Everything that you need to know ahead of Tuesday’s match:
(1) On Saturday, Manchester United put together a complete performance for the first time in this infant Premier League season. Without the suspended Anthony Martial and unfit Mason Greenwood, the Reds nevertheless attacked from the off and a late flurry of goals delivered the blowout 4-1 scoreline that Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, et al. deserved. Even the beleaguered Harry Maguire righted his ship with a headed equalizer and composed day in defense.
(2) While the early moments of 2020/21 have been more dire than inspired, the coming match against Paris Saint-Germain is just reward for Manchester United’s strong finish to last season. At times last year, the Champions League seemed worlds away — but, as Chelsea and Leicester City sputtered down the stretch, United capped off a torrid finish by nosing both to third. Now, the Reds are back at Europe’s main table.
(3) Paul Pogba didn’t start on Tyneside, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt the Frenchman performed well off the bench:
Paul had some back and hip problems when he was away with France, so it wasn’t right to start him today. We’ve got many big games coming up. Everyone has to perform when they come on, we’ve got competition for places. I’m delighted with everyone today and Paul put a good performance in when he came on.
(4) Although Edinson Cavani starting against former club PSG makes for a thrilling storyline, Anthony Martial is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s likely choice to lead the line. Martial’s suspension only applies to domestic matches — what happens in England, stays in England — so Cavani will be needed from the off this weekend. The Uruguayan should get some minutes at the Parc des Princes, if only to shake off the rust, but Martial up top makes the most sense.
Edinson Cavani has arrived.— Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) October 18, 2020
And just in time to face PSG on Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/l4djE57dHG
(5) No other side in the world boasts an attack like PSG’s — and that’s bad news for a Manchester United defense that has run aground this season. Even without the injured Mauro Icardi, Thomas Tuchel can unleash an attacking troika of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria that’s almost impossible to defend. For Manchester United to get a good result on Tuesday, the whole team — from the wings to midfield — must pitch in defensively. No one likes to saddle attacking players with defensive responsibilities, but PSG leaves you no choice.
(6) For Paris Saint-Germain, Tuesday presents an opportunity to exorcise the demons of March 6, 2019. That night, Manchester United shocked the Parisian crowd — and wider football world — with a 3-1 win to knock PSG out of the Champions League. That result cemented Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hold on the top job at Manchester United and, at least for a while, ended the board’s dalliance with Mauricio Pochettino.
(7) For a club that’s won seven Ligue 1 titles in eight years and just reached the Champions League final in August, PSG aren’t exactly on cloud nine. Shortly after the heartbreak of losing to Bayern Munich, Covid-19 swept through Thomas Tuchel’s squad — sidelining standouts like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, Leandro Paredes, Marquinhos, and Keylor Navas ahead of the new season.
(8) Once all recovered, though, PSG quickly returned to their superhuman best. They’ve won five Ligue 1 matches in a row by a combined 16-1 scoreline and, at least for the moment, sit atop the league table. On Friday night, Les Parisiens blitzed Nimes Olympique 4-0 behind a brace from Kylian Mbappe and goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Pablo Sarabia. With ten players missing through injury — more on that in a minute — PSG didn’t miss a beat.
(9) The same can’t be said off the pitch, as tensions have erupted between Tuchel and the club board. After a fiery back and forth with sports director Leonardo over the lack of summer signings, Tuchel ultimately won out with a passel of deadline day additions. PSG queued up at the Barcelona fire sale and came home with midfielder Rafinha on a free transfer. Danilo Pereira arrived from Porto, Moise Kean from Everton on loan, and Alessandro Florenzi from AS Roma to round out the squad. Astute signings, albeit a bit short on defenders.
(10) Marco Verratti. Mauro Icardi. Marquinhos. Julian Draxler. Thilo Kehrer. All injured and, at best, questionable for Tuesday. “We have a bit of bad luck with players,” Tuchel said before the Nimes win. Add in Danilo Pereira, who’s sidelined until testing negative for Covid-19 after close contact with Cristiano Ronaldo, and this is a full-blown injury crisis.
(11) Even if blighted by injury, there’s little to quibble with in the PSG attack or engine room. The same can’t be said about their defense, which will creak and groan under pressure. And that’s at the best of times. Marquinhos, club captain and leader of the backline, is doubtful after injuring his thigh with Brazil. Juan Bernat, no spring chicken to begin with, is on the shelf after knee surgery. Thiago Silva jetted off to Chelsea this summer. If Marquinhos can’t go on Tuesday, expect Abdou Diallo to partner Presnel Kimpembe in central defense, with Florenzi on the right and Mitchel Bakker (nominated for the UEFA Golden Boy award) on the left.