Paris Saint-Germain continue to be plagued by injuries but coach Thomas Tuchel is optimistic the fit-again Kylian Mbappe can make the difference in today’s vital Champions League encounter with RB Leipzig. PSG host the German club at the Parc des Princes having lost two of their opening three matches in Group H.
Beaten 2-1 in Leipzig three weeks ago, another defeat here could push last season’s Champions League runners-up to the brink of elimination in the group stage for the first time since the Qatari takeover of the club in 2011.
Mbappe missed the defeat in Germany because of a hamstring injury, but returns here looking to end a run of seven Champions League games without a goal in 2020. Neymar is also expected to start after the world’s most expensive player made his return from several weeks on the sidelines as a substitute in Friday’s 3-2 defeat by Monaco in Ligue 1.
“If ‘Ney’ and Kylian don’t score then it has a big impact on us. They are decisive boys and I hope he (Mbappe) will be able to score tomorrow,” said Tuchel when asked about the form of the France striker in Europe.
Mbappe is fresh from scoring twice in the 3-2 defeat in Monaco, making him the leading scorer in Ligue 1 with nine goals from just seven appearances and taking him to 99 goals in total for PSG since signing for the club in August 2017.
“We need goals and we need him to put in a big performance, and I get the feeling he is ready. He played for France and then he scored against Monaco, so now is the time for him and ‘Ney’ to be decisive again,” added Tuchel.
“Neymar has the capacity and the self-confidence to score,” he added when asked about the Brazilian, who last scored in the Champions League last March. “Is he in the best possible shape? No, but he can manage a game like this, and we have to be here for him so that he’s not alone.”
Injuries and suspensions have hampered the French champions ever since the season started and will do so again at the Parc des Princes today. Mauro Icardi, Julian Draxler, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Thilo Kehrer are all on the sidelines along with Spanish left-back Juan Bernat, who is recovering from a knee operation and last week said he hoped to be back by “February, or mid-March”.
Midfield duo Marco Verratti and Ander Herrera were yesterday rated as doubtful by PSG. Centre-back Presnel Kimpembe is suspended after being sent off in Leipzig last time out, meaning that Marquinhos will start in central defence.
“We have the possibility of playing with four attacking players tomorrow. We need to be more courageous in attack and show more enterprise. I don’t want us to play with the fear of conceding a goal. We’ll evaluate whether the system needs to change compared to that of the first game against them, and we need to see who is really available for the match, and then we’ll make a decision,” Tuchel said.
“The morale is good in the squad. The defeat at Monaco didn’t have a great impact on the spirit in the squad. We were very disappointed, but we know what didn’t work, and we know it was all our responsibility. We lost our concentration in the second half, no doubt because we were thinking of Leipzig too early. We have had two training sessions since Saturday, and the spirit has been good, with the players applied to their task. Everybody is re-motivated for tomorrow’s match, and we have confidence in ourselves. The match is like a final in the group for us and we’re approaching it in those terms,” the German coach added.
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