Sports Mole previews Tuesday night’s Champions League showdown between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Manchester United return to Champions League action with a trip to face last season’s runners-up on Tuesday night as Paris Saint-Germain welcome Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side to the Parc des Princes for their Group H encounter.
United made it all the way to the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2019-20, while PSG saw their dreams of European glory ended by Bayern Munich in Lisbon.
Manchester United’s return to the top table of European football could hardly get off to a more difficult start, but they have relatively recent history from which to draw optimism.
Few gave them any chance of picking up a result when the two sides last met in March 2019, with United travelling to the French capital for the second leg of that last 16 showdown having been beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg.
However, a 3-1 victory in Paris secured Man United’s place in the quarter-finals, with Marcus Rashford‘s contentious 94th-minute penalty securing one of his boyhood club’s greatest nights since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Certainly, it must rank as Solskjaer’s greatest night in management, and it is widely regarded as the result which earned him the full-time role at Old Trafford.
The Norwegian has seen that role come under scrutiny on numerous occasions since – not least following the 6-1 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month – but he remains at the helm more than a year and a half later as United once again make the hop over to France.
The Red Devils bounced back from their Spurs humiliation with a 4-1 triumph at Newcastle United on Saturday, making it 13 goals and four wins from four on their travels so far this season – a far cry from their struggles at home.
Indeed, while three of their four goals at St James’ Park came after the 85th minute to paint a somewhat misleading look of comfort to the scoreline, Man United travel to Paris having won their last nine away games across all competitions, while they are unbeaten in 17 stretching back to January.
An upcoming run of home games against Chelsea, RB Leipzig and Arsenal in succession may not exactly be welcome, then, but first they face arguably the toughest test of the lot against PSG.
Man United’s last visit to the Parc des Prince is the only one of their last five Champions League games in which they have avoided defeat, and another loss on Tuesday would see them lose three successive matches in the competition for only the second time ever.
The omens are better when it comes to their Champions League curtain-raisers, having only been beaten in their opening match of the competition twice before – against Juventus in 1996-97, when incidentally Solskjaer made his debut, and against PSV Eindhoven in 2015-16.
For PSG, the visit of the three-time European champions will evoke memories of one of their many heartbreaking failures to reach the top of the mountain themselves.
The latest of those came less than two months before they kick off this campaign, with former player Kingsley Coman coming back to haunt the perennial French champions in August’s final against Bayern.
As difficult as it is to lose in the final of the competition they want to win more than any other, their journey to Lisbon at least showed progress, seemingly overcoming a mental block which had prevented them from making it past the quarter-finals since 1995.
With their ultimate prize having been snatched away when it was within their grasp, PSG will be more determined than ever to finally have their name etched on the famous trophy and, with such a star-studded squad headlined by the two most expensive players ever, it is no surprise that they go into the campaign among the favourites to win it all.
Thomas Tuchel‘s side have certainly not been handed an easy task with a group including Man United, last season’s semi-finalists RB Leipzig and Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir, but they will be expected to progress as group winners nonetheless.
PSG have only ever lost seven of their 53 home Champions League games and have not conceded a goal in four successive such wins since Man United last visited. The Red Devils, incidentally, are looking to become the first visiting team to beat PSG twice at home in the Champions League.
Not since December 2004 have they lost a group game on home turf either – a 24-match run which includes 19 wins.
Domestically PSG also come into this match in predictably dominant form, having overcome an incredibly short pre-season, a minor Champions League hangover and the loss of most of their key players in the opening weeks of the season.
The champions were beaten 1-0 in both of their opening two Ligue 1 games of the campaign, but have since risen back to their customary place at the top of the standings with five wins from five, scoring 16 goals and conceding just one in the process.
Tuchel even had the luxury of resting a host of his star names for Friday night’s 4-0 win at Nimes, when Kylian Mbappe scored twice and PSG rarely got out of second gear against hosts who had to play with 10 men for 78 minutes.
Paris Saint-Germain form (all competitions): LWWWWW
Manchester United form (all competitions): LWWWLW
Edinson Cavani‘s swift return to the Parcs des Princes could be the headline team news for this match, with Man United’s deadline-day arrival in contention to make his debut against his former club.
The 33-year-old scored a club-record 200 goals for PSG from 2013 to his departure this summer, including 30 in the Champions League – another unrivalled tally amongst PSG players.
Cavani also scored on his Champions League debut for both Napoli and PSG, and could join a select group of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Saviola and Fernando Morientes by netting on his debut for a third different club in the competition.
The Uruguayan may have to attempt that feat off the bench, though; he has not featured in a competitive match since March and has only recently been allowed to take part in United training, so Solskjaer is unlikely to throw him straight in from the start.
That is particularly true given that Anthony Martial is available again after sitting out at the weekend due to suspension – he is expected to lead the line with Rashford and Bruno Fernandes in support, the latter of whom will be making his Champions League debut for United.
Mason Greenwood is a major doubt, however, having been left out of the squad to face Newcastle due to an unspecified fitness issue.
Paul Pogba will be hopeful of a recall to the starting XI after being dropped at the weekend, adding another subplot to the story given the speculation that PSG are interested in the Frenchman.
There could also be a debut for another deadline-day arrival in Alex Telles, while Solskjaer may consider handing Dean Henderson the gloves in the Champions League in order to keep him happy with more first-team football.
Whether it is Henderson or David de Gea between the sticks, they could be in for a busy night with Mbappe and Neymar both set to start for PSG.
The latter sat out against Nimes following his exploits during the international break, when he scored a hat-trick for Brazil against Peru to surpass the legendary Ronaldo in his country’s all-time scoring ranks.
His omission was not down to an injury, though, and Tuchel has confirmed that the Brazilian will be on the pitch for Tuesday’s game having been forced to watch on from the stands when the two sides last faced off.
Mbappe is arguably the main man for PSG now, though, with four goals and three assists in four Ligue 1 outings this season; should he score on Tuesday then he would surpass Lionel Messi as the youngest player to score 20 Champions League goals.
PSG are some way off full strength elsewhere, though, with Tuchel claiming that he may only have 11 fit players for United’s visit.
Mauro Icardi, Juan Bernat and Thilo Kehrer will all miss the match through injury, while Marquinhos, Marco Verratti, Julian Draxler and Danilo Pereira are major doubts after sitting out at the weekend.
There was better news with Colin Dagba‘s coronavirus test proving to be a false positive, while Layvin Kurzawa and former United winger Angel Di Maria, who assisted more goals than anyone else in last season’s Champions League, are available after sitting out on Friday through a domestic suspension.
Cavani and Di Maria are not the only familiar faces, with Ander Herrera also in contention to feature for the hosts.
Paris Saint-Germain possible starting lineup:
Navas; Florenzi, Diallo, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Herrera, Gueye, Paredes; Di Maria, Neymar, Mbappe
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Matic, Pogba; Mata, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial
Head To Head
The unforgettable round-of-16 showdown between these two clubs in 2018-19 is surprisingly the only time they have met on the European stage before.
PSG were 2-0 winners in the first leg at Old Trafford to seemingly put one foot firmly in the quarter-finals, only for United to stage a stirring second-leg comeback, capped off by Rashford’s stoppage-time penalty.
Tuesday will be the first time since 2005-06 that United have faced a French side in the group stage of the Champions League, and they have only ever won one of their six away group games in France – at Bordeaux in March 2000.
We say: Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Manchester United
PSG’s list of absentees is significant, but the quality they can still call upon is frightening for a Man United side that has looked far from convincing this season, particularly in defence.
The sight of Neymar and Mbappe in full flow is enough to trouble Europe’s best defences, and so United are certainly likely to have difficulty dealing with them.
United have talents of their own capable of hurting PSG’s understrength defence, and they have upset the odds here before, but we expect the hosts to run out fairly comfortable winners.
Top betting tip
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data
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