Injured Sunday night in Marseille – discomfort in the quadriceps of the right leg – and quickly replaced by Pablo Sarabia (12th), Angel Di Maria is too fair to be restored on Tuesday February 16 and the trip to Barcelona, as confirmed by PSG this Tuesday. For this round of 16 first leg of the Champions League at Camp Nou, Mauricio Pochettino mainly has three men to face the package of his compatriot: Gana Gueye, Rafinha or Pablo Sarabia. Our journalists each defend their point of view, one week away from the European shock.
Gueye, volume option
Dominique Sévérac’s opinion:
The Senegalese can indiscriminately evolve in a 4-2-3-1, the system that has the preferences of Mauricio Pochettino, as in 4-3-3, if the new PSG coach chooses to densify his midfield. In the first diagram, he is associated with the recovery from Leandro Paredes, allows Marco Verratti to remain in his role as a free runner-up midfielder, with an attack made up of Neymar on the left, Kylian Mbappé on the right and Mauro Icardi alone in front. Angel Di Maria being irreplaceable post for post because of too little competition (neither Pablo Sarabia nor Moise Kean nor Julian Draxler have the shoulders strong enough for this round of 16 first leg), the Gueye option allows both PSG to keep its tactical consistency and to “strengthen” in the middle with more activity.
The former Lille, who has not always met expectations since he signed to PSG in the summer of 2019, has a large volume of racing in a match where it will be necessary to run and compensate for the lack of attackers, who are sometimes reluctant to provide defensive efforts. The fewer attackers lined up at kick-off, the less this problem will arise. The presence of the Fantastic Four in the Champions League has never been the assurance of a successful collective performance. Like Paredes, Gueye possesses a heavy ball strike even though he doesn’t use it enough. Without Neymar, it was he who started in Marseille in the 4-2-3-1 of Paris, a sign that the Argentine coach was already thinking of him from the perspective of Barcelona.
Rafinha, control option
Sébastien Nieto’s opinion:
Barça has found “his” style in recent weeks thanks to a historic 4-3-3. And Ronald Koeman, the Catalan coach, does not ask the question of the “offensive” profile of the two midfielders located above captain Sergio Busquets. Pedri and Frenkie De Jong are “jugones”, as they say in Spain, creators with an offensive edge. Mauricio Pochettino is in search of an identity. He announced it and it is also the roadmap that Leonardo, the sports director, recently recalled in an interview with France Football.
So why not respond to Koeman with the presence of PSG “jugones” Marco Verratti and Rafinha? The Brazilian knows Barça by heart having played there from 2006 to 2020, a stage interspersed with three loans. His left paw would be the counterpart of Verratti’s right paw. Control, mastery of the tempo, technique, quality of passing, Rafinha brings together many different qualities to replace Di Maria numerically in this team.
Especially since Thiago Alcantara’s brother knows just as well how to tackle defensive tasks as a Sarabia or a Gueye. “Attacking” or “defensive” midfielders are illusions. Verratti is the perfect example, like Xavi, Iniesta, Kroos or Modric. Involvement and movement matter more than just position. By establishing Rafinha, Pochettino would opt for panache, a conquering style of play, with the idea of winning at Camp Nou and not of remaining cautious or arriving with a form of reluctance.
Sarabia, a reliable option
Frédéric Gouaillard’s opinion:
To say that Pablo Sarabia is not having his best time with Paris Saint-Germain is not completely wrong. The period of confinement somewhat altered the dynamics of the former Sevillian who landed at PSG in the summer of 2019.
The last match in Marseille (2-0), where he replaced Di Maria after 11 minutes of play and delivered a relatively neutral performance, confirmed this trend. But Sarabia (4 goals this season) is an element that any coach knows they can count on in important meetings. The right winger, who can also evolve on the left, was, for example, the founding victory against Dortmund (2-0), on March 11, while Kylian Mbappé with the flu had to withdraw at the last minute. He had also delivered an assist that night.
The Spaniard knows how to get up to the level of major events, he had participated in the relentless Parisian victory against Real Madrid (3-0) in the group stage of the Champions League in September 2019, to the important success in Galatasaray (1-0), without Mbappé and Neymar, two weeks later, and scored a superb goal on the Bernabeu lawn during the precious draw snatched in November in Madrid (2-2).
Tuchel would have said that he is a “reliable” player and, what is more, never stingy with his efforts. His defensive folds, during these very high level meetings, can be counted in the tens. And the PSG will need this profile of attacker able to multiply the efforts in the two parts of the ground, next Tuesday at Camp Nou.
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr