Kylian Mbappe and Neymar always give Paris Saint-Germain a chance. Bayern Munich found that to their cost last week as the former scored one and the latter assisted two in a 3-2 win at the Allianz Arena. With the defending European champions in Paris for the Champions League quarter-final second, the pair were once again expected to sparkle.
In a sense, they did. Time and time again, Mbappe and Neymar burst in behind the Bayern Munich high line at speed, giving the visitors to the Parc des Princes all sorts of problems. On another night, they would have scored at least a couple more to make the aggregate scoreline more comfortable.
But with Mbappe and Neymar more wasteful than usual it was up to PSG’s unsung heroes to get the job done and secure the club’s place in the Champions League’s final four. When it mattered most, when Bayern Munich were pressing for a second goal that would have sent them through instead, it was these players that made the difference.
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Danilo Pereira was a standout performer at centre back, moved into an unfamiliar position due to the absence of Marquinhos. Nobody made more clearances (eight) than the Portuguese, illustrating how he was willing to do the dirty work at the back in the face of intense pressure.
Idrissa Gueye was another who did his bit to ensure PSG didn’t suffer another second leg collapse in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, breaking up Bayern Munich’s play through the centre of the pitch. Nobody made more tackles (six) than the former Everton man.
Colin Dagba was another who helped PSG over the line, coping well with the double threat of Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies down his wing. The 22-year-old played on the edge at times, particularly when faced with the lightning pace of Davies, but his doggedness was enough to disrupt Bayern Munich’s rhythm. This was especially impressive given Dagba had to play 35 minutes on a yellow card.
This is where Mauricio Pochettino’s has given PSG an extra edge in the Champions League. The French outfit made the competition’s final for the first time last season, but when their big hitters struck out they had nobody else to make up the runs. Pochettino is getting more out of PSG’s squad as a whole than Thomas Tuchel did.
Kylian Mbappé esulta dopo il successo del PSG contro il Bayern
Image credit: Imago
Of course, Pochettino will need his best players, primarily Mbappe and Neymar, to be sharper against Manchester City in the semi finals. He would have needed them to be sharper had Robert Lewandowski been fit enough to feature over the two legs of the quarter-final for Bayern Munich. The Polish striker could have changed the dynamic of the tie. He surely would have found the back of the net at least once.
Nonetheless, Pochettino can take encouragement from the resolve of the players he has around him. PSG’s mental strength has been questioned in the past,with the club a frequent target for mocking and derision, but they have recently ground it out in Champions League second legs against both Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Psychological hurdles have been cleared in the process.
City will present a true test of PSG’s credentials in the next round, but the Qatari-owned club has never appeared closer to finally achieving their ultimate objective than they are now. The mental barriers are seemingly gone and while Mbappe and Neymar are undoubtedly still the men who can do the most damage Pochettino now knows what else he has in his dressing room.
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