PARIS, France (AP):
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were able to start their superstar attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for the first time on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.
Instead of fireworks, though, they only produced a big thud as PSG drew 1-1 draw against modest Belgian side Club Brugge.
“Fantomatique” – or “Ghost-like – was the headline in French sports daily L’Equipe yesterday.
While 2020 champions Bayern Munich and last season’s runners-up Manchester City won and scored freely, PSG’s performance highlighted that the team still has glaring shortcomings despite being able to field three of the world’s best forwards.
Keylor Navas being the busier goalkeeper on the night – and PSG’s best player – should be of concern to coach Mauricio Pochettino ahead of playing much tougher teams in the competition.
“We’ve got a magnificent squad, but we need to find balance,” Pochettino said.
But given PSG’s remarkable summer recruitment drive, Pochettino knows he has little room for error in a season where the Qatari-backed club has been touted by many observers as the favourites to win the Champions League.
Behind the veneer of Messi’s arrival, the reality is that the midfield and defence still look vulnerable, and allowed Brugge to muster 16 shots at goal.
That is alarming considering that City is PSG’s next opponents in the group stage. Pep Guardiola’s side visit Parc des Princes on September 28, giving Pochettino little time to make his team more solid.
PSG have a home game against Lyon in the French league on Sunday followed by a midweek trip to Metz before hosting Montpellier.
Pochettino also has a thorny goalkeeping dilemma to resolve – whether to stick with Navas or start Italy’s European Championship star Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Last season, Navas rescued PSG with outstanding performances against Barcelona and Bayern in the knockout stages before PSG’s limitations were exposed by City in the semi-finals.
PSG would likely have lost against Brugge without Navas who, through no fault of his own, now finds himself fighting for the No. 1 jersey. Pochettino sounded evasive when asked after the Brugge game if Donnarumma would play against Lyon.
“Anything’s possible,” Pochettino said. “Decisions will be made game after game with regard to the performances.”
But rotation could also work against Pochettino, for he needs a settled keeper to take command of a brittle defence that was too easily exposed by Brugge.