Top spot decider? – Manchester City vs Paris Saint-Germain Preview
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It’s become a landmark fixture in football and two heavyweights of the footballing landscape renew their recent rivalry at the Etihad under the lights on Wednesday night.
Lionel Messi returns to Manchester - not in the circumstances that City fans would’ve hoped - and so do Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, who were here last season when City beat the French champions 2-0 in a remarkable showing that sent the Blues to their maiden final.
It was the same scoreline between these two in Paris this season although this time the bragging rights were the Parisians’. A first-half strike from Idrissa Gueye and a late goal from Lionel Messi compounded Guardiola’s side to a first group stage loss since 2018 against fellow French side Olympique Lyon.
It was Messi’s fifth goal against City under Guardiola in three games - he’s scored in every fixture between the two sides since the Catalan took over. Nothing like impressing against your former boss.
Messi, on for his 7th Balon D’or win this year, scored his first goal for the French club in Ligue 1 at the weekend as PSG battled to a 3-1 win over Nantes. Kylian Mbappe scored the opener in that game before Keylor Navas was sent off but the league leaders battled back from one apiece to win the game 3-1, with Messi scoring the third after an own goal.
As for City, it was a third straight win last time out against Everton. After wins over Club Brugge and Manchester United before the international break, wonderful goals from Raheem Sterling and Rodri did the damage as the Blues beat the Toffees 3-0, with early POTY contender Bernardo Silva scoring the third late on.
Referee: Daniele Orsato
Assistants: Alessandro Giallatini and Fabiano Preti. Fourth official: Luca Pairetto
VAR: Marco Di Bello
AVAR: Maurizio Mariani
One man who has loved scoring against this French giant is Kevin De Bruyne, who scored in Paris in 2016 and 2020 and at the Etihad in 2016. The Belgian will miss this one though after recently testing positive for COVID-19. Other than the Belgian, Jack Grealish is the only fitness worry after not training today. Ferran Torres is still out with a foot injury.
Ruben Dias was rested against Everton and could be in line for a return whilst Gabriel Jesus also played no part against the Toffees, meaning he may return to the wing where he has so far this season flourished in a role that fans have called for since last season.
As for PSG, Sergio Ramos may finally make his PSG debut after weeks of rehabilitation. He may not be rushed back though with Presnel Kimpembe and Marquinhos fairly decent options as a backup. Gianluigi Donnarumma remains a doubt with gastroenteritis.
Potential XIs: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo, Rodri, Bernardo, Gundogan, Jesus, Sterling, Foden.
PSG: Navas, Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes, Verratti, Gueye, Wijnaldum, Messi, Mbappe, Neymar.
Poch and Pep renew their Champions League battle
Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola have already had three drama-filled, electric Champions League meetings with each other and it’s the Argentine who’s got the upper hand to date, with two wins to Pep’s one - that second leg against Tottenham in 2019, which Pochettino still won on away goals anyway.
Pochettino has been linked to the Manchester United job and he’s never won consecutive games over Guardiola - the Catalan has won four of the league meetings over Poch and has only lost one - a 2-0 loss in late 2016 when Aleksandr Kolarov played centre-back.
Sterling finding his feet
He played mostly off the right against Everton as Cole Palmer was given a rare start but it’s unlikely he’ll play again tomorrow. That means the ‘false 9’ spot is open again and with Gabriel Jesus set to play off the right the only viable option seems to be Raheem.
He’s had impressive showings in Europe before the international break and finally scored in the Premier League at the weekend and Raheem Sterling looks like he’s getting back to somewhat of his best under Guardiola. This will be the first true test though, and if he passes, he’ll well and truly have his spot back in the team.
City can go top of the group with a victory over the Parisians and also qualify for the knockout stage in the process. PSG are already certain to be through to the next stage and the Blues will be hoping to follow them and take victory to ensure top spot and an easier round of sixteen opponent.
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