C1: Paris in the Benfica basin
Attention danger: Paris SG expect tremors in the Champions League on Wednesday from the attack on Benfica Lisbon, imperial since the beginning of the season and carried by the seething crowd of the La Luz stadium.
After two successes in two games in Group H, the capital club made a perfect start to the European Championship with its star trip Messi-Neymar-Mbappé. All the lights are on green on the national stage too, where the French champions, unbeaten in nine Ligue 1 games, quietly lead the dance.
But the extravagant productions of the first few weeks quickly gave way to more chaotic excursions that raise questions about Christophe Galtier’s tactical options.
In these conditions, the trip to Portugal is a trap for the Parisians, who almost qualify for the round of 16 if they win, but who will have to show solidity to avoid a nasty upset against a Portuguese formation supported by more than 60,000 fans and victorious in 13 of their 14 games this season, in all competitions.
“We have to have the ability to play under pressure,” Galtier said on Tuesday. Benfica will put us under pressure from the first memories. When we have the opportunities, we need to be a lot more efficient than we’ve been lately. The stadium pushes very, very hard, but I have players who have experience with it. You can also play very well with concentration and determination.”
– The question of balance –
His Lisbon counterpart Roger Schmidt says he has no problem motivating his players given the context.
“In this stadium, in this atmosphere, against one of the best teams in the world, anything is possible. We’re confident. At home, in a big stadium, we have our chances,” he said.
Attacking, Paris has a trio with its “MNM” that is second to none on the football planet. But the question of the balance of the Paris Sea Serpent team has still not been resolved.
PSG have developed a bad habit of conceding goals along the way, such as against Juventus (2-1) and Maccabi Haifa (3-1), signs of their recurring defensive weaknesses. Nice’s arrival in La Liga on Saturday was no exception to the rule, with the Parisians winning despite a fairly unremarkable aggregate performance (2-1).
Galtier attributed this tasteless departure to the account of the international break and the proximity to the Champions League. But with the schedule spiraling out of control and games every three days leading up to the World Cup in Qatar (November 20-December 18), the situation is unlikely to improve.
– Return of Verratti –
Luckily for PSG, at least at this stage of the test, they can always count on their three stars to hide their possible weaknesses.
Neymar and Kylian Mbappé continue to burn despite recent criticism of his position at the club, while Lionel Messi is more than ever on the way to regaining a level worthy of his time at Barcelona, as evidenced by his performance against the Nice , marked from his first successful free-kick under the Paris colors and class action lawsuits.
“He’s good in the head, very happy,” says Galtier. He livens up the game and is very generous. (…) Then he gets a taste for scoring goals again. He’s prepared well, the relationship he has with his partners, training sessions suggest he’s happy and when he’s happy he performs and gets back to the standards he’s had throughout his career.”
But the key to the game could lie in Marco Verratti’s return. The Italy midfielder, who was hit in the calf on September 18, is fit again and should start the game. With “Little Owl” the PSG game suddenly takes on a whole new dimension.
“Marco has 90 minutes in his legs,” explained Galtier. He is ready.”
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