Thursday, March 8, 2018

Neymar And Kylian Mbappé Can Win A Game By Themselves

He is a player. With the Brazilian forward probably unavailable to face Marseille for Paris Saint-Germain at the Coupe de France on Wednesday, Rudi García could afford to be magnanimous on this event, even though another loss in that rivalry appears likely to follow his team’s 3-0 defeat at the Parc des Princes on Sunday. Before Neymar’s departure late in the game, Paris Saint-Germain hadn’t been at their best. Having said that, in a game that was marked from the beginning by a strong physicality (and 11 reservations), the leaders turned into a determined performance, offering a renewed attention with nary a hint of the side that had surrendered a raft of opportunities to Strasbourg per week ago. Perhaps more significant than that solidity, however, was a newfound embrace of team play, something this side has lacked too frequently in the present campaign and something which will be even more essential in the next week’s return leg against Real Madrid.


Neymar and Kylian Mbappé can win a game by themselves, to the point that creating a specific tactical strategy or offering any type of discipline can fall by the wayside. Worryingly, this attitude had apparently spread beyond the club’s two-album purchases, as many in the group regularly took it upon themselves to play as they saw fit, with Dani Alves and Layvin Kurzawa one of the chief culprits. Against Marseille, however, there was a unity and aggression to coincide with the visitors’ own, and the outcome, instead of being a mere matter of opportunities being taken, was deserved and revealed any number of players rising to the occasion. Perhaps, surprisingly, foremost among these was Kurzawa, whose season-long duel to the function of starting left-back with Yuri Berchiche appeared to have reached a nadir for the former Monaco man when he was dropped for the trip to Madrid. He sparkled, not just for his attacking prowess but for his defensive push, totally shackling Florian Thauvin and supplying a company rejoinder to those who would have Berchiche back in the group come next Tuesday. agen sbobet terpercaya

Mbappé was more inventive than normal, looking for a creator as opposed to only a predator. Giovani Lo Celso, in for the injured Marco Verratti, was the only player who didn’t impress for the hosts but, after his calamitous revealing in Madrid, he’s not likely to feature in any event. A consummate performance against one of the greatest sides in France should have Unai Emery quite pleased this week, but he still wants a strategy if Neymar’s ankle injury is severe enough to keep him out. Despite his cautious optimism following the game, the manager needs to have a strategy in place to turn around a 3-1 deficit. Paris Saint-Germain has turned in impressive performances against the odds before, including a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in this stage despite playing with just 10 men for most of the game, but this represents a different type of challenge given the club’s investment last summer.

Emery is unlikely to deviate from 4-3-3, meaning he’s three realistic alternatives to replace the Brazilian, among whom, the out-of-favor Julian Draxler, should probably be dismissed instantly. That leaves Ángel Di María and Javier Pastore, a set of players that have often been on the periphery this season, despite their ability and expertise. Picking Di María may indicate swapping Mbappé into the opposite flank. Might Pastore prove a better choice? His time in Paris Saint-Germain has been beset by injury but he’s always impressed when called upon. Furthermore, he offers a lot more defensive solidity than his countryman, having been hugely impressive because of a draw against Chelsea, despite playing with a deeper midfield role. He also includes a more versatile assortment of passing and can occupy many different places to support the assault, influencing a game without having to take on opponents as Di María can occasionally be wont to do.


Emery still has lots of time to make this choice and will probably use the following two matches (such as Saturday’s trip to Troyes) to put the pieces together. Whatever decision he chooses, however, their performance against Marseille will undoubtedly act as a tonic to the club’s spirits. Neymar or not, this group proved itself capable of playing with focus and determination, and on that evidence, a once-faint expectation of regaining that deficit in Europe now seems tantalizingly within reach. While Le Classique attracted the vast majority of the focus on Sunday, the experience earlier between Rhône-Alpes competitions Lyon and St Étienne, France’s premier local derby, carried arguably more needle and fire. St Étienne’s 5-0 defeat by Lyon in November was among the worst nights at the club 99-year history and abandoned the 10-time Ligue 1 winners in chaos. However, the wizened Jean-Louis Gasset has since managed to inject the group with some optimism and this return fixture provided a chance at salvation. The pile-on of jubilant St Étienne players who followed underlined how crucial a target it had been for this historic club self-esteem.

Astonishment in Nantes’ challenge for European locations before Christmas has sadly been matched by surprise in their continuing grip on a Europa League spot since the winter break. Although Claudio Ranieri’s influence on the club this season can’t be understated, their form after the New Year has taken a dramatic downturn with only one league win in seven. Saturday’s trip of a floundering Amiens represented an opportunity to steady themselves. But, Gael Kakuta’s superb curling effort, Prince Gouano’s stoic defensive screen, and a 1-0 Amiens’ win supposed Nantes were eventually edged from a guaranteed European place by Montpellier. With the opportunity to coach Italy a chance that summer and his side stuttering, Ranieri’s reign at Nantes might have already peaked.