Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have struggled in recent weeks to maintain the peak form that characterised their start to the season, although they have remained hot on the heels of league leaders Manchester City. Tonight, they return to the Champions League with a chastising 2-0 defeat by Crvena Zvezda still burning in their memories. A win tonight could put Liverpool into the last 16 – depending on the outcome of the other game in the group – and defeat would all but eliminate PSG.
The Parisians have a 100% record domestically under new boss Thomas Tuchel, but have won just one of their four games so far in continental competition. They’ll be gunning for revenge here after a late goal at Anfield cost them a point in the group’s opening game, but will we see once again the huge gap between PSG’s dominant Ligue 1 form and their level of achievement in Europe? This will be a fascinating battle between two managers who made their names at Borussia Dortmund.
Paris St Germain vs Liverpool Prediction: Paris St Germain 2-2 Liverpool
The issue that has plagued PSG over the years still seems to be biting at their heels this time around. Their side is a collection of highly-talented individuals, many of whom seem to be nauseated at the idea of sacrificing any personal glory for the team collective. Generally, that’s good enough to win titles in France, but it has seen them struggle to overcome Europe’s best on a consistent basis. Nonetheless, they do have Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani, and they can score against anyone. However, to stop Liverpool you need to defend as a team, and no-one imagines that this PSG side are about to start doing that. A draw is a pretty realistic prospect.
Our recommended tip: Henderson Gets Carded
This game should, in the main, see two attacking teams going end-to-end seeking to outscore their opponents. However, there are players on the field whose job is to make that harder, and in the face of thrilling attackers such as those on show that can sometimes mean smart tactical fouling. Henderson might not have the grace of Mo Salah nor the close control of Roberto Firmino, but he can trip counter-attacking forwards 60 yards from goal to prevent his defence being outnumbered, and there’s a pretty decent 11/4 (3.75) on offer from Unibet that he’ll see a card of any colour tonight
The Anfield leg of this head-to-head was the first time these sides have met in a competitive game, and it showed both teams’ strengths and weaknesses better than any diagram ever could. Liverpool’s thrilling, quick football saw them into a 2-0 lead after 36 minutes through Daniel Sturridge and a James Milner penalty. A lapse of concentration then saw them let PSG back in, with Thomas Meunier firing home on 40 minutes.
As PSG failed to get much going against Liverpool’s pressing system, it looked like the home side would be able to play out time, but then the irrepressible Mbappe scored on 83 minutes from his first chance of the night. A point rescued? Well, this is PSG, so no. A minute into injury time, PSG’s failure to defend from the front came back to bite them as Liverpool broke forward and Firmino delivered the decisive blow for a 3-2 win.
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Players to watch: Neymar & Roberto Firmino
There is no doubting Neymar’s talent – neither should there be, given the £200million transfer fee he fetched in moving to PSG. We all know what he can do, and in full flow there are few players who can hold a candle to him. However … that thing we said about PSG not defending as a team? That starts with Neymar. If a forward loses the ball, their first responsibility is to seek to win it back, or at least press the opposition to make a counter-attack harder. Until the former Barcelona man ceases to believe such donkey work is beneath him, he won’t be on a par with Ronaldo nor Messi.
Firmino, a teammate of Neymar’s at international level, is everything is compatriot is not. Industrious, committed and a genuine team player, Liverpool’s Brazilian forward will chase everything from the first minute to the last. He’s also pretty good at putting the ball in the net when it counts, snagging 11 goals in last season’s Champions League, and two in four so far this time around. Firmino’s work-rate makes it easier for the players around him, so even when he’s not scoring, he’s making things happen. Also, he cost about a fifth of what Neymar did, so it’s hard to argue Liverpool didn’t get the better deal.