Paris SG continues to win, but the debate over their level of play continues. In Leipzig on Wednesday (9pm), it is a matter of seduction, without Lionel Messi, as close to the Round of 16.
NSShould success in Germany, along with Manchester City’s win over Brugge, the Parisians will have one foot and four toes in the European top 16, two days away from the finish. But their ears may whistle if their collective performance is not as expected, even if Lionel Messi loses a thigh and a knee. “Striving for results and good performance is the reality of the team,” coach Mauricio Pochettino summed up on Tuesday.
Since the start of the season, PSG has been talked about the most by its successes that have disappeared into the extremes of show quality. The last match of Neymar’s teammates confirmed this puzzling result: on Friday, they beat Lille with a goal in the 88th minute (2-1), having struggled to pass the entire first hour. This scenario was reminiscent of the win over RB Leipzig (3-2) on October 19, in which Paris overtook the Germans, who had led 2-1 in the second half.
Leonardo does not like
With such a number of stars in the field, observers are clearly expecting better. But this is a wrong analysis, according to Leonardo. After the match against Lusk, the sports director raised his voice against this “free criticism” that “sometimes crosses the line”. “Are the great players we took today zero?” I ask everyone to calm down. We are where we want to be. It’s a way.”
“I ask everyone to calm down. We are where we want to be.” Leonardo
Indeed, the tenth consecutive qualification for the eighth match reaches Paris Saint-Germain, ahead of a possible “final” for first place in Group A at Manchester City on November 24. For Parisians looking to advance, a trip to Red Bull Stadium offers what they need: a playful opponent but late, just enough to leave room for their star attackers. Starting with Kylian Mbappé, he is very present in the group having missed the match against Lille due to an ear, nose and throat injury. The return of suspended winger Angel Di Maria should give Paris Saint-Germain wings, especially since the Argentine is still performing well against Lille (goal and assist).
Messi deal in Bordeaux?
With these two players, as well as Neymar who put in his best performance of the season on Friday, Paris could do better than the UEFA statistics indicate. At the end of the first leg, it is the fourth club to have had the fewest crosses in the competition (8), away from Inter Milan (26). In terms of shots, he is only 25 out of 32, with a total (27) well below leaders Real Madrid (65).
But in this unsettling start to the season, there is always something to dampen the Parisian enthusiasm: the club confirmed on Tuesday morning the withdrawal of Messi, its top scorer in C1 (3 goals). The Argentine, who was substituted at halftime in the last game, has hamstring pains in his left thigh, as well as pain in one knee. “I hope he will be back in the team soon,” Pochettino said. “The difference today, with or without it, is not that big. But obviously, when you have a player like Messi in your team, you are automatically stronger,” said midfielder Jorginho Wijnaldum.
This powerful blow deprives him of a second innovator, as midfielder Marco Verratti, with a groin injury, is unavailable for another three weeks. His absence was felt in mid-September in Bruges (1-1). However, without him, the Parisians lost to Leipzig (2-1) a year ago, during the group stage.
For Paris, who are still two runs without a win, there are many reasons to wait impatiently and dread this match against RBL.