After the longest international break of all time, top tier European football is back on the calendar as the Champions League makes it highly-anticipated return.
To kick things off, Manchester United get their campaign underway with a trip to last season’s beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain – revisiting the French capital just 18 months after they sensationally knocked the Ligue 1 heavyweights out of the competition on their own patch.
United would eventually bow out at the quarter-final stage to Barcelona, but that result was the catalyst for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be handed the managerial reins on a permanent basis – reins that he’d like to get a firmer grip of after a shaky start to the 2020/21 season.
PSG will be out for revenge after finding their groove in recent weeks, and will be looking to make a statement after losing the Champions League final in August to Bayern Munich. Here’s 90min‘s preview of the game.
When is Kick Off? Tuesday 20 October
What Time is Kick Off? 20:00 (BST)
Where is it Played? Parc des Princes
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport 2
Referee? Antonio Mateo Lahoz
PSG have a bit of an injury crisis to contend with, but should have superstar forward Neymar available after he was rested at the weekend with this Group H clash in mind.
The list of absentees is a big one though, with head coach Thomas Tuchel recently confirming that he may have only 13 fit players. Left back Juan Bernat is their only long-term absentee with a ligament injury, but central midfielders Marco Verratti, Marquinhos, Danilo Pereira and Julian Draxler are all doubtful.
Ander Herrera could line up against his former club as a result, while former Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye could feature. Mauro Icardi and Thilo Kehrer are unavailable, but Layvin Kurzawa can play after suspension.
For the Red Devils, former PSG forward Edinson Cavani is now training after completing his quarantine period and is thus available for selection. Anthony Martial is also available, with his three-match suspension only counting for domestic games.
Paul Pogba, dropped to the bench for United’s 4-1 win against Newcastle at the weekend, could return while new signing Alex Telles is also available to make his debut. Mason Greenwood is expected to miss out though with an unspecified injury.
Axel Tuanzebe has returned to training but is still not match fit, and despite Harry Maguire taking a knock at the weekend, United’s captain should be fine.
Paris Saint-Germain: Navas; Florenzi, Diallo, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Gueye, Herrera, Paredes; Di Maria, Neymar, Mbappe.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles; Matic, Pogba; Mata, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
The Ligue 1 champions have found some fluency of late after a dramatic defeat to Marseille in September, winning five games on the bounce. Two defeats in their opening three league games had suggested that a Champions League hangover was an issue, but that recent run of wins appears to have nipped that notion in the bud.
Kylian Mbappe bagged a brace on Friday as PSG wound up 4-0 winners against Nimes, hoarding 76% possession and having 30 shots against their opponents.
United looked to be heading for another disappointing weekend of football when a Luke Shaw own-goal handed Newcastle the lead at St James’ Park, but United came back strongly in the second half – netting three late goals to a pick up a handsome 4-1 win.
Here’s how each side has fared in their last five outings.
Paris Saint-GermainNimes 0-4 PSG (16/10)
PSG 6-1 Angers (02/10)
Reims 0-2 PSG (27/09)
Nice 0-3 PSG (20/09)
PSG 1-0 Metz (16/09)
Manchester UnitedNewcastle 1-4 Manchester United (17/10)
Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham (04/10)
Brighton 0-3 Manchester United (30/09)
Brighton 2-3 Manchester United (26/09)
Luton Town 0-3 Manchester United (22/09)
The two-legged round of 16 tie was one for the history books the last time these two sides met. Pink kits, incredible players and late drama, it had it all. Peak Champions League stuff.
Fans couldn’t ask for a better group opener, really. It’s just a shame nobody will be able to attend. Still, both United and PSG will be raring to go at each other to obtain bragging rights and score what would be a huge three points early in the competition.
United need the performance and victory as they head into a tricky run of fixtures, while PSG will be looking for revenge from March 2019. Finishing runners up last season and then getting off to a winless start would be a serious disappointment for Tuchel’s side.
There’s a lot at stake, but with it being the opening game, both sides could cancel each other out.
Prediction: PSG 1-1 Manchester United