Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel will have his work cut out as he comes up with a starting XI for the first leg of his side’s Champions League last 16 tie away to Manchester United on Tuesday.
United will be buoyed by PSG‘s recent injury crisis as they look to continue their fine run of form since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and dismissal of Jose Mourinho seven weeks ago.
“We have not got a second Neymar or a second [Edinson] Cavani for that matter,” Tuchel complained.
On top of losing key men Neymar and Cavani, PSG will also be without Thomas Meunier who picked up a knock against Bordeaux, along with Adrien Rabiot who has been forced to train with the reserves after refusing to sign a new deal with the club.
Lassana Diarra is another player who will not be available for the clash, with the club hoping that he will terminate his contract and fashion a move away from the club.
The January transfer market left much to be desired for Tuchel and his team.
He reportedly asked for two new central midfielders out of Everton‘s Idrissa Gueye, Watford‘s Abdoulaye Doucoure, Lille’s Thiago Mendes and Zenit Saint Petersburg‘s Leandro Paredes, the latter being the only one to arrive in a deal worth 47 million euros.
It is rumoured that Tuchel‘s spat with sporting director Antero Henrique has come as a direct result of Henrique‘s failure to bring in the desired transfer targets.
PSG‘s only silver lining is the return of Marco Verratti, who recovered against Bordeaux after it initially looked like he would be a doubt as well.
It still remains unclear who will start for the French champions against United, even the goalkeeper position is still up for grabs, although it is believed that Gianluigi Buffon stands a slightly better chance of featuring ahead of his teammate, Alphonse Areola.
Thiago Silva, Juan Bernat, Marquinhos, Verratti, Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Kylian Mbappe and the recently recovered Dani Alves are all expected to start.
The remaining places are still up for grabs and it looks as though they will be given to Presnel Kimpembe, Paredes and Thilo Kehrer.
Stay faithful to their normal formation
By sticking with their recent formations of either 4-4-2 or 4-2-2-2, Tuchel would have to shape up with the two full-backs, Dani Alves and Juan Bernat.
In addition to that, he would have to make a decision between opting for Marquinhos to play alongside Thiago Silva or playing him just in front of the defence alongside Verratti as he has done on several occasions this season.
Di Maria and Draxler would more than likely feature on the wings, with Mbappe and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting leading the attack.
The former Stoke City man has only managed to score one goal in 685 minutes in all competitions, so it is doubtful that he would be risked in such a high-profile fixture.
Revert to 4-3-3
Tuchel started the season by opting for Unai Emery‘s favoured 4-3-3 formation, however over the course of the season he has been using it less and less frequently, so it seems unlikely that he would revert to it in such an important tie.
Even more so given the absence of both Neymar and Cavani, which leaves them short for numbers in attack.
In order to be able to line up like this, Kimpembe would play alongside Thiago Silva at the heart of the PSG defence, Marquinhos would move forward into a defensive midfielder role with Verratti and Paredes playing just in front of him.
The front three would then consist of Draxler, Di Maria and Mbappe.
Three in defence
Tuchel could also employ one of his favourite formations, 3-4-1-2 or a slight variation in the form of 3-5-2.
Playing with either one of these, however, would leave him with fewer options as he would be forced to play Choupo-Moting from the beginning.
Dani Alves and Bernat would start as wing-backs.
The doubt comes with whether Marquinhos would make up a back three of himself, Thiago Silva and Kimpembe, or whether he would be employed just in front of the centre backs which, if so, would open the door to Kehrer and would see Paredes sacrificed to the bench.
Di Maria and Draxler would be used as attacking midfielders with the job of unlocking United‘s defence and utilizing Mbappe‘s raw pace in the process.