By Ssekamatte Allan Mabiriizi Simonsen
European football’s two most lavish projects are up for assessment when Paris Saint Germain host Manchester City at the Parc des Princes in a dream Champions League showdown Tuesday night.
The pair have gatecrashed soccer’s high table following a decade of backing from cash rich City States, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, but are yet to break their continental duck.
Both are hungrier for what has become a Holy Grail after taking turns to emerge as runner ups in 2020 and 2021.
PSG will have last year’s bad tempered semifinals loss to City on their minds as they aim to go one better than the 2020 finals loss to Bayern Munich.
City manager Pep Guardiola is aching for atonement for last June’s 0-1 finals loss to Chelsea in a game in which his tinkering saw him catastrophically fail to field a single holding midfielder.
Similar tinkering had also cost the Premier League champions in previous campaigns against lesser sides Monaco, Olympique Lyon and Tottenham Hotspur.
Although the Spaniard got closure on that loss by topping the Londoners 1-0 in a tactical masterclass on Saturday, Guardiola won the last of his two Champions League trophies ten years ago when his star player was Lionel Messi. The Argentine genius is now plying his trade in Paris.
PSG are managed by former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino, who masterminded victory over Pep’s City at the semifinal stage in 2019 but he has been at pains to play down his team’s chances despite last summer’s arrival of the competition’s second highest scorer of all time, Messi; insisting his side are a collection of superstars – not a superb team.
Indeed, his team has been anything but convincing despite storming to seven straight victories in Ligue One. Bookmakers have the Premier League champions as slight favourites to top this epic rubber.
In the same G, RB Leipzig’s on form attacking midfielder Christopher Nkunku, who grabbed a hat-trick in his side’s 3-6 reversal at the hands of City on Matchday one, will be a marked man when his side host Belgian champions Club Brugge.
The visitors are no pushovers, having out-duelled Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a 1-1 draw on the opening day. Tuesday also sees Ajax Amsterdam’s reborn front man Sebastian Haller try to replicate his four-goal haul in a memorable victory at Sporting Lisbon when Eric Ten Hag’s four-time champions host Besiktas.
2019 titlists Liverpool are meanwhile aiming to banish their patchy away record at Porto, Thomas Tuchel’s reigning champions Chelsea travel to Juventus and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s three-time European champions Manchester United are at home to Villarreal in a repeat of last year’s Europa League final which ended in a penalty shoot out loss for the Red Devils.
Solskjaer says his team are raring to go after a difficult week in which dodgy form saw the Old Trafford side fall to losses to Young Boys Berne, West Ham United and Aston Villa.
-Paris Saint Germain v Manchester City
-RB Leipzig v Club Brugge
-Ajax Amsterdam v Besiktas
-Dortmund v Sporting Lisbon
-Shakhtar Donetsk v Inter Milan
-AC Milan v Atletico Madrid
-FC Porto v Liverpool
-Real Madrid v Sheriff Tiraspol
-Atalanta v Young Boys
-Man United v Villarreal
-Juventus v Chelsea
-Zenit St Petersburg v Malmo
-Bayern Munich v Dynamo Kiev
-Benfica v Barcelona
-Wolfsburg v Sevilla
-RB Salzburg v Lille