Neymar and Cavani missing as PSG gives Solskjaer first European test


Paris Saint-Germain travel to Old Trafford on Tuesday night as both sides prepare for what will be the first ever competitive fixtures between the two.

The hot topic of conversation coming into the clash is about the absence of PSG’s Brazilian talisman Neymar after he was ruled out for ten weeks with an injury to his foot.

Neymar’s exclusion from the match is a blow to all, including Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who was looking forward to facing off against the former Barcelona man.

“It pains me that he is not there, that such a player can not play such an important encounter for him, the audience and the show.

“It’s a shame. But I believe, that even though he’s a very special player, they have a lot of other players who can replace him, dangerous and very high level.”

No French side has ever beaten United away from home in European competition and with an injury crisis looming, the Parisians may seek damage limitation in the first encounter.

Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier have joined the Brazilian on the sidelines as Thomas Tuchel’s selection issues grow. Italian centre midfielder Marco Verratti may also be missing with an ankle injury but will face a late fitness test.

Much of the goalscoring burden may now fall upon Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria, as their side seek to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2015/16 season.

That round of 16 win did come against English opposition, beating Chelsea 4-2 on aggregate. The 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in that campaign remains their only win on English soil in all competitions, drawing four and losing another five.

Tuchel will have to adapt his tactics due to his missing players and reiterated his in his post-match press conference after the Ligue 1 champion’s 1-0 victory over Bordeaux.

“There were many contingency plans: without Neymar, without Marco Verratti, & now without Edinson Cavani — we are no longer looking at Plan B, but Plan D.”

In an interview with Téléfoot, Tuchel also expressed his concern about the availability of his squad heading into Tuesday’s match.

“I am worried, but only because we are missing key players. In matches like these, decisive Champions League games, you absolutely need your key men as they are experienced in handling pressure in matches like this one.”

PSG’s quarter-final runs for four consecutive season between 2012/13 and 2015/16 is still the furthest stage the French champions have reached, with their Qatari owners desperate for continental success this time around.

PSG may be without two of their lethal front three, who have a combined 48 league goals so far this season. (Photo: AFP)

Both sides have won four out of their last five matches and therefore head into the fixtures full of confidence. PSG have added to their squad list for the knockout phases, bringing in signing Leandro Paredes who could feature in Manchester on Tuesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will experience his first game under the lights at Old Trafford as a manager, having of course famously contributed to the 1999 Champions League win for the Red Devils.

The 45-year-old is keen to draw on that experience and make Old Trafford the fortress it once was.

“We have to look at how we can improve – that’s the only thing we can control, really. We’ve got to rediscover the Manchester United way of playing, and I don’t think many teams enjoy their nights at Old Trafford when we’re on song.

“It’s about taking the game to the opposition, always believing in yourself. If you asked other managers who played against Sir Alex [Ferguson]’s teams, the pace and the tempo going forward was key. And, of course, the belief, the surge, that last 15 to 20 minutes towards the Stretford End – it was almost like the ball was just sucked into the goal.”

The Red Devils will be looking to the fans to help them win a first Champions League knockout game since beating Greek side Olympiakos 3-0 in 2014. Of their last nine knockout games, that win remains United’s only one, drawing three and losing five.

These two sides were knocked out at this stage last season but one must progress this time around, with continental success important to both; Manchester United looking to add to their previous European triumphs and PSG seeking a start a legacy of their own.

Solskjaer’s side will be full of confidence having since not lost under the Norwegian’s stewardship and may be now be conserved favourites against a depleted PSG side. There’s a feel good factor at Old Trafford at the moment and Solskjaer will be keen to keep the positive atmosphere alive by securing a first-leg victory.


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