Ahead of Tuesday's Champions League showdown between Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from both squads.

Combined XI: Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

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  • 2019-02-11 21:10:23 10 months ago
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Manchester United host Paris Saint-Germain in a mouth-watering first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday night.

The Red Devils have roared back to form under interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has overseen 10 wins and a draw from his 11 matches at the helm so far.

However, that unbeaten start will face its toughest test yet on Tuesday as the runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG continue their bid to lift the Champions League for the first time.

Here, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI, using only players available for Tuesday's match.



Combined XI: MNU vs. PSG

Gianluigi Buffon will rightly go down as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time when he eventually hangs up his gloves, but he has been embroiled in a battle for PSG's number one spot with Alphonse Areola all season whereas David de Gea now looks to be back at his world-class best for United.

It is an all-PSG defence in front of him, though, including a spot for veteran full-back Dani Alves. The Brazilian missed a large chunk of the campaign through injury and has been playing in central midfield lately, but it is impossible to ignore his reputation as a right-back, particularly with Thomas Meunier and Antonio Valencia both injured.

Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe are relatively easy choices ahead of the likes of Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, despite United's significant improvement defensively under Solskjaer. Marquinhos was also in contention at either centre-back or central midfield, but narrowly misses out on both counts.

Luke Shaw was the closest United defender to earning a place in the team, but Juan Bernat has been a very steady presence for PSG when called upon this season and narrowly beats the United full-back to the left side of defence.

PSG have been boosted by the news that Marco Verratti is fit to play in this match, and he makes it into central midfield alongside the in-form Paul Pogba, who has re-established himself as United's main man under Solskjaer and added another two goals to his growing tally at the weekend.

Anthony Martial was also on the scoresheet on Saturday with a goal which drew comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo, although the United winger benefits from an injury to Neymar to earn his place in the side ahead of Julian Draxler on current form.

It is a similar story for Marcus Rashford, who has been in fine form for United since being made their number one striker but would usually have to play second fiddle to Edinson Cavani had it not been for the hip injury which looks set to rule the Uruguayan out of this match.

Kylian Mbappe is therefore the only member of PSG's vaunted front three to make this team, although the teenager is arguably the most important of trio from PSG's perspective having outscored both Neymar and Cavani this season.

Angel Di Maria also makes the XI in the number 10 role, and he will have a point to prove against his former club having become one of the most high-profile United flops in recent years during one unhappy and unsuccessful season at Old Trafford.

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Combined XI: Manchester United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Paris St Germain in focus ahead of Champions League tie with Manchester United

Paris St Germain take on Manchester United in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Here, Press Association Sport takes a closer look at the reigning French champions.

Domestic form

PSG appear to be cruising to their eighth Ligue 1 title. They are 10 points clear of closest challengers Lille with two games in hand. Their recent 2-1 loss at Lyon was their first league defeat of the season. Thomas Tuchel’s side are on course for a domestic double having reached the quarter-finals of the French Cup, while last month’s 2-1 home defeat to Guincamp in the French League Cup was one of only three defeats in all competitions this campaign.

Champions League form

  • Liverpool 3-2 PSG
  • PSG 6-1 Red Star
  • PSG 2-2 Napoli
  • Napoli 1-1 PSG
  • PSG 2-1 Liverpool
  • Red Star 1-4 PSG

One of those three defeats was against Champions League Group C rivals Liverpool at Anfield in September, when Roberto Firmino’s stoppage-time winner snatched Jurgen Klopp’s side a 3-2 win. But PSG finished two points clear of their English rivals at the top of the group after gaining revenge in the return match in November, while they won three and drew two of their other group matches. Under the ownership of Qatar Sports Investments since 2011, PSG have reached the Champions League knockout stages in each of the last six seasons, but have never gone beyond the quarter-finals.

Manager

Thomas Tuchel succeeded Unai Emery as Paris St Germain boss in May
Thomas Tuchel succeeded Unai Emery as Paris St Germain boss in May (Martin Rickett/PA)

Tuchel, appointed in May, was tasked with transforming PSG into serious Champions League contenders while maintaining their domestic dominance – and the knockout stages represent his biggest challenge since replacing Unai Emery. The German gained a reputation as one of Europe’s best young managers after establishing unfashionable Mainz in the Bundesliga and guiding them to the Europa League before succeeding Klopp at Borussia Dortmund. The 45-year-old won the DFB-Pokal with Dortmund in 2017, but was sacked three days later. The club had finished runners-up to Bayern Munich in both the league and cup under Tuchel the previous season.

Star players

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are the two most expensive footballers in the world
Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are the two most expensive footballers in the world (Mike Egerton/PA)

In Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG boast the world’s two most expensive footballers. But Neymar will play no part against United due to a broken metatarsal and striker Edinson Cavani, forced off with a hip problem after scoring his 22nd goal of the season in Saturday’s home win against Bordeaux, plus right-back Thomas Meunier (concussion) are also expected to miss out. Mbappe and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting are likely to spearhead PSG’s attack at Old Trafford, while the likes of Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti, Julian Draxler and Dani Alves could be involved.

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Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria: 'I needed more time at Manchester United'

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Angel Di Maria has suggested that he was not provided with the right circumstances to make an impression at Manchester United.

Di Maria signed for United in 2014, but the Argentine playmaker netted just three times in 27 Premier League appearances before making the switch to PSG.

The 30-year-old returns to Old Trafford on Tuesday night as PSG face United in the Champions League, and the South American has suggested that 'problems' with Louis van Gaal contributed to his lack of an impact at the North-West giants.

Di Maria told France Bleu: "I only stayed one year. It wasn't the best period of my career, or they didn't let me have my best time there.

"There were problems with the coach at the time. But thanks to God, I was able to come to PSG and be myself again."

Di Maria has enjoyed a successful spell at the French giants, with 60 goals coming from 153 appearances in all competitions.

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