It is PSG vs Manchester City in the Champions League again! For a brief period, it seemed this would be Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo again. That narrative, however, shifted as Ronaldo's destination altered to the other side of Manchester. PSG and City's vision have not altered though. Both middle east powered European heavyweights are still chasing the continental trophy's serenading legacy. Both parties have recently faced heartbreak in the Champions League final. And the pair of them are also favourites to win their domestic league.
There is more in common between the City and PSG duo than perhaps between any other two teams in Europe. Ambitious and able to meet desire with ability to procure raw materials. Of course, the ownership really helps in this regard. But these two are very well run clubs too. They have similarly minded managers at the helm as well. Daring and only willing to play fancy, fleet of foot football.
The only difference has been the start to their European campaign. While Manchester City cast aside RB Leipzig in a less than comfortable 6-3 victory, PSG struggled to a 1-1 stalemate away at Club Brugge. PSG, however, have been in a similar situation before. Only last season, they overcame a slow start to top a difficult group. And so, this battle between Europe's super elite of last decade is tantalising, mouth watering and one which is bound to excite. Under the bright lights of the night sky, this is football's clarion call to the larger world. Come watch them play and fall in love with the beautiful game.
PSG vs Manchester City - similar sojourns of familiar foes
And perhaps there are no two better teams to watch in Europe than PSG and Manchester City. PSG vs Manchester City, thus, needs no more selling than just its mention. Both teams are relative newcomers to the big league. And have followed a similar pattern in their recent success. An injection of cash as a consequence of ownership change has resulted in their supercharge to domestic stardom. European glory, however, has eluded the pair of them.
And not for want of trying. PSG vs Manchester City will throw up a congregation of football's cream. They are stacked with talent, potential and proven pedigree across the board assembled with care, currency and craze. Hundreds of millions thrown around to assimilate the avengers of world football. And yet, a capitulation here and an overthought muddle there has meant that these two behemoths of modern age football still seek that one trophy lift of legitimacy.
This is the holy grail for both teams. In fact, it is the irrevocable and non negotiable destination must for both managements. No amount of domestic triumphs and record breaking runs on either side of the English Channel satiates this ever increasing yearning for European distinction.
PSG vs Manchester City - the Paris parade
PSG are searching for their maiden win of this campaign, after a heroic performance by Belgian side Club Brugge. Ander Herrera gave the visitors a lead which was cancelled by a deflected Hans Vanaken side footer. Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi could not eke out a winning goal after. PSG looked jaded and never really warmed up in front of a raucous home crowd.
Despite Club Brugge's fight, there is little doubt that City will pose a much greater threat. And similarly, one can safely assume that PSG will not be as pale. Mauricio Pochettino is yet to figure out how best his machine functions. One might argue that there are too many parts and not enough engine. But those are the cards he possesses and he has to deal them right. Problems of plenty at PSG is perhaps a happier predicament than searching for a hardly fit Harry Kane replacement in a Champions League final.
A visible problem of PSG is the inability or unwillingness of the front three to press as a unit or drop back to defend. Messi, Neymar and Mbappe are a fearsome forward moving trio. But defensively, one is unlikely to extract much value from the trio. And in a big game, how do you keep any of them out? After all, these are among the three best individual players in the world.
And against a Pep Guardiola team, no matter how hard one tries, they are unlikely to dominate possession. Mbappe, thus, becomes key on the counter. Messi is, when fit, the very best ever and must be on the pitch because there is no man better at evading press, playing a pass and running down the pitch as though opposition players do not exist. What about Neymar then?
PSG vs Manchester City - the blue band
Even as PSG struggle to integrate their newcomers into the mix, Man City new boy Jack Grealish has adjusted beautifully in his new surroundings. In Pep Guardiola's ever revolving door of attacking glitterati, Grealish on the left wing has been the one constant. Floating in, drifting out and overall gliding across the grass. The former Aston Villa captain already has four goal contribution this season, including a goal and assist in City's opening day victory in Europe.
City's problems, however, lie elsewhere and Harry Kane's failed pursuit highlights that. In their Premier League encounter against Southampton, City had only one shot on target. That shows a glaring void in their centre forward position. Guardiola lacks a proper number 9 to gobble up the plethora of chances his multiple creative players conjure. Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling have so far been deployed in that role with Gabriel Jesus on the right, but that has yielded mixed results.
City will likely play with a false nine, aiming to pull the PSG backline out of position before causing them damage. And the way they press as a unit, PSG will be in trouble if their front three perform as they did in Belgium. City themselves are not the most secure at the back though. They conceded three against Leipzig and if not careful, could be really hurt by the pace of Mbappe combined with the artistry of Messi and guile of Neymar.
PSG vs Manchester City - predicted lineups
It will be interesting to see what formation Pochettino picks for PSG. So far, they have alternated between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. Pochettino might opt for the latter to match City's inevitable 4-3-3. In that case, Angel Di Maria might start on the right hand side and will have a lot of running to do.
City will go with their 4-3-3 but it remains to be seen if they play two free eights or deploy Ilkay Gundogan as a more controlled option. Kevin De Bruyne, their talisman, has not started every game but will perhaps be on the pitch from the outset this time.
PSG predicted 11: Keyl0r Navas; Achraf Hakimi, Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe, Abdou Diallo; Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye; Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Neymar; Kylian Mbappe.
City predicted 11: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo; Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne; Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres, Jack Grealish.