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Starting XI: Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Manchester United shoot for their fifth straight win in all competitions

Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester United: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Everything that you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s match:

(1) If Manchester United beat Paris Saint-Germain in the penultimate group stage match, they punch their ticket to the Champions League round of sixteen. A draw, too, could be enough if RB Leipzig lose at Istanbul Basaksehir. Unlikely, but not impossible. And, considering the Reds travel to Germany next week — just days before the Manchester derby — advancing early would afford Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the option to rotate his players in the Group H finale.

(2) In the October win at PSG, Solskjaer outmaneuvered the heavily-favored hosts by playing three at the back and cutting them apart on the break. Sadly, a reprisal of those tactics might be impossible after Axel Tuanzebe picked up a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. The 23-year-old defender turned in the performance of his life in the first match, shutting down Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the process. With Tuanzebe unavailable on Wednesday and a raft of other banged-up United defenders, Solskjaer might not have enough healthy central defenders to play a back three.

(3) Edinson Cavani’s star turn at Southampton must be rewarded with a start in midweek. The Uruguayan adds an important new dimension to this Manchester United squad, especially when the inside channels get bogged down with defenders. His movement and skill in the air was evident at St. Mary’s and could prove essential if PSG — as Thomas Tuchel hinted last week — play deeper on Wednesday to deny United space.

(4) All you need to know about the Southampton win:

(5) Solskjaer on the injured Paul Pogba and David De Gea:

Paul’s ankle is improving. Hopefully, he’s on the grass training today [Sunday]. If not, hopefully tomorrow [Monday]. I’m not sure if it takes a long time to recover, but hopefully he’s ready for Wednesday.

A knock just above the knee, so hopefully [De Gea] will be okay for Wednesday, but we don’t know. Let’s have a little scan or check tomorrow [Monday], but Dean came on and looked very assured.

(6) Thomas Tuchel finds himself on very thin ice at the Parc des Princes. Despite reaching the Champions League final just a few months ago, PSG’s 2020/21 season hasn’t quite gone to plan. They’ve already lost three times in Ligue 1 and face the galling prospect of crashing out of the Champions League in the group stage. Such an indignity, especially for the European Cup-obsessed PSG board, would likely spell the end for Tuchel.

(7) And Saturday’s 2-2 draw with mid-table Bordeaux will do nothing to turn down that pressure. PSG scored twice in as many minutes in the first half — Neymar sent the goalkeeper the wrong way on a penalty and then unleashed a long-range screamer that Moise Kean stabbed home on the rebound — but failed to hold the lead. In fact, Bordeaux outshot PSG 14-5 in the second half and came close to a winner on several occasions.

(8) After the Bordeaux draw, Tuchel dished out some uncharacteristically tough talk:

Normally, I always protect my team, but today I totally disagree. It is not necessary to lose points a second time like that after Monaco [3-2 loss on November 20]. We lost the second half and it is absolutely our responsibility — mine, too.

We must see another PSG against Manchester. It is not possible to play a match of this level. I don’t understand why we don’t take our responsibilities, why we don’t play more seriously.

(9) Last week, PSG held on for a vital 1-0 win over RB Leipzig to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Neymar scored from the spot in the 11th minute and then Les Parisiens successfully withstood an onslaught from their German visitors. Not exactly an impressive performance, but three priceless points and a morale boost for PSG’s much-maligned defense. A string of injuries, the loss of Thiago Silva, and the baffling regression of Abdou Diallo have all conspired to rob PSG of its once-formidable backline.

(10) While the PSG frontline of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria inspires fear in defenses all across Europe, the same can’t be said for their pressing prowess. They press high up the pitch only when it suits them — Mbappe being the biggest offender — which leaves the Idrissa Gueye-less midfield with a lot to do. Perhaps the urgency of Wednesday’s match will help Tuchel coax a little more defensive effort out of his star attackers.

(11) Neymar knows that PSG must raise their game to stand a chance on Wednesday: