PSG look to avenge CL final loss, Tuchel seeks Blues bounce-back - GulfToday

PSG look to avenge CL final loss, Tuchel seeks Blues bounce-back


Hansi Flick’s Bayern, who already have Robert Lewandowski sidelined, could also be without winger Serge Gnabry. File

Paris Saint-Germain are seeking revenge for their defeat in last season’s final when they renew acquaintances with Bayern Munich in the Champions League last eight this week, but the French giants appear to have gone backwards since then despite the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino as coach.

News of Robert Lewandowski’s absence for the quarter-final first leg at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday has understandably been met with some delight in Paris, especially with Neymar recovering fitness following his latest lay-off.

Getting to the final of Europe’s elite club competition was a big step forwards, but going out in the quarter-finals now would be a major setback for PSG and Pochettino, especially as they are trailing in Ligue 1.

 The former Tottenham Hotspur coach said last month that he would need time to make his mark at the Parc des Princes and that he would be unable to make the changes he wants until the next pre-season.

What Pochettino really needs is for Neymar to rediscover his best form and for Kylian Mbappe to deliver -- PSG’s best performances under Pochettino have come with Mbappe starring, from his hat-trick in Barcelona to a double in a 4-2 win in Lyon.

However Mbappe has sometimes flattered to deceive and performances have regularly been disappointing, under Tuchel and Pochettino.

They have lost 10 times this season, including three defeats in their last six league games.

Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to title rivals Lille -- in which Neymar was sent off -- left them three points behind the Ligue 1 leaders with seven matches remaining.

Holders Bayern, who already have Lewandowski sidelined, could also be without winger Serge Gnabry.

“Serge has a sore throat and will probably be out as well,” Bayern coach Hansi Flick said on Tuesday.

Gnabry’s illness leaves Bayern set to take on PSG without two key forwards. Flick said midfielder Marc Roca will also miss the first leg at the Allianz Arena after picking up an injury on Sunday in training.

PSG are missing defender Alessandro Florenzi and midfielder Marco Verratti, who are quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19.

On Tuesday, Flick refused to confirm reports centre-back Jerome Boateng will leave Bayern at the end of the season having not been offered a contract extension.

Both Boateng and left-back Alphonso Davies are available to face PSG after being suspended for Saturday’s 1-0 win at RB Leipzig which left Munich seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

TIME FOR TOUGH DECISIONS AT CHELSEA: Thomas Tuchel’s serene start as Chelsea manager came to a crashing halt as lowly West Bromwich Albion became the first visiting side to score five goals at Stamford Bridge in 10 years on Saturday.

Thiago Silva’s early red card played a large part in a shocking 5-2 defeat that ended Tuchel’s 14-match unbeaten run since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The German coach now has to show he can deal with his first taste of adversity with the west London club.

“It’s a wake-up call. We will get the right response,” said Tuchel.

A swift response is needed in Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto in the first of two clashes between the sides in Seville due to coronavirus restrictions on travel between Portugal and England.

Despite the Portuguese giants’ heroics in dumping out Juventus in the last 16, anything other than progression to Chelsea’s first Champions League semi-final since 2014 will be seen as a huge disappointment. An impressive run of results have covered over some of the cracks that led to Lampard’s departure and remain to be solved.

Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are still to live up to their hefty price tags.

Werner’s lack of form is a major factor.

The German international has scored just once in his last 18 games for club and country and his fragile confidence took another hit when his stunning miss helped North Macedonia claim a shock win in last week’s World Cup qualifier.

The time has come for Tuchel to make some big decisions if he is to go one better than last season when he guided Paris Saint-Germain to the Champions League final. Not for the first time in his Chelsea career, Olivier Giroud may be brought in from the cold by a manager in need.

Giroud’s overhead kick was the difference in the first leg of Chelsea’s last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid, but the Frenchman has not played a minute of Premier League or Champions League action since February. It is at the back Tuchel’s impact has been felt most, with a run of seven clean-sheets prior to Saturday’s collapse.

The use of a back three and Antonio Rudiger’s return, after he was frozen out by Lampard for most of the first half of the season, have made Chelsea far harder to break down.

Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante will also return as their importance was underlined when rested from the start at the weekend.

But that could leave space for just one of Werner, Havertz and Ziyech in attack.

Tuchel is spoiled for choice, but will be quickly judged on whether he makes the right calls.

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