guiding one of the finest club sides ever to play the game to two triumphs in 2008-09 and 2020-11, but both managers know that this particular tussle will be a defining one. Should Guardiola fail to pull the wool over Pochettino and PSG’s eyes that asterisk attached to his Barcelona record will be eagerly polished in the press while Pochettino, after his miraculous run in 2018-19, will be expected to go one better this season with the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Neymar at his disposal.
Guardiola certainly holds the upper hand historically, having won 10 and drawn five of his 18 meetings with Pochettino, but the Argentinean proved he gives reputation and expectation short shrift when he turned Guardiola’s all-conquering Barça over at Camp Nou a few days after taking charge of Espanyol back in 2009.
Pochettino to set the MAN to work
The PSG boss will be missing Juan Bernat for the game against City but has no other major injury concerns with Marquinhos expected to be fit to start in defence after sitting out the victory at Metz at the weekend. Up front, Pochettino will rely on Neymar, Mbappé and Ángel di María to run Guardiola’s back line ragged and the City manager admitted in his pre-match press conference that stopping that trio is one of the toughest tasks in football today.
Even if Guardiola can muster some tactical wizardry to keep PSG’s starting front line quiet, Pochettino has Mauro Icardi and Moise Kean to call on from the bench. City will also have to contend with PSG’s attacking full backs, Abdou Diallo and Alessandro Florenzi, who has been arguably the best loan signing anywhere in Europe this season after arriving from Roma and making the right back slot his own.
In midfield, Marco Verratti will pull the strings for the front three with Leandro Paredes and Idrissa Gueye likely to support the Italian in a 4-3-3 formation. Keylor Navas, who has been in spectacular form and recently signed a new contract at the Parc des Princes, will form the last line of defence.
PSG predicted starting XI
Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo; Verratti, Gueye, Paredes; Neymar, Di María, Mbappé.
Guardiola’s wealth of options
The City manager also has no injury concerns ahead of Wednesday’s match and has both Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Agüero available. The Belgian will slot into the starting XI but the Argentina international will probably have to make do with a spot on the bench after returning from injury.
Agüero has featured only intermittently this season and in recent weeks that has been in large part due to the inexorable rise of Phil Foden, whose wonderful long-range strike ended Borussia Dortmund’s resistance in the quarter-finals. Gabriel Jesus may get the nod in the central striking role but Guardiola has also used Bernardo Silva there, as he did in the home leg against Dortmund. A pair of assists in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa a week ago will have done the Portuguese’s chances of a start no harm after a brief cameo in the EFL Cup final. Riyad Mahrez will operate on the right of a probable front three with Rodri, De Bruyne and the in-form Ilkay Gundogan in midfield.
At the back, John Stones will return after serving a ban in the cup final to partner Rubén Dias, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker likely to start at full back although Benjamin Mendy’s knowledge of Mbappé will give Guardiola pause for thought.
Manchester City predicted starting XI
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Foden.
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