Champions League, PSG – Borussia Dortmund – Mbappé, Ugarte: The problems to be solved for Luis Enrique’s Paris

Perfect your game for the highest level. This is now the objective of Paris Saint-Germain at the dawn of a new Champions League campaign with a renewed squad. Tuesday evening, Kylian Mbappé and his teammates welcome Borussia Dortmund to the Parc des Princes for a shock on the first day of the C1 group stage. Defense, midfield, attack… How to resolve the problems that PSG is already experiencing after five Ligue 1 matches?

Defense: Skriniar and Danilo, suffering in depth

In the absence of Marquinhos, back from Brazil and therefore still “jet-lagged”, Luis Enrique had decided to line up a Milan Skriniar-Danilo hinge for the reception of OGC Nice last weekend. An alternative solution which, certainly, was able to bring positive things to the bitter duels that the Parisians were able to compete in, but which left a big void in another compartment of the game: speed in depth.

Of the three Nice goals, the first cannot better highlight the glaring lack of effective cover on the counterattacks. Terem Moffi finds himself alone against Danilo in the Parisian half. In two leg swings, the Nigerian sends his opponent to his knees before delivering a sumptuous decisive pass at the far post towards Gaëtan Laborde.

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However, Skriniar and Danilo are not known for their speed, it is very difficult for them to apply Luis Enrique’s instructions. If this situation occurred several times during the match, it is primarily due to the placement desired by the Spanish technician. With much possession of the ball in the opponent’s half, PSG’s defenders often find themselves defending in 3 versus 3 with their entire half-field behind them. A complex situation to manage later if one of the opposing attackers manages to gain depth. And facing Adeyemi and Malen, this aspect will have to be scrutinized very closely by the Parisian staff.

The middle: How to do without Ugarte?

Soler-Zaire-Emery-Vitinha. This is what the Parisian midfielder looked like for the Nice reception. Having returned from Uruguay only a few days earlier, Manuel Ugarte had been left on the bench to start the match by his coach Enrique. But faced with the Parisians’ difficulties in the midfield, the former Barcelona technician was forced to bring in one of the best recruits in his summer transfer window.
Unfortunately, the former Sporting player is very doubtful for the duel against Borussia Dortmund after being injured in training on Monday. How can you do without the Uruguayan in the event of a problem? The young Warren Zaire-Emery is full of promise but he is still only 17 years old and has a lot to learn, especially at Champions League level. Even if his coach only says good things about it: “I love Warren! He’s only 17 years old, it’s incredible! He really has everything to become an important player for PSG. He is very intelligent, hardworking and technical. We have to support him and him enable progress.”

Vitinha, for his part, seems liberated since the departure of Messi and Neymar, even if he has still not made a single assist or scored a goal since the start of the season, despite numerous attempts. Nevertheless, the trio he forms with Zaire-Emery and Ugarte reveals great potential after the departure of Marco Verratti. Only Soler remains a tone below. The Spaniard is unable to match Ugarte’s performance, having already recovered 41 balls, including 15 in Toulouse. A statistic making him the second best ball scratcher in the five major championships, behind Lucas Paqueta at West Ham.

The attack: Who to score apart from Mbappé?

Since the start of the 2023-2024 financial year, it has already caused the stats to panic. Of the 10 goals scored by Paris Saint-Germain this season, 7 are due to Kylian Mbappé alone. An almost total attack offensively which leaves the capital team with increased dependence on its star striker throughout the matches. Because behind Mbappé, only Marco Asensio scored twice, and Achraf Hakimi once.

So how to get out of Mbappé-dependence? For Luis Enrique in any case, this is only illusory: “No, not at all. I have a team where all the offensive line players can score. Mbappé will always score, it’s in his DNA, but so will the others.” For the moment, only Asensio has managed to find his way to the opposing net. Ousmane Dembélé contributes in other sectors of the game but the former Barcelona player is more often found passing than finishing.

Asensio injured, Gonçalo Ramos and Randal Kolo Muani remain. If the first disappoints for the moment, the second made a remarkable entrance against Nice by delivering an assist on Mbappé’s second goal. The Parisian coach considers that he is dealing with two very distinct profiles: “Ramos is a pure center forward. Kolo Muani has the particularity of playing very well as a winger”. So who to field against Dortmund? Certainly Kolo Muani recently arrived in the Parisian ranks but his percussion and his speed could be real assets to unsettle the 100% Mannschaft Schlotterbeck-Hummels hinge.

Le Parc: An arena not so favorable to PSG

Tuesday evening, Paris Saint-Germain will host Borussia Dortmund in its home: the Parc des Princes. Usually, playing at home is obviously recognized as an advantage. However, Paris is going through a complicated period on its lawn. Apart from the victory against Lens on August 26, PSG has not won a match in its setting since May 13 and a 5-0 against Ajaccio, a moment that the Collectif Ultras Parisiens had nevertheless chosen to cease all its activities until at further notice.

Certainly, the defeat against Clermont (June 3) dates back to the Galtier era, but since then, the record is a tasteless draw against Lorient (0-0), a victory against Lens, last in the championship, and a defeat against Nice (2-3). The Park no longer seems to support its players as was the case a few seasons ago. The break with Galtier will perhaps do some good but Enrique’s team will certainly need to be pushed as much as possible against Dortmund, still undefeated this season (2 wins, 2 draws).

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