Paris Saint-Germain head to Old Trafford in Champions League Group H on Wednesday with a changed team to the one that won 2-0 back in February of 2019. While goal scorers Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe remain, as does Angel Di Maria who orchestrated the creative masterclass, the team around them is vastly different.
Captain Thiago Silva, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and right-back Dani Alves -- deployed further forward that night -- have been moved on while Julian Draxler is out injured, and PSG midfielder Ander Herrera was still on the losing United side that night.
On Wednesday, with Presnel Kimpembe and Idrissa Gueye back from suspension after their red cards in the recent 2-1 loss away at RB Leipzig, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel will have some flexibility with his starting XI -- particularly in defense. At left back, Mitchel Bakker will be hoping to get the nod, especially after his mature performance in his full Champions League debut in the 1-0 home win over Leipzig last week, and with his chief rival at the position, Layvin Kurzawa, struggling for full fitness.
The Dutchman went the full 90 minutes as Neymar's 11th minute penalty separated the two sides at Parc des Princes and was delighted to have made his full European bow.
Mitchel Bakker played the 90 minutes of PSG's hard fought 1-0 win over RB Leipzig.— Dutch Football (@FootballOranje_) November 24, 2020
Dutchman made the most tackles of any of the PSG defenders.
"It was new for me," Bakker told CBS Sports exclusively. "It was my first appearance from the start of a match. It was quite special for me; it was new, and I liked it very much.
"It was a big game for us, important and we won it. I feel that I played ok but that I can also do better. Leipzig are a good team and they made things difficult for us, but I think that the most important thing was to win."
Bakker was one of the few PSG players to earn genuine praise for his display in a fixture where the result was of far greater importance than the spectacle, but the 20-year-old already expects greater from himself -- if he takes to the field against United.
"Of course, I am happy to hear that, but I feel that I can also do better," he said. "It is an important match for us, of course. United are strong and a good team with good players. We must prepare well. We will begin our preparations after Bordeaux [a 2-2 draw last Saturday]."
Bakker was at left-back for that Ligue 1 match, which ended as a draw with Kimpembe central alongside debutant Timothee Pembele -- an unfortunate own goal scorer -- and Alessandro Florenzi on the right, so it may well be the same in Manchester with captain Marquinhos replacing Pembele as Kimpembe's partner and Gueye shielding the defense. The hope being that a strong back five can provide a base to operate from now that orchestrator Marco Verratti is finally fit enough to start.
Although Bakker has been mixing with the senior squad since his summer 2019 arrival, it took the graduate from the fabled Ajax youth academy until the second half of last season to feature under Tuchel with Coupe de France outings followed by a full Ligue 1 debut in a wild 4-4 draw away at Amiens.
With Layvin Kurzawa serving a lengthy ban and Juan Bernat injured, Mitchel Bakker has been a key player for @PSG_English - as the leaders get set to face RB Leipzig, get to know more about the Dutch fullback:https://t.co/ZPRqJJQARX#RBLPSG #UCL pic.twitter.com/MDoRybYmFB— Ligue1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) November 4, 2020
Having started both the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue victories over the summer, long-term injury to regular starter Juan Bernat and a lengthy ban for Kurzawa after an ill-tempered 1-0 loss to bitter rivals Marseille thrust Bakker into the limelight as the only senior option at left-back.
The Purmerend native stepped up and helped the PSG defense to five clean sheets and just one goal conceded for 22 scored across a run of six Ligue 1 matches where he also chipped in with two assists -- one for Draxler and another for the revelatory Moise Kean -- as he embraced his regular starting role under Tuchel.
Bakker's pair of assists do not appear to be a fluke either as they are roughly in line with the 1.41 expected assists his passes would be predicted to lead to. His numbers are equally strong on the defensive side of the ball as in the 775 minutes he has played in Ligue 1 this season, Bakker is averaging 2.21 tackles per 90 minutes played -- the most of any PSG defender. Even more impressive is the fact that he is succeeding on 73.9% of them. Among players in France who have played at least 300 minutes, there are only two who have both managed to make more than 1.5 tackles per 90 and achieved a higher success rate than Bakker: Nice's Stanley N'Soki and Brest's Christophe Herelle -- both central defenders.
"I felt ready," Bakker told CBS exclusively. "I had already spent one year with the players, training every single day together. Of course, I was ready.
"The coach has played a big role for me. He gives me confidence. I have a good relationship with him, and I think that everybody on the team does. He is a good coach, very good. I am very happy to play and that he trusts me enough to play me."
Bakker's comments offer insight into the support the German tactician still enjoys in the PSG dressing room despite the immense pressure that has been building up since United won 2-1 at Parc des Princes back in late October.
Tuchel defended his players from criticism when asked after last week's win over Leipzig if his players had given everything and Bakker's fond memories of last campaign's run to an historic Champions League final in Lisbon reflects the strong bond that the squad enjoys with their current boss.
"Last season was very special," he said. "We reached the final and made history for the club. We did not win but it was still very special but also a bit strange as we spent two weeks in the hotel. We trained every day preparing for the matches, but we were not able to do anything else. It was just us in the hotel as a team, but it was special for all of us in the squad."
Asked if PSG have the ability to go one step further this term, Bakker is in no doubt that the quality of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verratti and Keylor Navas makes ultimate success a realistic aim.
"We have to, I think, with the quality that we have," he said. "This is a big club with a quality team. Of course, we have to do the same as last season."
Bakker also harbors ambitions of representing the Netherlands at senior level and admitted that it is something on his radar for 2021.
"Absolutely, I want to play for the 'big Oranje' that is for sure," the Dutch defender told CBS exclusively. "I am playing with the under-23 side right now. I want to go up to the senior team and I hope that something like that might happen next year."
If he continues his current solid form when given the chance by Tuchel, then Frank de Boer could be picking up the phone and giving Bakker a call sooner rather than later.