PSG’s first Champions League semifinal in 25 years will be contested against the exciting underdogs RB Leipzig, a club that was founded just 11 years ago.
We’ve picked out two key direct battles that should be fascinating to watch on an occasion that’s almost impossible to predict.
🇦🇹🇸🇳 Key battle: Marcel Sabitzer vs Idrissa Gueye
It’s difficult to second-guess exactly how Leipzig might line up but midfield maestro Marcel Sabitzer a forward-thinking central operator with a natural tendency to drift out wide, the position from which he supplied their opening goal against Atletico.
With Marco Verratti likely to be absent from the base of PSG’s midfield once again, much of the defensive responsibilities in the engine room will fall to Idrissa Gueye. With Thomas Tuchel likely to switch to a narrower 4-2-2-2 system, Gueye and Marquinhos will be tasked with disrupting the invention of Sabitzer and Christopher Nkunku between PSG’s lines. This will be a critical area.
🇫🇷🇧🇷 Key battle: Dayot Upamecano vs Neymar
If you hadn’t yet heard the name of Dayot Upamecano before this season’s Champions League season, you certainly do now. At 21 years old the Frenchman is already the cornerstone, leader and lieutenant of Leipzig’s defence. Upamecano was immense against Atletico Madrid, a towering presence in the air and confident on the ball. All of that supreme confidence will be required against Neymar, a man who completed 16 dribbled against Atalanta, doing pretty much everything to hurt Atalanta’s defenders except finding the back of the net.
If PSG boss Tuchel opts for a 4-2-2-2, it will be Neymar and Angel Di Maria driving from midfield to supply chances for Kylian Mbappé and Mauro Icardi (who looked isolated on the right in the quarterfinals). A formation switch will hand Neymar even more creative license and freedom to get at the heart of Leipzig with his directness and dazzling dribbling in tandem with the explosive pace and power of Mbappé. That beating heart is Upamecano, who faces a daunting set of challenges on the biggest night of his career, but it should get the best out of this supremely talented young man.
🧮 Likely starting XIs
🔴 Leipzig (3-4-2-1):
Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Halstenberg; Kampl, Sabitzer, Laimer, Angelino; Olmo, Nkunku; Poulsen
🔵 PSG (4-2-2-2):
Rico; Kehrer, Thiago Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat; Marquinhos, Gueye; Di María, Neymar; Mbappé, Icardi