Josh Mart takes the opportunity to preview Paris Saint Germain’s trip across the border to Belgium to face Pro League champions Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium in Brussels. Wednesday’s encounter between these two sides signals the beginning of the key section the group phase, the double headers, in which both sides play against each other at home and away in two consecutive match-days.
PSG have been outstanding so far in the Champions League, sweeping aside both Celtic and the mighty Bayern Munich in the opening couple of matches. Anderlecht have struggled on their return to the elite level of European football, losing in Munich and also by the same 3-goal margin at home to Celtic.
PSG will be out to take full control of the group here, whereas Anderlecht will be desperate to get off the mark and give themselves a chance of finishing third, which would guarantee Europa League football post-Christmas.
The Belgian side have had a tricky domestic campaign thus far, and replaced manager Rene Weiler with Hein Vanhaezebrouck in recent weeks. The new man at the helm got off to the perfect start at Anderlecht, as he saw his side win 4-3 in a thrilling encounter against Mechelen at the weekend.
Despite this victory though, ‘Les Mauves’ still sit in a rather disappointing 5th place in the Pro League standings. Vanhaezebrouck’s arrival seems to have inspired some confidence amongst Anderlecht players and fans alike, and this would be a dream start for him if they could manage a spectacular victory over PSG here.
PSG have been in excellent form in Ligue 1 of late, and still sit pretty at the top of the Ligue 1 table 6 points ahead of last season’s title winners Monaco. Saturday’s 2-1 victory away at Dijon was a tough test for Unai Emery’s men, and the three points were only sealed in stoppage time by Thomas Meunier who scored an unlikely brace at the Stade Gaston-Gerard.
Team News and Tactics
Anderlecht have a few concerns ahead of this one with both Andy Najar and Uros Spajic both missing due to injury. With this in mind, I expect Hein Vanhaezebrouck to opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a back four of Appiah, Mbodji, Deschacht and Obradovic likely to start on Wednesday evening. Highly rated Leander Dendoncker is one who I expect to start in midfield alongside one of Adrien Trebel or Sven Kums, although Dendoncker could also play in the back line if the manager decides to play him there. The attacking midfield trio is likely to be Gerkens, captain Hanni and highly rated Everton loanee Henry Onyekuru (right to left) supporting Polish target man Teodorczyk who is a real aerial threat for the Belgians.
PSG head coach also has a few injury concerns ahead of this one. Thiago Silva missed Saturday’s game at Dijon after getting injured on international duty with Brazil. Verratti, Kurzawa, Verratti and Cavani are also slight doubts but I expect at least a couple of them to start here. Areola looks set to start in goal, Kimpembe will join Marquinhos at the heart of the defence, flanked by Dani Alves and one of Yuri or Kurzawa (again depending on fitness).
I think Verratti will make it and start alongside Rabiot and Thiago Motta in the middle, although Angel Di Maria is a potential starter too. Emery will hope to have the brilliant trio of Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani all available but if the Uruguayan misses out, expect Mbappe to play centrally with Lucas/Di Maria/Draxler waiting to deputise.
Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht) – Leander Dendoncker has been linked with a huge number of top European sides over the last 12 months due to his impressive performances for Anderlecht. The talented midfielder also has an imposing physique which is why he is utilised at centre back on occasion but I think he is best in midfield. Dendoncker will be looking to impress here, with a move to a European giant certainly on the cards in 2018.
Neymar (PSG) – His huge money move to the French capital in the summer caused giant shockwaves across Europe for many reasons (not all of them positive). Yet Neymar, as so often, seems to have taken it all in his stride and has been superb since joining PSG. He is without doubt one of the top few players in the world and has a real chance of making history with both club and country this season.
It is really tough to predict anything other than a routine away win for PSG here but Les Parisien’s could come unstuck if they approach the game with that attitude. Thiago Silva would be a big miss for Unai Emery but I think the attacking capabilities of Neymar and co will be too much for Anderlecht to withstand on Wednesday night.
Prediction: Anderlecht 0-2 PSG