LINE: RB Leipzig +340 | Draw +290 | PSG -129
KICK OFF: Tuesday, August 18th, 3PM EST
WHERE: Estadio do Sport, Lisbon, Portugal
WATCH: CBS All Access
It took some doing, but Paris Saint-Germain FINALLY made it to a Champions League semi-finals and abolished their bottlers’ tag (at least for the time being). It surely wasn’t the prettiest, Atalanta’s lack of concentration or energy played its part, but PSG showed enough grit & determination to indicate they’re ready to go all the way this time.
But now comes up a threat unlike any other in Europe. RB Leipzig are led by the competition’s youngest & arguably wisest coach Julian Nagelsmann – who was incidentally the assistant manager of PSG boss Thomas Tuchel many years back. It’ll be an interesting battle of wits decided by individual brilliance – which PSG have in bulks.
With Neymar looking at his outrageous best, Kylian Mbappe back to tormenting defenders & their X-factor Angel Di Maria back in contention, PSG will go for a dominating win to reiterate their ambitions of winning the whole thing.
RB Leipzig Predicted XI
Gulacsi, Klostermann, Upamecano, Halstenburg, Laimer, Kampl, Sabitzer, Angelino, Olmo, Nkunku, Poulsen
Leipzig will have a fully fit squad, with defender Ibrahima Konate being the only absentee with a hip injury.
PSG Predicted XI
Rico, Kehrer, Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat, Gueye, Marquinhos, Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar, Icardi
The big blow for PSG against Atalanta was Keylor Navas’ injury, which could force Sergio Rico to play in goal. Laywin Kurzawa is out with his long-term injury, while Marco Veratti will need a miracle to start as he continues to recover from his calf knock.
RB Leipzig vs PSG Match Preview
PSG signified a surprising turn in fortunes with a last-gasp winner over Atalanta, after losing so many CL matches in the dying moments (remember Man United last year, Barcelona in 2017?) in the past. Perhaps that’s the biggest improvement Tuchel has made over the last season – overcoming their demons & brandishing a never-say-die attitude.
These players don’t seem to give up or huff & puff their way to defeats anymore. They’ve developed a backbone & are now more confident in their own ability to avoid the jaws of defeat. But their ‘fairytale’ can go in smoke if they repeat their past mistakes years against this deadly Leipzig side.
Tuchel needs to implement his side’s dominance right from the get-go & must not take the overly defensive, boring style which Atletico Madrid tried. It led to Diego Simeone’s doom & could lead to PSG’s as well. They have enough attacking talent to rip apart Leipzig or any backline in Europe.
Neymar, for one, is finally playing like one of the top 3/2 soccer stars on the planet. Excusing his dismal finishing, the Brazilian turned into a magician against Atalanta – making 16(!) dribbles – the most in a single game in UCL history (yes more than Lionel Messi). He’s creative, devastating with his movement and possesses that unpredictable to create something special at the blink of an eye.
If he really wants to enter the ‘best in the world’ debate, the Brazilian must play a blinder against Leipzig. He’ll look to torment their defenders with his silky movement, but needs to be more precise with his final product and not scuff chances. Fortunately, he’ll probably have partner-in-crime (& future Ballon d’Or winner) Mbappe back at his side in the semi-finals.
The Frenchman might’ve been unfit against Atalanta, but still ran rings around their backline before forcing the eventual winner from Eric Choupo-Moting. With his precision, acceleration and sheer class in the final third, Mbappe is built to shine through on such occasions. If Neymar fails, he can rally PSG forward and the vice-versa if he has a bad day. The options really are terrifying in Tuchel’s side.
The third man to fit their puzzle will mostly be the clinical Mauro Icardi, who was almost invisible the other day. Unless the Argentine uses his physique well to pounce into opportunities, he’ll again be replaced by Choupo-Moting – who is an interesting wildcard for Tuchel to use late on. Di Maria is also back to cause that extra mayhem with his dribbles down the left, while his crossing & set-piece prowess will add that extra attacking power.
But it’s PSG’s brittle midfield that looked the most worrying against Atalanta. Idrissa Gueye needs to be more of a N’Golo Kante-esque midfield powerhouse- snatching away possession & encourage Neymar & co forward, while Marquinhos must protect his backline strongly. Leipzig have a very clever, free-flowing style that can rip open the tightest of defences, so leader Thiago Silva & Presnel Kimpembe must keep their concentration levels ultra-high.
Even without goal-machine Timo Werner, the German side have a lot of game-changers in their midst. Dani Olmo’s a firecracker in the final third with his movement & scoring prowess, while Marcel Sabitzer is the key to unlock any backline with either his gorgeous passes or his thunderous shooting.
Youssef Poulsen loves bullying defenders into losing their wits, while former PSG man Christopher N’Kunku’s swagger is occasionally too hot to handle. Nagelsmann’s side will take the game to them & it’ll be an exhilarating, free-flowing semi-final.
The outcome will depend on whether or not the Neymar-Mbappe inspired frontline can destroy Leipzig’s confidence into surrendering the tie – which should be the realistic outcome unless PSG get back to bottling ways.
I think for this season one persistent bottler (yeah Man City that’s you) is out. I think PSG are now mentally/physically strong enough to edge out Leipzig. Expect a narrow 2-1 win for them.