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PSG vs Manchester City — 5 Key Battles to watch out for | UEFA Champions League 2020/21

FC Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Leg One
FC Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Leg One
Sai Teja
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French champions Paris Saint-Germain made it to their first-ever UEFA Champions League final last year, but they will have to get past the mighty Manchester City to do so this season.

Pep Guardiola's sky blue juggernaut appears to be simply unstoppable on their rampant path to glory this year as they're a formidable unit offensively as well as on the defensive front. They currently lead the Premier League table by a whopping ten points with just five games left to go.

The Cityzens travel to the Parc des Princes on Wednesday, where PSG haven't been particularly at their best. Mauricio Pochettino's men have lost five of their eight Ligue 1 games and have failed to win their last two UCL fixtures in Paris, and were beaten in their campaign opener by Manchester United at the same venue.

However, the likes of Neymar and Mbappe are always a threat to any side in world football, even for a side as impressive as Manchester City — making their upcoming clash with PSG a brilliant prospect.

On that note, here are five key battles to look forward to during the game.


#5 Layvin Kurzawa vs Riyad Mahrez

RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Group H - UEFA Champions League
RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Group H - UEFA Champions League

Riyad Mahrez took some time to settle into life at Manchester City, but once he did, there's been no looking back. The Algerian has gone on to become one of the most pivotal players for the Cityzens' attack and he's been in excellent touch for Guardiola's side as well.

With Abdou Diallo unlikely to return to fitness for the game, Layvin Kurzawa is likely to be the man chosen to play at left-back. Kurzawa recently returned from injury and played over two quarters of their most recent league game against Metz, suggesting that he could be in line to start the game over Mitchell Bakker.

Kurzawa will be tasked with dealing with the immense threat carried by Mahrez, given that he completes nearly two dribbles a game at a 68% success rate. Manchester City's tricky winger also averages 8.67 progressive carries per game, so the French full-back will have to keep a watchful eye on Mahrez.


Presnel Kimpembe vs Phil Foden

Paris Saint-Germain v FC Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final 3: Leg Two
Paris Saint-Germain v FC Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final 3: Leg Two

Predicting Manchester City's attacking set-up has proven to be a notoriously difficult task in the past, given Guardiola's love for unconventional choices in this regard. However, given Gabriel Jesus' terrible run of form (six goals in 15 games), Phil Foden could potentially reprise his role as their false nine, similar to what he played against Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup final.

With Marquinhos ruled out of the game, the onus of blunting the Englishman's threat will fall on Presnel Kimpembe. The French star was one of their unsung heroes during their run to the final last year and has stepped in to captain the side in Marquinhos' absence.

He's been superb for PSG and has a massive task on his hands as Foden has proven to be a tough player to stop in recent weeks. Foden scored two late winners in his last two UCL appearances for Manchester City to fire them into the semi-finals and will hope to do the same against PSG as well. Only three active players have created more chances in the UCL than him this season (15).


Also read: 5 Players who could replace Fernandinho at Manchester City

#3 Marco Verratti vs Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain: Group H - UEFA Champions League
Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain: Group H - UEFA Champions League

One of the most anticipated battles of the game is the duel between two of the best midfielders Europe has to offer, Kevin De Bruyne and Marco Verratti. De Bruyne, the reigning PFA Player of the Year winner, has brushed off the injury concerns he's had this season and has been in top form. No active player in the UEFA Champions League has registered more assists (four) this campaign.

He will lock horns with PSG's Verratti, who is one of the best deep-lying playmakers in Europe. The diminutive Italian midfielder averages 90 passes per game in the UCL this season along with 8.61 progressive carries and two key passes.

His excellent ability on the ball coupled with 2.78 tackles a game, makes him a formidably well-rounded player in the middle. He will have to be watchful of De Bruyne's presence and avoid giving him too much time and space with the ball at his feet. The Belgian's ability to pick out his teammates anywhere across the pitch with either foot is nearly unparalleled, and will be a huge threat for PSG.


#2 Neymar vs Rodri

Paris Saint-Germain v FC Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final 3: Leg Two
Paris Saint-Germain v FC Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final 3: Leg Two

Usually, pinning Neymar's position down to one area of the pitch is certainly a difficult task as he's given the license to roam all across the final third, picking up the ball in little pockets to hurt the opposition. However, he does have a knack of picking up the ball in central areas, something which Rodri might be tasked with preventing.

Neymar averages a staggering eight goals and assists in the UCL, a figure only second to his teammate Kylian Mbappe — and he is also one of the best creative players in the competition. Only Mbappe (35) has dribbled past a player more times than Neymar's 34 among active players, and the Brazilian has played nearly 250 minutes less than him. Neymar has also averaged 8.25 (!) progressive carries per 90 and creates over two chances a game.

Rodri is Guardiola's go-to man to anchor his midfield either by himself or alongside Fernandinho, and the towering Spaniard will have to be very careful not to afford Neymar any time on the ball. He's one of the most complete attackers of this generation and is capable of hurting the opposition from anywhere in the final third, as he showed against Bayern Munich with to stunning assists for PSG.


#1 Kylian Mbappe vs Ruben Dias

FC Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Leg One
FC Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Leg One

Ruben Dias has managed to pass most of the tests he's faced in his early short career at Manchester City so far with flying colours. However, he will now be up against perhaps the most difficult one of them all as the Cityzens star will be tasked with stopping Kylian Mbappe.

In full flow, Mbappe is nearly unstoppable. The French superstar can play anywhere across the front line but has often lined up as the striker under Pochettino. The 22-year-old delivered one of the most breathtaking displays of the season as he tore Barcelona apart at the Nou Camp with a hat-trick as PSG beat Barcelona by a scoreline of 4-1. Mbappe is the highest goalscorer still active in the competition with eight goals, just two behind Erling Haaland's ten.

His brace delivered a hammer blow to Bayern in the quarter-finals and with a whopping 37 goals across all competitions, Mbappe looks sharper than ever. Dias has had an incredible season in his own right, boasting of the best defence in the competition and contributing to the side with the highest number of clean sheets in Europe.

His battle with Mbappe could arguably be one of the most defining duels across the two legs of the semi-final tie.


Also read: 5 Greatest big-game players in world football right now

Edited by Sai Teja
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