Manchester United are about to face the toughest test of their season so far against PSG in the Champions League.
The Red Devils got back to winning ways against Newcastle at the weekend but now their ability to build on that will be tested as they come face-to-face with last year’s finalists and one of this year’s favourites. Here are four predictions for when they meet in the French capital on Tuesday night:
1. PSG’s strength in depth set for acid test
PSG predicted XI: Keylor Navas; Alessandro Florenzi, Abdou Diallo, Presnel Kimpembe, Layvin Kurzawa; Idrissa Gueye, Ander Herrera, Rafael; Angel Di Maria, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé.
PSG are wracked by injury at the moment. They have five confirmed absences in the form of Marco Verratti, Leandro Paredes, Mauro Icardi, Juan Bernat and Thilo Kehrer whilst Marquinhos, Julian Draxler and new boy Danilo Pereira are all major doubts as well.
Luckily for the French champions their squad is very deep and they’ll still be able to put out a strong side that includes Alessandro “50 yard strike against Barcelona” Florenzi, the tackle machine Idrissa Gueye, Man United old boy Ander Herrera and then the monumental front three of Angel Di Maria, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé.
The Brazilian in particular was a notable absence when Man United knocked PSG out of the Champions League two years ago in Paris and will be determined to avenge that defeat.
Perhaps most worrying for Man United is that even if they somehow contend with those starters, it may not be enough. Even with all their injuries taken into account, PSG will be able to call on Pablo Sarabia and Moise Kean off the bench to change things in the second-half. It’s a really monstrous squad.
Champions League Group H qualification odds (via William Hill):
- PSG: 1/5
- Man Utd: 2/5
- RB Leipzig: 11/10
- Istanbul Basaksehir: 7/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of publication (09:15 – 20/10/2020). BeGambleAware.
2. Opportunity knocks for Henderson
Man Utd predicted XI: Dean Henderson; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles; Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba; Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Anthony Martial.
Man United are relatively healthier than PSG but not without problems of their own, and because of a botched summer of recruitment look short of the players they need even when operating at full health.
You may expect David de Gea to retain his place in goal but Dean Henderson has looked worthy of more games and allowing him to play in Europe (where De Gea has never excelled) could be a good way to keep the youngster happy.
Alex Telles is in line to make his Man United debut, but there are issues in the middle of defence. Harry Maguire has not even travelled to Paris and with Eric Bailly also confirmed to be unavailable it means that either Axel Tuanzebe gets a dramatic reintroduction to first-team football or Luke Shaw plays centre-back. Either way, it should be interesting.
Midfield and attack will be as expected, with Scott McTominay and Juan Mata’s strong showings against Newcastle (coupled with Mason Greenwood’s injury) allowing them to retain their spots in the first XI whilst Anthony Martial is expected to return from domestic suspension to lead the line.
William Hill‘s 2020/21 Champions League winner odds:
- Bayern Munich: 4/1
- Man City: 4/1
- Liverpool: 6/1
- PSG: 10/1
- Real Madrid: 12/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. BeGambleAware.
3. Neymar eyeing illustrious return
Neymar’s last game saw him smash a hat-trick against Peru for his country, surpassing Ronaldo in the all-time scorers list, with only Pelé standing ahead of him in Brazil’s pecking order.
Then Thomas Tuchel rested him against Nimes at the weekend, reasoning that the international break, plus transatlantic travel, coupled with the fact this fixture was looming made the call a necessary one.
Now Neymar, who was famously injured when these two sides last met and became a hysterical meme thanks to his baffled expression as Man United knocked PSG out of the Champions League in 2018/19, will be fully focused and out for blood.
Neymar’s duel against Aaron Wan-Bissaka promises to be a titanic clash. Wan-Bissaka is one of, if not the sole, best 1v1 defenders in Europe so putting him on an island against Neymar should work but the problem is that Neymar can just move to a different area of the pitch to avoid Wan-Bissaka’s clutches.
That’s what he will do, and when it happens, he’ll do wonderful things. Can you imagine Neymar running at Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw? Absolutely terrifying stuff for the visitors.
Neymar to score against Man United odds (via William Hill):
- First: 10/3
- Last: 10/3
- Anytime: 17/20
- Two or more: 9/2
- Hat-trick: 22/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. BeGambleAware.
4. Parisians’ attack to outdo the Red Devils
Man United have a potent attack, this cannot be denied. Even in their hysterical defeat to Spurs the way they cut through them and picked up an early lead showed skill. And the way they came back from that defeat and then, despite conceding first, routed Newcastle shows they still have the ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
With PSG’s defence and midfield being hit by injuries the way it is, and given how much Man United’s forwards love big games, you can definitely see the Red Devils scoring in Paris.
The worry, especially given their defensive issues, is at the back. Given the poor nature of Man United’s squad beyond the first XI (and even part of the first XI, let’s be real) it seems unlikely Man United as currently constituted can keep up with PSG in a shootout if the Parisian forwards have brought their shooting boots with them.
If PSG’s forwards are in form, which they usually are in the group stages of the Champions League, you can expect Man United to get blown away.