PSG aim to seal round of 16 qualification against Benfica

Nicolas Otamendi (R) tackles Kylian Mbappe (L) during the Champions League match between SL Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica on October 5, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Nicolas Otamendi (R) tackles Kylian Mbappe (L) during the Champions League match between SL Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica on October 5, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images) /
LISBON, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 5: Kylian Mbappe of PSG during the UEFA Champions League group H match between SL Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica aka Estadio da Luz on October 5, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Kylian Mbappe during the UEFA Champions League match between SL Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) last Wednesday in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images) /

How is your glass of PSG looking, folks? Is it half-empty, or is it half-full? I guess that depends on your demands from Paris Saint-Germain, although there is no arguing the latest run of play — not results, mind you — has left more than a few people cold considering the potential and talent this team boasts.

Half-full glass: PSG is entering Tuesday’s game against Benfica sitting atop the Champions League Group H.

Half-empty glass: PSG couldn’t beat Benfica even though going up 1-0 on the scoreboard thanks to a marvelous goal by Lionel Messi, ultimately drawing 1-1 against the Portuguese.

Half-full glass: PSG leads the way in Ligue 1 and is three points clear of third place, and main title-challenger, Olympique Marseille. 

Half-empty glass: OM is visiting Paris this weekend with a chance to trump PSG in the table if they earn three points away from home.

And on and on it goes for the Parisians.

While PSG started the season with a bunch of bangers (21 goals for and just three goals against in the first four games in all competitions) things started to go south after the 1-1 draw with Monaco in Match Day 4 of Ligue 1. Of course, nobody in his or her sane mind would say PSG is cratering — far from it.

Paris Saint-Germain has yet to lose a game this season (same as Benfica) but they have drawn their last two against Benfica in Europe and Reims this past weekend (both away from the Parc) only scoring four total goals in the past four matches while conceding two.

Most worryingly, PSG was held to a goalless draw on Saturday for the first time all season against a much lesser opponent than the one the French will be hosting on Tuesday.

After throwing away the chance of sealing their qualification for the round of 16 last midweek, PSG has another shot at it tomorrow in the return game against Benfica.

Half-full glass: Another draw, as putrid as that sound in the current context of PSG affairs, would leave the Parisians atop the group tied with the Portuguese, both with eight points in four games and Juventus (assuming they beat Maccabi Haifa) looking at them from down under with just six points.

Half-empty glass: Another draw — or even worse, the first loss of the season — would still leave the door open for potential catastrophe if PSG can’t beat either of Juventus or Maccabi Haifa in their remaining two games, potentially finishing second in the group or, in a worst-case scenario, dropping to the Europa League, finishing third in Group H.

PSG will sleep tight tonight knowing the only two times they faced Benfica in their history of European matchups held in Paris, they won one and drew the other, having not yet lost against the men from Lisbon.

Something to keep PSG from sleeping well tonight, though, is the confirmed absence of Messi for Tuesday’s game, per Le Parisien, after Messi didn’t take part in Monday morning’s training session in Paris.

His absence was clearly noted by PSG in their most recent game against Reims as Paris Saint-Germain never found the proper rhythm of play nor any sort of creative solutions on offense, stalling their way toward a no-goals outcome.

“No risk will be taken with the Argentinian’s calf for the next club matches and even less with the World Cup in six weeks”, says Le Parisien.

Messi will be joined on the sidelines by Presnel Kimpembe (hamstring), Nuno Mendes (hamstring), or Renato Sanches (thigh) as all three are still recovering from their respective injuries.

One who will feature in the defensive line, though, will be Sergio Ramos. After getting a yellow card followed by a red one in the span of 10 seconds last Saturday for discussing a referee’s decision, Ramos will miss Le Classique next Sunday. But that will only help his chances at making the starting XI midweek with a week of rest in his schedule after this European clash.

The main storyline of this game, or at least the one concerning the Parisian contingent the most, is the one involving Kylian Mbappe, Christophe Galtier and the #PivotGang hashtag used by the former in an IG story (later removed) after Sunday’s game.

This is related to the comments made by the French forward during the international break, claiming that “I play differently [with France]. I am asked [to do] other things here compared to my club. I have a lot more freedom here.”

Although both parties (Mbappe and the club) seem to have agreed to leave this issue aside, things could escalate quickly, and Paris Saint-Germain might already be looking for target-man options to add to the squad as soon as next January taking advantage of the winter transfer window.

Mbappe might actually be making the right point here. Just looking at what happened last Saturday lets you know everything about his precarious usage at the top of the forward line, let alone when flanked by the likes of Pablo Sarabia and Carlos Soler instead of the two other members of the MNM — Messi and Neymar.

As for Benfica, the Portuguese will enter Tuesday’s clash with PSG after having won their latest Primeira Liga game against Rio Ave 4-2 last Saturday. The men from Lisbon are still undefeated this season having won 14 games while drawing just two (one of them against Paris last Wednesday).

Next. Frustrated 10-man PSG held to goalless draw by Reims. dark

Benfica sit atop the Portuguese league with 25 points from nine matches but are in a very similar situation to that of PSG in terms of their schedule, having a crucial European match tomorrow before facing second-place Porto (22 points) in a rivalry game of its own next Sunday.

Projected PSG Starting XI: Donnarumma – Ramos, Marquinhos, Danilo – Hakimi, Verratti, Vitinha, Bernat – Sarabia, Mbappe, Neymar