PSG's attack is strong, but Tuchel has big decisions ahead

ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 01, 2019 07:55 AM
PSG's attack is strong, but Tuchel has big decisions ahead
From left: PSG's Leandro Paredes, PSG's Mauro Icardi, PSG's Edinson Cavani, and PSG's Keylor Navas wave to the crowed after the French League One soccer match between PSG and Marseille at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

By Jerome Pugmire, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain's attack is functioning so well the absence of the world's most expensive player and the club's all-time leading scorer have hardly been noticed.

Defending champion PSG tops the French league and has started the Champions League in style. But coach Thomas Tuchel may have a considerable selection problem when Neymar and Edinson Cavani are both fully fit and pushing for a starting place.

Because someone will have to make room for one or both of them, and for the moment it's hard to see who should.

Neymar cost 222 million euros ($247 million) and stayed at the club this summer, despite publicly asking to be sold during the offseason amid persistent interest from former club Barcelona. Before sustaining a left thigh injury playing for Brazil on Oct. 13, he had netted four league goals in a handful of games and looked at his sharp best. He is expected to resume training in about one week's time.

Cavani, who needs only five goals to reach 200 for PSG, came on as a second-half substitute in Sunday's 4-0 home win against Marseille. It was his first appearance since a hip injury in late August and the ovation he received shows how popular the hard-working Uruguay striker has become.

Selling him in the January transfer window would prove unpopular with his devoted fans, even though it looks like the 32-year-old Uruguay striker might need to start looking elsewhere.

Because with Mauro Icardi playing increasingly well and the jet-heeled Kylian Mbappé in scintillating form following an injury — the France star has eight goals and four assists in nine matches — it is difficult to see how Tuchel can include Cavani as a central striker.

Even if he drops Icardi, who has four league goals and another three in the Champions League, it means Mbappé will almost certainly move inside to center forward. This would allow Neymar to be positioned wide left and Angel Di Maria on the right in a powerful three-man attack.

Di Maria almost left the club in the 2018 offseason, with PSG turning down a late bid from Barcelona.

Tuchel fought to keep him and talked about how he considered him to be an important player, and Di Maria is repaying his faith in style.

Prone to inconsistency in the past, the Argentina winger has hit top form with his eye-catching quick feet, rapid-fire passing and clinical finishing. He set up three of the goals against Marseille on Sunday and has five assists in the league to go with his four goals.

In the Champions League he starred in the 3-0 win against Real Madrid, scoring two first-half goals when Neymar, Cavani and Mbappé were all out injured.

PSG tops Group A with nine points, nine goals for and none conceded in three matches. A home win against Bruges on Wednesday will seal qualification for the knockout stages — which is right when Tuchel will have to figure out who he's going to leave out.

Neymar won't be happy on the bench, and neither will Cavani. But one of them will have to miss out.

VILLAS BOAS WOES

André Villas Boas is finding out just how hard it is to turn Marseille's fortunes around.

Routed by PSG, his side went out of the League Cup on Wednesday night after losing 2-1 at Monaco.

The former Tottenham and Chelsea coach had high ambitions when he replaced Rudi Garcia, who had three frustrating seasons in charge of Marseille. Weak defending, established yet aging players, a lack of bite in the tackling and a shaky team spirit were issues during Garcia's tenure.

After just one win in the past seven games, those issues have resurfaced, and Villas Boas must address them fast.

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