Paris Saint-Germain were frustratingly held to a 1-1 draw by FC Nürnberg as their pre-season preparations hit a snag.
Thomas Tuchel’s men couldn’t round off the German leg of their itinerary with another big win having brushed Dynamo Dresden aside 6-1 recently.
This meeting, however proved to be a testing contest for the Ligue 1 champions as they head into a marquee showdown with Inter Milan in China next weekend.
Following that affair with their Serie A rivals there’s one more pre-season friendly, against Sydney FC, before the French curtain raiser against Rennes.
So, there’s not that much time left before things get serious, hence the importance of these games – particularly this one just gone – and with both teams now bidding each other goodbye, here are five things we learned.
1. Like a kid in a candy store
There’s something joyful about the way Kylian Mbappé approaches football. Despite the pressures of playing for a club with so much scrutiny, he never seems fazed, maybe that’s a result of his youthful exuberance – remember despite achieving so much he’s still only 20 – also you never get the sense it all serious business with him, not to say Mbappé doesn’t care, but to him it’s just like a kickabout in the park with his mates.
Every time he’s on the ball, no matter the location (training field or stadium) Mbappé wants the ball and more importantly to put it in the back of the net, a brace against Dynamo Dresden wasn’t followed more but instead a wonderfully executed assist – that included a nutmeg preceding it – for Pablo Sarabia to put the visitors ahead just before the break. It’s well-known the Parisman marksman even record his goals when preparing for their competitive games. Such joie de vivre must be the key behind his incredible rise and why so many are backing him to be the heir to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
2. Nürnberg came to play
FC Nürnberg have a big season ahead of them so preparing against one of Europe’s fiercest teams is a good way to prepare. Der Ruhmreiche (or The Glorious), as they’re known, suffered the ignominy of being relegated from the Bundesliga having finished rock bottom and mustering three wins all season. Damir Canadi appointed after their fate was sealed is hoping to make a swift return. Goals, lots of goals, will be fundamental it goes without saying.
Last season’s top scorer Mikael Ishak, who bagged six goals, flew out of the traps against PSG and could have embarrassed their would-be number one Alphonse Areola who made a fine save to deny him. Nürnberg – unlike Dresden – were more organised and made life difficult for Tuchel’s men even after going behind with Ishak at the heart of their efforts. And with 20 minutes remaining, came their golden opportunity, which Enrico Valentini converted from the spot after new boy Abdou Diallo handed the ball. Of course, you can’t draw much from pre-season games, but in the German side’s situation it was a positive step in the right direction.
3. Spanish core?
In their first pre-season friendly game this summer Thomas Tuchel against 2. Bundesliga outfit Dynamo Dresden fielded new recruits Ander Herrera and Pablo Sarabia alongside Juan Bernat and Jese Rodriguez – who spent last season on loan at Real Betis – making a neat piece of history in the process. Which he repeated in Nuremberg.
Although not an official game, so technically won’t go down in the record books, never before had PSG deployed as many Spaniards which raises the question whether this could be a common sight next season. Unfortunately, the answer could already be known, of the quartet Herrera seems to be the most likely to hold down a regular starting berth with Bernat not far behind. Sarabia, after breaking the deadlock, must look at the current state of play and think there’s an opportunity to be had.
4. Herrera-Veratti axis could be what the doctor ordered
Speaking of Herrera, this was a smart piece of business by PSG who have been among Europe’s biggest spenders in recent years. The 29-year-old midfielder arrived via a Bosman after he couldn’t agree new terms with Manchester United which frustrated supporters given how imperious he seemed under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with their FA Cup win over Chelsea being an explicit example of what he brought to the Red Devils and their loss will certainly be PSG’s gain.
Tuchel, who understands the importance of workers alongside the artists being key to their European Cup chances, is a big fan deploying the ex-Red Devil in a ‘number six’ role, which saw him dropping between the centre-backs against 1. FC Nürnberg, near his vicinity was deep-lying playmaker Marco Verratti who immediately struck a click with him. With pre-season being used to forge relationships this could be a partnership that finally sees the undisputed French power make that elusive Champions League breakthrough under their Qatari owners.
5. Neymar’s absence felt
Conspicuous by his absence was the world’s most expensive footballer Neymar whose name continues to be linked with a move away. He’s expected to link-up with Tuchel and company, after returning from his latest injury setback, when they face Inter in Macau seven days from now. How they could have done with him today, even in a small cameo. Naturally, his future has dominated the conversation these last few weeks, antagonising the powers that be who have been equally busy this summer.
Their latest recruit Diallo, joining from Borussia Dortmund, started on the bench but saw his unofficial debut take place ten minutes before the half-time interval after Thomas Meunier sustained a knock. It should have been a comfortable introduction for the French centre-back, and for long it seemed to be heading in that direction, before giving away a late second half penalty. Despite his transgression he’s expected to push Neymar’s compatriots and returning Copa America champions Thiago Silva and Marquinhos.