The Champions League is back, and PSG's visit to Old Trafford looks like a fascinating clash on Tuesday night. Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...
"Kylian Mbappe will have freedom to cover the width of the pitch, bursting into the channels to get on the end of through-balls."
Man Utd v PSG
Tuesday 20:00, BT Sport 2.
Match Odds: Man Utd [2.4], PSG [3.3], The Draw [3.6].
When the draw for the Champions League second round was made back in December, this looked like an obvious PSG banker. They were flying high at the top of Ligue 1, while Manchester United were struggling badly under Jose Mourinho.
But fast-forward two months, and suddenly this looks like a proper contest. PSG are miles clear at the top of Ligue 1, but have lost their unbeaten record and have serious injury problems. Meanwhile, Manchester United have been revitalised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with an almost perfect record under their new boss. This could be an enthralling tie.
PSG injury problems
The main story ahead of this game is PSG's injury problems, particularly in the attacking section of the side. Neymar is still out injured, while Edinson Cavani went off in the weekend win over Bordeaux and hasn't travelled to Manchester. That's two of Thomas Tuchel's key three players out, and PSG look a considerably less threatening side without them.
Therefore, this is a big game for Kylian Mbappe, who will lead the line alone. Sometimes accustomed to playing second fiddle to Neymar in terms of prominence, and playing wider than Cavani in terms of tactics, here he'll have freedom to cover the width of the pitch, bursting into the channels to get on the end of through-balls.
A structured approach from Tuchel
Tuchel seems likely to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, that will look like 4-4-1-1 without the ball. Julian Draxler will provide Kylian Mbappe's closest support in the number 10 role, and his mobility to drift into pockets of space towards the flanks could cause real problems.
Out wide, PSG might be more defensive and cautious than usual because of the injury issues. Angel Di Maria, back at his former club, will play a hard-working role on the right, shuttling between midfield and attack on the break. On the opposite side, Daniel Alves has sometimes been used in midfield recently and could start on the right here. This will provide PSG's midfielders with extra defensive protection.
Two Brazilian defenders in midfield?
There's also a slight doubt over deep-lying playmaker Marco Verratti, who lasted only an hour at the weekend - he'll start this game, but he might not finish it. Marquinhos might partner him in the centre of the pitch, providing some physical presence and defensive discipline against Paul Pogba.
He and Alves could be used in defence, of course, but it seems more likely to be a quartet of Juan Bernat, Thiago Silva, Presnel Kimpembe and Thilo Kehrer - who will probably start at right-back in the absence of Thomas Meunier, who suffered a head injury at the weekend.
Centre-back questions for Solskjaer
In comparison, Manchester United's side seems somewhat predictable. The only major question seems to be in defence, where it's still uncertain who Solskjaer favours in defence. Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are all options - Solskjaer will presumably pick the quickest two against Mbappe. Ashley Young and Luke Shaw will play out wide.
The midfield trio is now established as Nemanja Matic holding, Ander Herrera playing to his right and Paul Pogba pushing forward into goalscoring positions. As a Parisian, he'll be keen to make an impact here.
Rashford and Martial to play wide?
Anthony Martial, another Frenchman, has probably played his way into the starting XI on the left flank after his fine goal against Fulham at the weekend. Marcus Rashford is now the first-choice upfront and Jesse Lingard is the type of big-game player who might suit this game, especially because Solskjaer will need someone to track Bernat.
The format of that front three remains to be seen, however. Solskjaer has sometimes switched Lingard and Rashford, using a false nine and two wide forwards, telling Martial and Rashford to burst in behind from wide. With PSG using an attack-minded left-back, and the identity of their right-back still to be seen, that might be a good approach here.
Despite Man Utd's improvement and PSG's injury problems, I think the home side look somewhat short here - PSG are still much the better side, and therefore I'll back PSG in Draw No Bet at [2.34].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
United’s chances of qualifying for the quarter finals of the Champions League were given a bit of a boost at the weekend as Edinson Cavani has joined Neymar on the PSG injury list after their 1-0 win over Bordeaux.
United had already been matched in the Match Odds market when it opened (prior to Neymar news) for some decent money at various prices above [2.9] but they are now trading at [2.4] on the back of the injury news.
The injury hit Parisians though did finish top of a tough group that included Liverpool and Napoli, but, their current form doesn’t look good enough to stop this rampant United side. They have lost at Lyon, required extra time to see of a Villefranche in the cup, after drawing 0-0 in normal time and then needed a penalty to get past Bordeaux at the weekend.
Since the draw for this game was made in December, so much has changed between the two sides, especially the replacing of Jose Mourinho with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United’s new boss has seen his side win 10 of the 11 games he has been in charge and they are now into the top four of the Premier League.
The market is certainly suggesting that the Red Devils can take an all important lead to Paris and I am not going to disagree with that. I will be following the money and backing the home side to come through this home leg at [2.4].