Napoli 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain: 5 Talking Points, UEFA Champions League 2018-19
It was a tense affair as the Parisian giants drew with the Partenopei at the Stadio San Paolo on the evening, with both sides coming off feeling like they could've taken all the points available on the night.
Liverpool's loss to Red Star Belgrade before the start of the game made it a really important game for both teams if they wanted to progress without hiccups to the next round, and both failed to make the most of it, as the qualifying race in Group C is now split wide open.
It was also Edinson Cavani's first return to his former club, from which he was pried away five years ago when PSG was still in the process of becoming the commercial and footballing juggernaut that they are. It wasn't a homecoming to remember for the Uruguayan hitman as he was left on the bench by German tactician Thomas Tuchel, along with Adrien Rabiot.
Tuchel went with a 3-4-3 formation on the night to try and get a result against former Paris coach and Ligue 1 winner Carlo Ancelotti, who now reigns in the Napoli dug-out. He has made this truly impressive Napoli side look even better in his tenure so far, which is a huge compliment considering how attractive and effective their level of football was under now Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri. Tuchel started Di Maria out wide on the right instead of Cavani down the middle, and Rabiot was benched for Julian Draxler.
His calm, gum chewing opposite number set his team up in a 4-4-2 that looked like a 6-2-2 when they were defending as the wingers or one of the midfielders doubled up on the wings to minimize the threat posed by Mbappe and Neymar, two of the world's best attacking talents. Here are the observations from this entertaining, draining fixture.
#1 PSG fail to turn up when it matters the most yet again
Over the past 7 years since their takeover, Paris Saint-Germain have gone on to add a litany of stars in their ranks such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham, Edinson Cavani to name a few, and have completely revamped everything that existed at the club before they became one of the big boys.
They now are in possession of the biggest club coffers, some of the World's most mercurial talents, and look on the brink of something special. But that's it. On the brink of something.
Every season the club begins with the ambition of winning the Champions League and every season they beat struggling sides, raising high hopes for fans and neutrals alike, and every season they don't cease to disappoint. But a lot of factors could be considered that kept big ears away from their reach, especially one night of absolutely horrendous refereeing by Deniz Aytekin at the Nou Camp. But that's all in the past now.
Tonight they started the game brightly and were quite unfortunate to go into halftime only 1 goal up, but after the half-time break, they just didn't have the same desire and intensity. Napoli sensed that and capitalized on their glaring weaknesses against a defence which is in need of investment more so than any other spot in the squad.
Thiago Silva, club captain, gave away a stupid penalty at the hour mark after a foul on Jose Callejon from behind, and Lorenzo Isigne calmly stroked it past the reach of the outstretched veteran Buffon.
No more excuses can be given now, and if the players fail to up their levels against clubs that can put up more of a fight than Nantes, they'd tarnish not only their club's but also their own legacies.