PSG believe they will beat Borussia Dortmund but they need to be bold | Eric Devin

PSG believe they will beat Borussia Dortmund but they need to be bold | Eric Devin

Was it as bad as all that? After Paris Saint-Germain lost 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final last week, the media in France were quick to condemn the team. “Bad Signal” and “To The Wall” said l’Équipe, making puns — as is their wont — and Le Parisien also piled on, calling the PSG performance “far from a dream”.

Yes, there were reasons to express frustration — the departure through injury of Lucas Hernández (and a wobbly display from Beraldo in his stead), Kylian Mbappé’s struggle to have a telling impact and Nuno Mendes’ failure to shackle Jadon Sancho, to name a few. But PSG hit the woodwork twice (through Mbappé and Achraf Hakimi), enjoyed a vintage display from Marquinhos and never looked out of the match.

With a few smart moves, PSG can turn this tie around. They certainly don’t lack self-belief. Speaking at an event for his charity on Sunday, Mbappé said: “We are aware of the pressure, but the squad is extremely calm. We are confident and we are sure that we will qualify for the final.”

Luis Enrique told the French press something similar, albeit couching his words in a joke, and his opposite number, Edin Terzic, is aware that his team still have a lot of work to do: “Paris will certainly do better than last week,” said the Borussia Dortmund manager.

If PSG are to go through, they need to make some bold (dare we say confident?) decisions. The most obvious is to add some scoring potential to the lineup. Why has Enrique placed such little faith in Gonçalo Ramos in Europe? The Portuguese striker has scored eight goals in Ligue 1 since the beginning of February but has played just five minutes in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

It would be easy to undervalue these goals given that PSG have gone unbeaten in the league since mid-September and have already wrapped up the title convincingly, but Ramos has found the net against Lyon, Lille and Marseille in recent months – no small feat. Lyon have picked up more points than PSG in the league since the turn of the year, and Lille and Marseille have reached the quarter-finals (at least) of the European competitions in which they’re participating.

Ramos is no flat-track bully and deserves another chance to lead the line on a crucial evening for his team. He would occupy Dortmund’s centre-backs with his physical prowess and lead the pressing from the front, something that was lacking in Dortmund last Wednesday. Ramos is a more prosaic player than Bradley Barcola but he may be what the PSG attack needs in this tie.

Elsewhere in the team, solutions are more diffiuclt to find. Clearly, the biggest issue is how Enrique sets up the left side of his defence. Mendes was thoroughly outclassed by Sancho last week, but there has also been the suggestion that Enrique was caught out by this wrinkle and that the necessary adjustments can be made to help the young Portuguese. To be fair to Mendes, he has struggled with injury this season and was rumoured to be carrying a knock last week.

Dortmund’s players attend a training session at the Parc des Princes before the second leg. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

But without Hernández alongside Marquinhos, Enrique seemingly lacks a centre-back fast enough (and sufficiently experienced) to help Mendes. Beraldo is likely to start and, while relatively quick, he has also shown a lack of confidence on the big occasions this season, having been sent off in Le Classique and underwhelmed in the first leg of PSG’s quarter-final against Barcelona.

It had been hoped in the summer that Milan Skriniar would be that player, but injuries and a lack of form have undone his season. Despite being a regular in the group stage, there’s little suggestion that Enrique would risk a player so lacking match fitness in a season-defining match, and the same is doubly true for Danilo Pereira, who has moonlighted in the role at times. Given he has a potentially ropy defence, Luis Enrique – who says he expects an open match – has the task of not only making his side watertight, but also ensuring they win on the night, something that will have to start with the attack and Ramos.

Tactics and personnel will go a long way to deciding the result but PSG’s aforementioned self-belief is also important as it reflects a sense of visualising one’s goals and reaching them. Is it easy to imagine Mbappé being more involved, those shots finding the net rather than the woodwork, and Sancho not playing like a world-beater? Yes, yes, and yes. PSG are confident and it’s not terribly difficult to conceive of them overturning their narrow disadvantage.

Quick Guide

Ligue 1 results


Lens 2-0 Lorient, Toulouse 1-2 Montpellier, Brest 0-0 Nantes, Metz 2-3 Rennes, Monaco 4-1 Clermont, Le Havre 3-1 Strasbourg

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Talking points

Mama Baldé scored a 92nd-minute winner for Lyon against Lille. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/REX/Shutterstock

They couldn’t, could they? After their 3-2 win against Monaco last weekend, Lyon pulled off another stunning result on Monday night, beating Lille 4-3 thanks to a 92nd-minute winner from Mama Baldé. Successive wins over Champions League contenders were not expected five months ago when Pierre Sage took over, but Lyon have improved steadily under his management and now have one foot in Europe – seventh place will be good enough for a Conference League spot if Lyon lose to PSG in the Coupe de France final. If Lyon win the final themselves, they will qualify for the Europa League. Either outcome would rank among the biggest turnarounds in the history of European football. Yes, Marseille (currently three points back in ninth) have a game in hand and a better goal difference, but their squad is decimated and they are still fighting in Europe, while Lyon’s season ends with very winnable matches against Strasbourg and Clermont.

With two rounds of games to play in Ligue 1, five clubs are still involved in the relegation battle – at least on paper. Strasbourg have lost their last three games, their most recent defeat coming on the road to Le Havre, but they are mathematically safe given that 16th-placed Metz also lost at the weekend. Realistically, Nantes and Le Havre should be safe, with Metz likely to take the relegation playoff slot. Metz would need a four-point swing to pull ahead of Le Havre (who have a better goal difference), and five to move above Nantes, who are a point further ahead. Barring a stunning turn of events, Metz will finish 16th, and Lorient and Clermont will go down following a precipitous drop in their form in recent weeks.

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