Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Match preview: Paris Saint-Germain v Man Utd (Agg 2-0)

A confident and defiant Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has emphasised his in-form Manchester United side will travel to France with the belief that a successful comeback can be staged against Paris Saint-Germain, continuing the club’s rich history of fighting back against the odds.
Thomas Tuchel’s Ligue 1 champions earned a 2-0 win from last month’s UEFA Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Old Trafford and, as a result, they are now the favourites to go through. The heavyweight Parisian giants are widely tipped to go all the way in Europe, despite never having progressed beyond the quarter finals of the competition.

The Reds must win by at least three clear goals in Paris to secure an aggregate win, which is a tall order with so many players currently unavailable due to injury – and with Paul Pogba suspended. 
That means that all of United's first choice midfield - Pogba, along with injured Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera - will miss out, as well as two thirds of the front line in Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial.
 
 Scott McTominay, Fred and Andreas Pereira will all be in contention for a place. Ahead of them, Alexis Sanchez looks likely to miss Wednesday’s match after he picked up a knee injury during the 3-2 win against Southampton with the Chilean ruled out for up to six weeks. Juan Mata is injured, as are full-backs Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian. However, in more positive news, the Reds will be able to call upon Marcus Rashford at the Parc de Princes after the striker recovered from an ankle injury to play 90 minutes against Southampton on Saturday. Solskjaer's stretched-to-the-limit, threadbare squad of 20 players contains eight Academy graduates and six teenagers.

Tuchel's side  remain without talismanic striker Neymar due to a metatarsal injury suffered during their Coupe de France victory over Strasbourg in January. Fellow forward Edinson Cavani missed the game at Old Trafford due to a hip injury and, while the Parisians hope to have the Uruguayan back in training before the clash, it remains unlikely that he will start on Wednesday night. Thomas Meunier was out between 9 and 26 February with a head injury but returned to score the third goal in their 3-0 French Cup quarter-final win over Dijon.

Despite the almost impossible nature of United's task, mountains are there to be climbed and Solskjaer remains adamant that a victory can be secured.
He said:  “We know it is going to be a very, very tough game. We know that are we playing against one of the best teams in Europe with some absolutely quality players.  “Who knows? It has happened before. This club has had so many great comebacks. The Champions League in the last few years has also given quite a few of those comebacks - PSG against Barcelona, even though it is the other way around now, because we have to do it away from home. 
“But we have got straight eight straight away wins so we are confident away from home. If we are in the game with 20 to 30 minutes to go then who knows.” 
 
United may still have plenty to play for as we move into March, but it's safe to say that Tuchel's team will be crowned Ligue 1 for the sixth time in seven seasons, even at this early stage. They currently sit 17 points clear of second placed Lille with a game in hand having lost only three of 40 competitive ties in 2018-19. The Champions League remains the apple of the owner's eyes however, and it is that on which their success, or otherwise, is measured by. 

Travelling United squad: De Gea, Romero, Grant; Bailly, Dalot, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, Smalling, Williams, Young; Fred, Garner, Gomes, McTominay, Pereira; Chong, Greenwood, Lukaku, Rashford.
 
Form guide: PSG W W W W W W Man Utd W L W D W W 
Match odds: PSG 3/1 Draw 19/5 Man Utd 11/2
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia) 

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