CHRIS SUTTON: Kyle Walker is in for a busy night against Kylian Mbappe
CHRIS SUTTON: Manchester City must find a way to stop Kylian Mbappe and Neymar from firing PSG into the Champions League final… Kyle Walker is in for a busy night against the flying Frenchman
- Manchester City will have all their eyes on Kylian Mbappe and Neymar
- The PSG duo will look for opportunities to counter-attack against City
- Kyle Walker is set for a busy night at full-back against Frenchman Mbappe
First up, how do you stop Kylian Mbappe and Neymar from scoring their way into the Champions League final? That’s the killer conundrum for Manchester City on Wednesday.
Spurs didn’t pose much of a threat on Sunday, but they did have opportunities to counter attack. Paris Saint-Germain have been averaging less than 50 per cent possession in the Champions League this season. They don’t mind letting elite opponents push up on them, because they can exploit the space left behind.
In both quarter-final legs against Bayern Munich, PSG sat in a compact shape when out of possession — but left Mbappe in a very advanced position. Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t about to tie his fastest athlete down to defensive duties. He’s too valuable to the counter attack.
Manchester City will have to stop Kylian Mbappe (left) and Neymar (right) on Wednesday
Neymar, playing at No 10, could spring forward, too. The best way for City to avoid counters is to not lose the ball — so Pep Guardiola is bound to stand by his false nine system.
After beating Dortmund, the City boss explained his XI was based on ‘players that have the ability to not lose the ball’. They didn’t want to give Erling Haaland any chances on the break — and they won’t want to see the blurred backsides of Mbappe and Neymar either.
City also have to be careful down the flanks. PSG didn’t mind giving Bayern space on the wings, and they may afford City that luxury as well.
The Frenchman will look to play on the counter-attack and get in behind City’s full-backs
Kyle Walker is in for a busy night and cannot afford to give Mbappe space in behind
If Guardiola’s full backs fly forward down those empty flanks, then that leaves a lot of room for Mbappe to run into. Kyle Walker is fast, but even he would struggle to catch the Frenchman.
That’s something for City’s full backs to be aware of if they push up the pitch. Walker is in for a busy evening in particular. I’m sure City’s analysts will have warned him how most of Mbappe’s goals come from his side of the pitch.
Neymar, meanwhile, plays slightly deeper and I’m sure Guardiola will have told Rodri not to let him out of his sight.
Overall I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned into a shootout —and that’s a thrilling prospect for us neutrals.
PSG have faced the most shots of any club in the Champions League this season. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have allowed opponents to have 157 attempts on their goal, with Porto the next nearest side on 120.
That’s good news for Manchester City. They will get opportunities to score, both on Wedesday and in the second leg. It’s about whether they can then finish those chances.
Pep Guardiola will likely stick to his system of using a false nine rather than a centre forward
After showcasing some mesmerising football in their Carabao Cup final against Tottenham, City ultimately relied on a set-piece to score. At times it felt like they could have done with a Harry Kane in their team to get on the end of a Kevin De Bruyne ball in behind.
But I don’t think Guardiola will be about to abandon his use of false nines for PSG. City didn’t use a traditional centre forward in either of their Champions League quarter-final legs against Borussia Dortmund, but they won 4-2 on aggregate.
However, they used Gabriel Jesus in their FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea — and lost 1-0. Using a false nine adds another passer into the mix, someone who can produce the short snappy passes that Guardiola wants to maintain possession.
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