Paris Saint-Germain welcome Olympique Lyonnais to Parc des Princes on Sunday with Kylian Mbappe in the squad despite the foot injury which he picked up in midweek against Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League.
The French superstar has been passed fit, but his ability to feature heavily remains questionable and could throw a spanner in the works for head coach Mauricio Pochettino as he seeks a way to get Lionel Messi and Neymar on the same page as Mbappe.
With Marco Verratti still absent through injury, the Argentine tactician will be grateful to have compatriot Angel Di Maria and Idrissa Gueye making their returns as both were missed in Belgium on Wednesday.
5 - Paris have fired less shots than his opponent in five of their seven games in Champions League under Mauricio Pochettino (16 shots for Club Brugge tonight, 9 for PSG). Galactic? #CLUPSG pic.twitter.com/0XC3X0R2Kt— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 15, 2021
Gueye brings the ball-winning presence which PSG too often lack in midfield when he is unavailable while Di Maria brings creativity and attacking threat further forward which was in short supply without him at Jan Breydel Stadium.
Lyon at home is a first real domestic test for Pochettino and his players this term with Manchester City to come in the Champions League before the end of this month, yet the former Tottenham Hotspur boss is not even close to knowing his strongest XI and favored system yet.
This is not a total surprise considering PSG's summer business, which saw Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes join Messi in the French capital, but it is worrying that Pochettino has been in charge since the start of 2021 and that no clear style has emerged yet.
The pre-existing chemistry between Messi, Neymar and Di Maria should help to solve the disconnect in attack somewhat while Gueye brings the combativity in the middle which PSG needed as they were overrun there against Club Brugge.
4 - Ander Herrera has scored 4 goals in his last 4 games in all competitions, twice as many as in his first 70 with PSG. Momentum. #CLUPSG pic.twitter.com/Upn45nSXWW— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 15, 2021
If Mendes gets the nod on the left side of the defense after two encouraging cameo displays against Clermont Foot and again in Belgium, that could be a third area of improvement after the draw in Bruges which represents a slow start in Champions League Group A considering City's goal-fest at home to RB Leipzig.
The main worry, though, is that time to get Mbappe to click with Messi and Neymar might be limited for arguably the best match in terms of preparation for a massive UCL night against City at Parc des Prince later this month.
PSG have been largely fine without Messi and Neymar so far this season and have 15 points from a possible 15 to sit four points clear at the top of the early season table with Angers SCO the surprise name behind Les Parisiens in the standings.
A strong reaction to losing out on the Ligue 1 title to Lille OSC last season was to be expected but dominating on the domestic front has always been within PSG's capabilities with or without their main men -- getting right on the continental scene is of utmost importance and this perhaps impairs preparation for that.
6 - Mauro Icardi 🇦🇷against Club Brugge 🇧🇪 yesterday:— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 16, 2021
6 touches - lowest tally in the first matchday of this Champions League among players with +30 minutes played
4 times offside - second highest tally in this first matchday
Lyon will give the capital club a sterner test than most in Le Championnat can and if they continue to gel under Peter Bosz's leadership, they could yet emerge as challengers for the title further down the line and with Mbappe's involvement uncertain, Pochettino must focus on Messi and Neymar with Di Maria unavailable against City and RB Leipzig.
With Neymar ghosting through matches at present, now is the perfect time for Messi to stamp his mark on the attack with or without Mbappe and if the legendary Argentine can do so, he will likely rely heavily upon Neymar and Di Maria thus getting them more involved too.
Mbappe will not have too much trouble adapting to the attack if it starts to function without him but getting it up and running is the challenge and perhaps it is for the best as part of the bigger picture that the French superstar is only partially available here.