Ligue 1 Betting: Five things for new PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino to tackle

Incoming PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino
Will Pochettino succeed at PSG?

Mauricio Pochettino is about to take the reins at PSG and these are the most pressing issues in his in-tray, says our French football expert James Eastham...

"If Pochettino wants to get the best out of his players for his first half-season in charge he may have to use them sparingly, and delay until 2021-22 imposing the high-tempo, high-pressing style that was his Tottenham trademark."

Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of being appointed manager of Paris Saint-Germain. Paris sacked Thomas Tuchel on December 23 having already identified the ex-Tottenham boss as the man they wanted to take over.

PSG may be the runaway Ligue 1 title favourites and have a Champions League Last-16 clash with Barcelona to look forward to next year.

Yet all is not rosy in the PSG garden and Pochettino has a list of challenges on his 'to-do' list. Here are five that require the most immediate attention:

Deal with an absurdly long injury list

For PSG's final game of 2020 - a 4-0 win over Strasbourg on December 23 - no fewer than 10 senior pros were absent through injury.

This has been the story of PSG's season: injury after injury, with the now-departed Tuchel rarely able to field his strongest side.

The unusual rhythm of last season - Ligue 1's 2019-20 campaign was abandoned in March, so PSG went months without a competitive fixture before returning for the 'Final 8' Champions League matches in Lisbon, and then had a reduced summer break before the 2020-21 league season kicked-off - is undoubtedly partly to blame.

Even so, PSG's injury list has been unforgivably long for a club of their means.

If Pochettino wants to get the best out of his players for his first half-season in charge, he may have to use them sparingly and delay until 2021-22 imposing the high-tempo, high-pressing style that was his trademark at Tottenham.

Is that something he'll be willing to do? Watch this space.

Front up Neymar and Mbappe contract uncertainty

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar (pictured below) are out of contract in 2022. Persuading their two superstar performers to extend their deals is the club's most pressing off-field matter.

Talks have begun and PSG sporting director Leonardo is leading a charm offensive in the hope the pair will commit their long-term futures to the club.

Pochettino will have a crucial role to play. He inspired fierce loyalty from his players at Tottenham not only for the brand of football he encouraged them to play but also the humane manner in which he dealt with them off the field.

Neither Neymar nor Mbappe had a particularly close relationship with Tuchel. If Pochettino can form a meaningful bond with one or both of them, it will be boost considerably his own position and the club's chances of continued success.


Improve or dispense with the back three

Tuchel's last major tactical tweak before departing the French capital was the highly questionable implementation of a back three.

Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe and either Thilo Kehrer or Danilo Pereira (who considers himself a midfielder) would line up in the centre of defence, with Alessandro Florenzi and either Mitchel Bakker or Layvin Kurzawa as the flying wing-backs.

The system has largely failed. PSG don't need the extra defensive protection in Ligue 1, and the wing-backs are too limited to provide high-calibre, final-third service.

Pochettino would do well to make an early call on this formation. By doing so he'd put distance between himself and his predecessor and offer tactical clarity for the New Year.

Prepare to face genuine title challenge

For the first time since Monaco were crowned Ligue 1 champions in 2017, PSG face a bona fide title challenge.

Paris went into the short winter break sitting third rather than their customary first in the league table. They picked up just one point from a possible six from meetings in December against the two teams above them in the standings, Lille (0-0) and Lyon (0-1).

In a way, the situation benefits Pochettino. PSG - 1.330/100 to successfully defend their title - underperformed from August to December, handing the new boss an immediate opportunity to demonstrate his superiority over his predecessor.

He's denied the opportunity to canter through the second-half of the season as PSG normally do, though. This would have allowed him to build his team with the comfort of a cushion at the top of the table.

Lyon - 5.39/2 to win the Ligue 1 title - and Lille 7.26/1 mean business, while Marseille 17.016/1 - eight points off top spot with two games in hand - still hope to make the title race a four-way affair. Pochettino will need to get to grips from the very start with the domestic challenge he faces.

Beat Barcelona

PSG have been drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League Last 16 and elimination at this stage of the competition would be a disaster on several fronts.

It would significantly increase the chances of Neymar or Mbappe or both departing next summer. It would also be an early blow to Pochettino's reputation.

That's why the two legs - on February 16 in Spain and March 10 in Paris - are crucial. Pochettino has six weeks to prepare his team and every single day will be valuable.

Barcelona are 2.35/4 to win the first leg, with PSG 2.89/5 and the draw 3.814/5. PSG 1.9110/11 are favourites to qualify over the two legs.

As a former Espanyol coach who once said he'd never manage Barcelona, Pochettino will relish the tie. It will be a magnificent occasion for him.

With so much at stake, however, he'll need to keep his emotions in check. The two legs will set the tone for his time in the French capital and be an early barometer of his chances of long-term success.

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