Letting Kylian Mbappe fly, instilling confidence in Leandro Paredes and coping without Neymar and Angel Di Maria: How Pochettino masterminded PSG’s perfect night at the Nou Camp
- Mauricio Pochettino led PSG to a famous victory over Barcelona on Tuesday
- Kylian Mbappe flourished playing as an inside forward, scoring three times
- Neymar and Di Maria were absent but PSG adapted and coped without them
- Barca weren’t at the races but Pochettino deserves credit for executing his plan
Mauricio Pochettino did not crumble to his knees, pull off his tie and scream in celebration, like when he led his Tottenham team to a monumental win at Ajax.
But inside, Pochettino must have been overwhelmed as his Paris Saint-Germain stars executed a perfect plan to beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night.
Barca have come from behind before, but this feels different. Here, we look at how Pochettino’s PSG gave themselves a 4-1 first-leg lead, starting with Kylian Mbappe.
Kylian Mbappe stole the show as PSG thumped Barcelona on their own turf 4-1 on Tuesday
We look at how Mauricio Pochettino orchestrated a famous night for PSG at the Nou Camp
We’ve all seen the picture of Mbappe flying through the air while his marker tries desperately to stop him by yanking on his shirt. This was a night Barcelona couldn’t catch PSG’s star man.
With left back Layvin Kurzawa told to push high up the pitch by Pochettino, Mbappe was coming inside from the left wing. He was acting as an inside forward, staying close to Mauro Icardi.
This was shown in PSG’s first goal. Kurzawa had an abundance of space on the left wing, with Barcelona’s defence more preoccupied with the three forwards who are now in central positions.
The ball finds Kurzawa, who has not been tracked by Ousmane Dembele. Barca right back Sergino Dest tries to close down but PSG score, with Mbappe showing quick feet in front of goal.
Dest had a night to forget. With Mbappe and Kurzawa to look after, he was thrown to the wolves.
Mbappe’s first goal was a perfect example of how effective his inside runs from the left were
NO HIGH PRESS FROM BARCA, AND COPING WITHOUT NEYMAR AND DI MARIA
Though their starting formation was 4-3-3, Barcelona tended to shape up in a 4-5-1 when out of possession. This left Messi at the head of the team. For all his brilliance, pressing is not the Argentinian’s forte and so there was a lack of a high press from Barca.
This allowed PSG’s central defenders time and space to bring the ball up the pitch while the full backs pushed forward and wide, forcing Mbappe and Moise Kean inside closer to Icardi.
It gave the visitors numbers in attack. PSG may have been without Neymar and Angel Di Maria but they had the bodies to swarm on Barcelona and hurt them at the Nou Camp.
This was how PSG scored their second goal. PSG had the ball in their own half, there was no pressing from Messi whatsoever, Verratti finds right back Alessandro Florenzi with a ball over the top. He crosses for Mbappe, who is in a central position and scores.
PSG handled the absence of key men Angel Di Maria and Neymar remarkably well
VERY SPECIAL VERRATTI
Special mention must go to Marco Verratti.
He was hurting Barcelona from midfield and it was his ball into Florenzi which created that second goal. Verratti and Leandro Paredes were making good use of any space they were afforded in midfield in this match.
Although he was outshone by his midfield partner Verratti, the improvement of Paredes’ performances since Pochettino’s arrival has been noticeable and he deserves some acknowledgement.
At times, Paredes can be guilty of over-complicating things but in a short space of time since Pochettino has come in, he has looked a more confident and mature player with a better understanding of his role and a new-found willingness to keep things simpler.
There is however no escaping how poor Barca were in defence, of course. Kean was all on his own to make it 3-1 from a set-piece, and that will have annoyed Ronald Koeman greatly.
Marco Verratti dictated play from midfield and had a significant hand in their second goal
Leandro Paredes (centre) has transformed since Pochettino’s arrival and was impressive again
CLEVER LATE COUNTERS
Pochettino wanted to go for the kill towards the end of the match. PSG’s average player positions show how Mbappe was the furthest up the pitch – especially in those final stages.
For PSG’s fourth goal, Barcelona were over-committing to an attack in a desperate bid to reduce the scoreline. Instead it bit them in the backside and completed the 4-1 scoreline.
At the start of the move, you would have been forgiven for thinking PSG had three men in this breakaway. In actual fact, it was four, because Mbappe was hanging close to the halfway line.
PSG worked it well, waited for Frenkie de Jong to come inside and leave Mbappe on his own, and the 22-year-old boy wonder buried the ball in the back of the net.
PSG were clever on the break and killed the game off with a blistering counter attack
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