Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that the French club’s all-time top scorer, Edinson Cavani, will miss the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester United.
The German spoke to an international cross-section of the media at Old Trafford late on Monday afternoon, and told reporters that the Uruguayan would be absent due to an injury picked up in his side’s 1-0 victory over Bordeaux on Saturday.
It means the Parisians will be without two of their first-choice attacking trio – Brazilian star Neymar has also been ruled out of the match due to a metatarsal problem.
“Neymar is one of the key, key players in Europe and we cannot replace him,”
“Would Manchester United miss Pogba, if he was not there tomorrow? Of course. Would they miss Rashford, if he was not there? Of course they would. You cannot replace quality players like this. “Of, course we miss him a lot and now we miss a second key player with Edi [Cavani] . And with Marco [Verratti] , we have a player with only 60 minutes in his legs.”
Italian midfielder Verratti returned to action after several weeks out with an ankle issue in the Bordeaux match, but the former Borussia Dortmund coach was keen to stress that he and 20-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe would not be expected to make up for the aforementioned absentees.
“You can’t just place all of the burden and pressure on Kylian,”
“But we’re talking about Mbappe. He has his own qualities. It’s not really his job to replace Cavani and Neymar, and he can’t do all three things at the same time. He can’t be himself and the other two. He has to be free to play his game, to play with confidence and I want us to be capable to help him. “[That means] to provide him with the right kind of support and passes. In my opinion, he needs to play with a good mindset, as it were. He needs to be positive and realise that he’s here, it’s part of his development. I think it’s the kind of moment when you really are able to develop as a player.”
Despite their injury issues, Tuchel claimed that PSG would not alter their style, which has earned them a dominant 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.
“We have our identity as a team, of course, and it’s not easy to change a team’s identity,”
said the coach.
“Obviously we’re going to be missing a couple of key players and key attackers, that’s obvious and clear to everyone including me. But you don’t change your identity for that reason. I don’t know if it’s the right time to change our identity.
”We have tradition, we play attacking football, we’re PSG and that’s how we’re used to playing, creating opportunities. It’s in our DNA. That’s how we play. To change that is really tough, it’s difficult.
“Nevertheless, I’m sure there will be times tomorrow when we will be defending deeply, absolutely, because I imagine United are going to be very bold, they’re going to play a lot of attack-minded players so, yeah, I can see in this kind of match there will be times when we are going to have to play in a whole range of situations and we have to be at the top level throughout the game.”
The PSG leader was asked what kind of result he was striving for in tomorrow’s first leg, ahead of the second installment at the Parc des Princes on 6 March.
““I don’t really want to talk about the result we are aiming for tomorrow,”” remarked the 45-year-old, ““but we’re here to score, absolutely. We want to score and perhaps more than one. We want to score some goals.””
When asked about United’s revival under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tuchel acknowledged: ““It’s an impressive run, and for us to play at Old Trafford at this moment against this Manchester United is, again, like in our group stage, one of the toughest challenges you can have. “
”Over 180 minutes, I would say it’s a 50/50 game. If it’s tomorrow, with them as the home team at Old Trafford, I’m not sure it’s 50/50. But to assess it over 180 minutes, we have the second leg in Paris where we feel very strong and comfortable at Parc des Princes, then yes I’d say it’s a 50/50 game.”“”
PSG qualified for the last 16 by finishing top of Champions League Group C, ahead of Liverpool, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. The Rouge et Bleu won three of their six games, but lost 3-2 to Liverpool at Anfield and were held to draws in both matches against the Neapolitans.