Champions League quarter-final preview: Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester City
The last remaining Premier League side in the competition, Manchester City are in the quarter-finals for the first time after beating Dynamo Kiev in the last round.
Paris Saint-Germain are relative Champions League veterans compared to City, having reached this stage four years in a row, but the recently-crowned French champions have not got into the semi-finals since 1995, when they beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate.
City might miss out on Champions League qualification for next season due to their poor form, while an injury crisis has come at precisely the wrong time for outgoing coach Manuel Pellegrini.
Their form was on a downward spiral even before the worst kept secret in football was confirmed – that Pep Guardiola will replace Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season – but it appears the Chilean is struggling to motivate his players now his authority has been compromised.
Laurent Blanc’s PSG made serene progress in defending their Ligue 1 title in record time, so their primary focus is now the Champions League, although a shin injury to Ángel Di María recently picked up on international duty with Argentina is a major blow if he is ruled out of this match.
PSG’s home record in European competition is excellent, with the Parisiens having lost just one of their last 38 continental matches on home soil – and that defeat was against Barcelona in the 2014/15 quarter-final first leg.
While City lack Champions League experience, Pellegrini has plenty. This will be his fourth quarter-final as a coach, but he has only won one of those three ties – with Villarreal – who then lost their next tie in the semi-finals to Arsenal.
This match looks too close to call and the lengthy injury lists of both clubs could be decisive.
Injury issues for both sides
Di María is the creative fulcrum of the PSG side and if he were to miss the tie, Blanc’s men would be seriously weakened. The fitness of Marco Verratti is also a concern, the Italy international having been out for over a month.
Blanc would still have Zlatan Ibrahimović, Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore to call on in PSG’s forward positions, as well as Lucas Moura and the talented 20-year-old Hervin Ongenda, so PSG have plenty of strength in depth.
City have been overly reliant on a clutch of senior players in recent years and it has backfired, with captain Vincent Kompany again missing swathes of the season through injury. A recurrence of his ongoing calf problem could see Kompany watch this tie from the sidelines, while the fitness of Sergio Agüero is always a concern, although the Argentina international is currently available.
Joe Hart and Raheem Sterling are almost certain to be out of the clash, denying Pellegrini of two of his blue-chip players, but Kevin De Bruyne. valued at $6,000 on DraftKings is back in contention, providing a major boost for the Citizens.
PSG fantasy players to watch
Ibrahimović has been one of Europe’s outstanding players this season, with the veteran having scored 36 goals in all competitions, including four strikes in eight Champions League games.
The Sweden international is set to leave PSG at the end of the season and will be looking to bring his time in the French capital to an end in fine style, especially as the Champions League is one of the few honours to have eluded him in a fantastic career.
Should Di María be fit to play in the tie, he will be another obvious daily fantasy football selection from PSG’s ranks, while the underrated midfielder Blaise Matuidi, the workhorse of the side, is likely to be available at a terrific bargain price.
Defensively, the Brazilian pairing of David Luiz and Thiago Silva are both worth considering as they each pose a threat from set pieces. Luiz has a rocket of a free-kick in his armoury, while Silva is dangerous from corners.
Manchester City fantasy players to watch
With so many key attackers out of the match for City, there will be more pressure than ever on the stocky shoulders of Agüero. Luckily, his record in the Champions League is sublime and befitting of a striker of his huge talent, with 25 goals in 46 competition appearances.
Yaya Touré’s agent Dimitry Seluk has once again been suggesting he could seek a move from Manchester City but, for now at least, the Ivory Coast international can be a decisive player for Pellegrini when he is at the top of his game.
At the back, City look vulnerable without Kompany and Hart and it may be wise to stick with PSG defenders, but Bacary Sagna has had a fine season and is worth considering, while Nicolás Otamendi is also starting to justify the large transfer fee that City spent to bring him to the club.