Atalanta vs PSG
Estadio do Sporto Lisboa e Benfica, Da Luz
Wednesday, 12-08-2020 @10pm
Ref: Anthony Taylor (Sevilla)
It is August and the Champions League Quarter finals are just starting! Strange times call for strange measures but we are finally here.
The first clash of the last 8 pits Italy’s free scoring Atalanta against PSG in Lisbon.
Things did not start well for Atalanta, who were run over in their first three games in the competition, losing to Dinamo Zagreb, Manchester City and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Italian outfit required a change of fortune and as luck would have it, they got it.
PSG on the other hand, were relatively untroubled in the group stages, registering five wins and one draw.
The best of the lot came against Real Madrid at Parc des Princes, winning 3-0. They qualified from the group with the third-highest goals scored (17) and fewest goals conceded (2). But they had bigger fish to fry, after getting drawn against an in-form Borussia Dortmund.
After an underwhelming first half in the Signal Iduna Park, fans were treated to three goals within the space of eight minutes. The first of the lot was scored by Erling Braut Haaland, cancelled out by Neymar in the 75th minute. The Norwegian was having none of it and struck a lightning bolt of a shot from outside the box which reached the back of the net before you could see it.
The second leg was easier this time for the team from the French capital, who made no mistake in the second half after taking a 2-0 lead by the end of the first, cementing their place in the next round.
Gian Piero Gasperini has only one significant concern ahead of the game, which comes in the form of his Champions League top scorer Josip Ilicic. Ilicic failed to make the squad of any Atalanta game since the draw against Juventus one month ago. Recent reports suggest that the Slovenian has returned to his home country for unknown personal reasons and is a doubt for the game.
While Gasperini’s intentions for his defence and midfield are pretty much clear, he has continually shuffled with the offensive structure. That said, we are expecting Duvan Zapata to lead the line, as he has so often done this season, especially in the absence of Ilicic.
Alejandro Gomez will occupy the spot on the left as an attacking midfielder-cum-winger and will be given a free role. Mario Pasalic will mirror the same function on the right.
Marten de Roon and Remo Freuler will retain their spots as the first-choice central midfielders in their famous double pivot. It will, however, not be too surprising to see Ruslan Malinovski start as one of the midfielders, if Atalanta shift to a front two with Gomez and Zapata.
The Ukrainian adds the element of surprise thanks to his incredible accuracy with long shots.
Timothy Castagne and the brilliant Robin Gosens will flank the midfield as wing-backs. Still, they will drop back to form a five-man backline, where Rafael Toloi, Jose Luis Palomino and Berat Djimsiti will be waiting in the heart of the Atalanta defence. These defenders will be screening goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.
PSG have been handed a huge boost as Kylian Mbappe returned to training even though he was ruled out for three weeks after injuring his ankle against Saint-Etienne in the final of the Coupe de France.
That said, they are still without the services of Marco Verratti and Layvin Kurzawa, who are injured, and Angel Di Maria, who is suspended.
Tuchel is not one to shy away from experimenting with his team structure ahead of a big game in order to squeeze the best out of them. We expect him to go for a 4-3-3 as he will be without some key players.
Keylor Navas will hold the fort between the sticks for the Parisians. Screening him, Presnel Kimpembe and Thiago Silva will start as the centre-halves, while Juan Bernat and Thilo Kehrer will provide width from the back.
Despite losing Verratti, Tuchel has multiple options to choose from in the centre of the park. Marquinhos is expected to occupy the holding midfield role, as he has so often this season, arched by Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera. Leandro Paredes is fit as well and could feature from the bench.
Julian Draxler has been completely overlooked in friendlies and cup finals for PSG since the resumption, playing a sum of 115 minutes in six games and starting none of those games. He also ended the game against Borussia Dortmund on the bench.
The German should miss out again and since the game might have come too soon for Mbappe to feature from the off, Pablo Sarabia should start on the right wing. Neymar and Mauro Icardi will complete the front three for PSG against Atalanta.
This is the first game between Atalanta and Paris Saint-Germain in the history of the two clubs. PSG have scored the joint second-highest goals in the UEFA Champions League so far (20) and conceded the fewest (4). Josip Ilicic became the oldest player to score a hat-trick away from home in the Champions League when he did so against Valencia; he also became the only player to score four goals away from home. PSG have kept a clean sheet in six of their last eight matches in the Champions League. The only time they did not do so was against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Atalanta have scored at least three goals in each of their last three matches in the Champions League (3-0, 4-1, 4-3).
The other upcoming Champions League Quarter final games
-RB Leipzig vs Atletico Madrid @10pm
-Barcelona vs Bayern Munich @10pm
-Man City vs Olympique Lyon @10pm