Wednesday, December 12, 2018

How Should PSG Replace Neymar Against Real Madrid?

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PSG face an uphill battle this Tuesday when they take on Real Madrid in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16. The French side lost 1-3 in the first leg at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, so the French side needs to win by, at least, two goals in order to secure his place in the quarterfinals. That might not be a problem for a high-scoring squad such as Les Parisiens, but there is one BIG problem. Unai Emery won’t have his best player available, as Neymar will miss the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury suffered one week ago.

So now PSG need to find a way to turn things around against Los Merengues without their star player. Let’s remember Neymar had 28 goals and 16 assists in 30 appearances before getting injured. It’s not easy to replace that kind of production, but PSG have an enormous amount on depth on their squad. They possess enough talent to fill any potential absentee on their squad. And here we present you three alternatives on how Les Parisiens can fill the void left by the Brazilian superstar.

Option 1: Start Angel Di Maria

Starting Di Maria seems like the most logical option. Considering PSG regularly plays with a 4-3-3 tactic, Di Maria would seem like a logical fit to fill the void left by Neymar even though he is nowhere near the Brazilian in terms of quality and influence. But to be honest – who is? Neymar is on a completely different level with most players in the world, with the exception of probably Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But let’s get back to Di Maria. The Argentinian knows Real Madrid since he featured for them several seasons, and his pace can defintively be a game-changer considering PSG will need to widen the pitch to find spaces. He tends to crack under pressure so it remains to be seen how he will play in this game. But he has enough experience under his belt to perform admirably here. He knows how to play in the Champions League, and now it’s his time to shine. Even if it’s due to an injury to a teammate.

Option 2: Start Julian Draxler

What if Emery does not want to play Di Maria? His reputation is worldwide known, and he tends to underperform when it matters the most. Unai has other alternatives, and one of them is Julian Draxler. The German attacking midfielder can operate all over the attacking third, but he profiles best on the wing. And there is a chance he could add some much-needed creativity and flair to the side in the final third.

Draxler hasn’t had a very good season, since he only has three goals and five assists (as opposed to Di Maria’s nine goals and six assists) between the Ligue 1 and the Champions League. But his playing style would fit better against Real Madrid. He can cut towards the middle as an inside winger and operate as a n°10, possibly creating a void in midfield that would also create some extra space for Dani Alves or Layvin Kurzawa – depending on the flank he moves around. It is a bit risky and a bit outside the box, but it might be just what the doctor ordered to upset Madrid’s composed defensive line.

Option 3: Change the tactical system

Another alternative would be to play with a 4-2-3-1 system. This would allow PSG to crowd the middle of the pitch and limit the open spaces for Real Madrid’s playmaker, while also operating with an “extra” attacking player in an attempt to cover the space left by Neymar.

In this scenario, both Draxler and Di Maria would start on the flanks while Kylian Mbappe could operate as a False n°9 with Edinson Cavani upfront. Considering PSG need at least two goals to have a remote chance to reach the next round of the competition, it makes sense to have as many attacking players as possible. But they would need a lot of balance as well, because conceding a goal could spell doom for them.

While replacing Neymar might be almost impossible for PSG, at least they have alternatives to do so. Will they manage to fill the void left by the Brazilian due to injury? We will have to wait until Tuesday to find out.


Juan Pablo Aravena

A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.



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