Manchester United are set to take on Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League second round tie at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
We were heavy underdogs when the draw was made back in December but now you’ll only find odds of 8/13 at best for the Ligue 1 champions according to the UEFA Champions League Betting from BetEasy.
Since the draw, star players Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier have all been ruled out for the runaway Ligue 1 leaders. Marco Verratti only made his return over the weekend too, playing 50 minutes.
On top of their injuries, Thomas Tuchel’s side have shown a dip in form over their past two games – losing 2-1 in a thrilling game at Lyon and only beating Bordeaux 1-0 at the Parc des Princes over the weekend. They were also eliminated from the League Cup by Guingamp last month – a competition the Parisians had previously won for the past five seasons.
Meanwhile, we have been on an upturn since appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager in mid-December. The club legend has won 10 of his first 11 matches in charge, including victories over Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Ole took over when we were 11 points behind the top four and therefore far from the Champions League places. Our 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday saw us move into that fourth spot. Our form has simply been sensational.
Marcus Rashford in particular has been in excellent form under Solskjaer since being moved into the central striker role, flanked by Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez in recent weeks. Anthony Martial’s performance on Saturday will give the manager something to think about for Tuesday too.
It’s Paul Pogba who has been the standout player for us over the past two months though, scoring eight goals in his last eight Premier League matches including a brace over the weekend. It’s often been said the French international steps up for the big games and there’s no doubt that Tuesday’s match in Manchester is the biggest so far this season.
However, Paris Saint-Germain remain the bookmakers’ favourites and many can justify that. They’ve essentially won the league already with a 10-point gap between themselves and second place Lyon, whilst also having two games in hand.
Even without Neymar and Cavani, they still have Kylian Mbappe up front – one of the best in world football right now. The 2018 World Cup winner has scored 18 goals in 17 league appearances (13 starts) so far this season, three in six Champions League group stage matches and four goals in five French Cup matches. Bearing in mind, he’s far from being the focal point when Neymar and Cavani have been fit.
Mbappe is likely to be supported by Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler on Tuesday. And whilst our defensive record looks good of late, we must bear in mind that Fulham aren’t very good and both Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City did create numerous chances against us despite not having the likes of Mbappe, Di Maria and Draaxler in their team.
Defensively, PSG aren’t tested greatly domestically. They usually dominate possession with Marco Verratti being one of their players dictating the ball in midfield. Fingers crossed he’s not fit to face us!
PSG still have Gianluigi Buffon, Thiago Silva and Pascal Kimpembe protecting their goal though. But I wouldn’t put it past us scoring a goal or two at Old Trafford. If we are to progress we need to win the first leg whilst they are carrying a couple of key injuries.
Rashford, Lingard and Sanchez/Martial’s pace against their defence could certainly cause them problems. Don’t expect Di Maria or Draxler to help out greatly out of possession, whilst Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat love to bomb forward from full-back.
Can underdogs Manchester United eliminate Paris Saint-Germain? Never write us off…