In the previous UEFA Champions League matchday, Paris Sain-Germain had no trouble in swatting Club Brugge aside in a comprehensive 5-0 victory. The French side have looked formidable in the Champions League so far, with nine goals scored and zero conceded.
Brugge are currently six points clear in the Belgian Pro League, with their latest result a straight forward 3-0 victory against Kortrijk. PSG are also top of their domestic league, but coming into this game suffered a rare 2-1 defeat against Dijon.
This tactical analysis will look at the tactics that each side employed in this Champions League fixture, and will serve as analysis to examine how PSG was able to secure a narrow victory against the Belgian side.
Thiago Silva returned for the home side, having been rested for their previous game against Dijon. That meant Marquinhos was able to move further forward, to act as a shield in front of the defence. With Neymar injured and Edinson Cavani not quite match fit, the front three composed of Kylian Mbappé on the left, Mauro Icardi in the middle and Ángel Di María on the right. Former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet started in goal for the away team, with 18-year-old Odilon Kossounou starting at right-back. Krépin Diatta and Emmanuel Dennis were the attacking threat out on the flanks, with the Nigerian David Okereke leading the line.
Di María’s movement leaving space for Colin Dagba
Only a few years ago it seemed like Di María’s place time in Paris was coming to an end, as he was firmly behind Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani in manager Thomas Tuchel’s plans. But injuries to all three of these players (at different times) has led to him having a run in the side, in which he has managed to cement his place. While he nominally started on the right of the front three, his clever movement meant he would appear in numerous positions in the final third.
Here, the Argentine playmaker was found out on the left. Having skipped over one challenge, he then looked to cut back inside, beating the covering defender before playing it across to Icardi. His speed meant he got to the by-line, but the ball was well blocked by Brugge centre-back Brandon Mechele.
In the build-up to Icardi’s goal, Di María picked the ball up in a central, deeper position. He moved forward 10/15 yards before passing it out wide, with Dagba then crossing it in for Icardi to tap in. By being this fluid and not having a fixed position, it meant the Brugge full-backs/centre-backs struggled to know who should be following him, causing confusion amongst their ranks.
Another key factor of former Real Madrid player’s movement was that it was leaving a gap on the right flank, which full-back Dagba frequently looked to move into.
With all ten outfield PSG players in the opposing half, it was likely that the full-backs would be given the license to move up the pitch. Dagba frequently moved into advanced positions, to offer a wide attacking option.
Having recovered the ball from a Club Brugge throw deep in their own half, PSG looked to quickly counter. Di María again picked up the ball in a central position, and quickly looked to move it out wide to Dagba who was sprinting into the open space left by the away side’s narrow defence. Having Di María drifting meant Dagba could be a constant outlet, and always looked to play a part in their attacking moves.
Club Brugge not lying down after going behind
Some teams would play extremely cautious against a team they’d been heavily beaten by only two weeks ago. Phillipe Clement’s side did not lie down and take a beating in this Champions League tie, and while finding themselves behind early on in the game they continued to push forward and put the home side’s defence under pressure.
Looking to hurry the defender and trying and force an error, three Brugge players moved into a small space around Dagba, hoping for him to miss-place the pass or be dispossessed. Even though they were then vulnerable to the counter by leaving space behind them, the Belgian side were being positive and trying to win the ball back in dangerous areas.
After half-time PSG were creating chances, looking to increase their lead. Brugge refused to sit down and settle for a defeat, so looked to counter in numbers whenever they could. Here they were in a great position, with four attackers sprinting to get into a goalscoring position. It took a foul from Marco Verratti to halt what would have been a great opportunity.
From a short goal kick, five Brugge players were in Paris’ final third, shutting down all short passing options, forcing them to go long. This positivity and aggression, unfortunately, did not earn Clement’s side any points, but it certainly proved they wouldn’t be overawed when coming up against much stronger opposition.
Struggling to cope with Mbappé
Ever since his breakout in the 2016/17 season with Monaco, Mbappé has been a constant thorn in oppositions’ side. His pace and trickery make him incredibly hard to mark; too tight and he can knock it past and move into space, standoff and he can get up to speed without the defender having a chance of catching him. In this UEFA Champions League game, he again proved a handful.
Verratti passed it out wide to the left flank, with Odilon Kossounou the closest defender. Instead of taking a touch, Mbappe instantly knocked it beyond the young right-back into the space behind him. In this case, Mechele is able to move from his central position to make a sliding interception, but it was early evidence that the young French forward was in the mood.
Later during the first half, Mbappé was sitting on the shoulder of the last defender, initially looking for a ball over the top. But at the last moment, he checked back to take the ball into feet.
As Kossounou followed him, it created space behind the full-back, which Juan Bernat quickly moved into, receiving the ball and advancing towards goal. This shows how Mbappé can also cause problems when moving towards the ball, as it creates gaps beyond the defenders.
In the second half, the former Monaco forward had a golden opportunity to increase his side’s lead. His starting position was between the full-back and centre-back, with both unsure as to who should be covering him.
With the ball being worked out to Bernat, Mbappé was able to use his pace to move forward ahead of both Brugge defenders, whilst remaining onside.
What looked like a certain goal ended up eluding Paris Saint-Germain, as the young forward was unable to get a solid contact, with the ball falling to Dagba who was then unable to finish from a tight angle. Despite not getting on the score sheet, Mbappé lived up to his reputation as a future star and is surely going to be troubling defences in the Champions League for years to come.
While the French champions were unable to repeat their free-scoring antics from the previous encounter, they were worth the win here, with Di María, Mbappé, and Dagba all impressing. It will be interesting to see how they perform against Real Madrid in their next group game. Brugge’s tactics were brave, looking to hurt Paris Saint-Germain on the break and not dropping back deep into their own half. They will now look to finish third and move into the Europa League, where they may have more luck.
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