Celtic will play host to French aristocracy next week, as mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain arrive in Glasgow to kick off the first game of the group stage of the Champions League. We caught up with French Football Weekly contributor Jeremy Smith to give our readers the lowdown on the Ligue One giants.
The defensive half. There has of course been a lot of attention on the attacking players signed this summer, but PSG’s main problems have not been addressed.
In goal both Kevin Trapp and Alphonse Areola have been accident-prone. They only have three centre backs in Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe and Thiago Silva – and an increasing number of people think that it is Silva who is the weakest link of the three.
And perhaps most importantly, they lack depth in defensive midfield. They failed to snare Fabinho from Monaco and will likely continue with the aging Thiago Motta as cover for the defence (with Blaise Matuidi’s energy no longer there).
PSG seem to be taking a “we’ll score more than you” approach.
The attacking half. As well as Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti in midfield, PSG have to pick a front three or four from Lucas Moura, Javier Pastore, Julian Draxler, Angel di Maria, Giovanni Lo Celso, Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
If Unai Emery can find the right combination and keep a lot of egos happy, that attack could be frightening.
Style of Play
There was a recent quote from a French journalist saying that last year PSG suffered from not knowing exactly what Emery’s style is – but that it doesn’t matter because now it’s Neymar’s team!
Generally PSG line up in a 4-3-3, which will in practice turn into a 4-2-3-1 or even 4-1-4-1, depending on midfield personnel and quality of opposition.
In past games, the team’s main problem has been its ponderous build-up, but Neymar looks to be changing all that, his licence to roam and his speed of thought and footwork makes the team a far quicker and more attractive team to watch.
He also seems to be lifting the players around him, with Rabiot in particular looking back to his best. Cavani has been the undisputed leader of the line so it will be interesting to see what happens now Mbappe is thrown into the mix.
Mbappe played on the right wing for France vs Luxembourg, but he kept drifting in to the centre. Does he have the discipline to play on the right for PSG? It would mean that di Maria would be dropped in favour of the former Monaco man.
Can Emery leave him on the bench? Will Emery have to change his formation entirely to accommodate him?
See above and take your pick! The obvious biggies are the two summer acquisitions, Neymar and Mbappe.
Neymar more or less single-handedly knocked PSG out of the competition last year and many say that his decision to leave Barca was because Messi was wrongly given a lot of the credit for that win.
He comes to PSG to step out of Messi’s shadow and to have a shot at the Ballon d’Or.
Mbappe, who returns to his hometown club, scored in his first four Champions League knock-out games last year and, at only 18, is surely a Ballon d’Or winner of the future - although he has said that winning the Champions League is far more important to him.
Those two aside, the fans’ favourite is Pastore, who is an astonishingly beautiful player to watch. When he’s fit. And in the mood.
How far can they go in the Champions League?
The Champions League has always been the Qatari owners’ stated ambition and Neymar was signed with that in mind.
Failure to get out of the group is inconceivable and the club will be disappointed if they don’t top the table.
Once PSG reach the knock-out stages much is dependent on the draw but with the attacking options at their disposal, they will feel confident against anyone.
They have yet to better the quarter-finals, reached four years in a row up to 2015-16, and this season will want the semi-finals at least.
With Neymar pulling the strings they could go all the way – but there is still the nagging feeling that those defensive weaknesses could yet cost them.