Paris is where you find love but there will be no love lost on Wednesday when two of the most monied teams in the world-PSG, boasting talents acquired by Qatar’s endless oil wells and Manchester City, who flaunt the wealth from Abu Dhabi, meet in Paris for the first leg of their UCL semi-final.
The PSG squad is worth almost $1 billion while City have spent over a billion dollars under Pep Guardiola building the team and getting them ready to claim one of football’s greatest ever club prizes.
When the referee blows his whistle at 8 pm tonight at the Parc des Princes, all the above will pale into insignificance with the speed of Kylian Mbappe and the deft skills of Phil Foden on show as all the monied talents to find a way to Istanbul.
The 4 important duels
Kylian Mbappe v Kyle Walker
The duel between two speed merchants in Mbappe and Walker will be an interesting one. Walker cannot afford to join City’s attack at every opportunity, giving Mbappe room to run in behind the city defence. Mbappe has always shown his quality, especially on the biggest stages, and he was a primary factor for getting over the hurdles posed by Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Walker will have to be at his most concentrated while adding a physical edge to the contest to stand a chance.
Idrissa Gueye v Kevin de Bruyne
De Bruyne’s brain is fast and the City midfielder sees passes other players can’t even think about, which makes Gueye’s an absolutely important task if PSG are to take any advantage to Manchester next week. Gueye is combative and has played against the Belgian before when he was at Everton, which means he knows what to expect, but that knowledge does not exclude him from getting swamped with the task ahead.
Alessandro Florenzi v Phil Foden
Florenzi has missed some matches, so he is not totally match-fit, but he will need all his wit and experience when he comes up against Foden, who scored in both legs of the quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund. With Foden’s youthful guile is now an uncanny sense of finishing, which means he will drag Florenzi all over the place. The Italian must try to cut off all his passing lanes, especially the connection to De Bruyne.
Neymar v Rodri
Neymar has won this tournament before but as a supporting cast when he was at Barcelona. On Wednesday, he can be the primary PSG conductor like he showed in the second leg against Bayern where he was unlucky not to score. Rodri, meanwhile, has been afforded some rest in the lead up to this encounter and so will be fresh and sharp as he seeks to blunt the Brazilian’s genius.
Current Form: PSG [W-W-W-L-W]; Man. City [W-W-L-W-L]
12/04/16 UCL Man. City 1 – 0 PSG
06/04/16 UCL PSG 2 – 2 Man. City
03/12/08 UEL Man. City 0 – 0 PSG
What the managers are saying
“Both sides have unbelievable players to try to control for 90 minutes. It will be tough–very competitive. City are one of the greatest teams in the world, with the best coach and of course it’s going to be tougher than against Bayern München.” – Mauricio Pochettino, Paris Manager
“I will not play 90 minutes thinking how good this player is, just how to beat them. I learned from Johann Cruyff, you have to enjoy the game, enjoy the responsibility. Top players enjoy situations because they enjoy responsibility, that’s why the greatest players win this competition.” – Pep Guardiola, Man. City Manager
Probable starting 11
PSG: Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Diallo; Gueye, Paredes; Di Maria, Verratti, Neymar; Mbappe
Man. City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Ruben Dias, Cancelo; Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden; Jesus
Follow Premium Times for live updates from 7:45 pm tonight.
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