Manchester City will travel to Parc des Princes to face PSG in a blockbuster Champions League clash on Tuesday night, and Pep Guardiola could be boosted by the absence of his former star Lionel Messi.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Argentine since his high-profile move from Barcelona, and he is facing a late race to be passed fit to face Guardiola and City for the match.
PSG were stunned in the opening game of the group stage after being held to a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge in Belgium, and will be out to claim victory to remain within range of City at the top of the group.
Keylor Navas is likely continue in goal, and the back four should remain the same as it has often been all season – Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe together in the middle with Achraf Hakimi on the right and Abdou Diallo at left-back.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s experience against City could be called upon despite his early PSG struggles, joining the midfield alongside Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera, both of whom have been in outstanding goalscoring form from seemingly out of nowhere.
Messi has a lot of work to do to pass himself fit, and it is more likely that he will make the bench if he is available to be in the matchday squad at all.
That will likely leave Julian Draxler to partner Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the front three, with Angel Di Maria suspended after his red card against City at the quarter-final stage of last season’s tournament.
Mauricio Pochettino had the beating of Guardiola and City a number of times during his tenure at Tottenham, and he will hope his Les Parisiens can follow in the footsteps of his former side here.
But City will have the confidence of knocking PSG out last season and are looking strong after an impressive away victory against Chelsea at the weekend.
Ederson will remain in goal, while Oleksandr Zinchenko’s injury will likely force Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo into the full-back positions again.
John Stones is back fit again, but he is unlikely to be risked in the starting XI straight away, leaving Aymeric Laporte to partner Ruben Dias at centre half.
After making his return at Stamford Bridge, Rodri could be rested ahead of a crunch match with Liverpool this weekend, allowing Fernandinho to come back into the side.
Ilkay Gundogan is unlikely to be ready to play, so Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden should complete the midfield trio for the 2021 runners-up.
Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez both came off the bench against Chelsea and should be ready to start, with Gabriel Jesus keeping his place in the XI after scoring the only goal in that big win in the capital.
The Champions League title continues to prove elusive to Guardiola at City, but a win and a big statement against a fellow challenger early in this year’s instalment could provide a big momentum boost.