It’s a process of steps for Paris Saint-Germain under first-year coach Unai Emery as they try to reach at least the quarterfinals of the Champions League for a fifth straight year. And first things first, a spot in the knockout round is there for the taking if they can leave Switzerland with a victory over FC Basel on Tuesday and get a little help.
PSG finally appear to have found a groove under Emery, entering this match unbeaten in their last six matches (5-1-0) across all competitions while not conceding a goal for 305 minutes since Alou Diarra scored for Nancy in PSG’s 2-1 victory Oct. 15.
They emerged with a 1-0 victory at Lille on Saturday courtesy of Edinson Cavani’s goal in the 65th minute. It was the 13th goal in the Uruguay international’s last 10 matches in all contests, and the victory lifted PSG into third in the Ligue 1 table – trailing Monaco on goal difference for second and remaining six points behind front-running Nice.
“We played very well, we dominated the game,” midfielder Blaise Matuidi told PSG’s official website. “We had possession and created opportunities. We’re aware we can do better. We had a lot of chances, and we gave them very few. The difference was that we scored.”
Matuidi’s words could also be used to describe PSG’s 3-0 victory over Basel two weeks ago at Parc des Princes. While Basel proved stubborn to break down, goals by Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura before a late penalty by Cavani provided three needed points that created a six-point advantage for the French side for second in Group A of the Champions League.
If either PSG or Arsenal win and neither side lose, both will advance into the knockout round. The two teams will meet again in London on Nov. 23 with the top spot in the group almost certain to be at stake.
“It’s a very important win because we want to finish top of the group,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti told UEFA.com. “We didn’t play well in the first half, but that’s normal because Basel played well themselves.”
Cavani’s next goal will give him sole possession of fifth on PSG’s all-time scoring list. His 95 goals are tied with Francois M’Pele and three behind Mustapha Dahleb for fourth. Cavani is one of only two players to score goals in all three match days.
Basel’s only blemishes this season have come in their Champions League road defeats at Arsenal and PSG, and they need a victory to have any hope of advancing from Group A. The Swiss side are running roughshod over their domestic Super League – they own a 12-point advantage after going 11-2-0 in their first 13 matches – and are coming off a 2-0 victory at Grasshoppers on a first-half brace by Matias Delgado.
Delgado scored in the 17th minute before converting from the spot five minutes later for the Bebbi, who have conceded only 10 goals in domestic play but six in their three Champions League matches (0-1-2).
Despite the loss in Paris, Basel do have reason to be confident entering the match at St. Jakob. They have outscored opponents 18-4 while going unbeaten in their seven matches there (5-2-0) and also hit the woodwork three times in their defeat to PSG.
“The result does not reflect the action on the pitch,” Basel manager Urs Fischer insisted. “We played well, which is most important. We played with more aggression compared to our performance against Arsenal; we need to transfer this approach to the challenges that lie ahead.”
One of the things Basel must do is acquire more possession. They had 36 percent or less in their losses to both Arsenal and PSG, but had the lion’s share (57) in their 1-1 draw against Ludogorets to open group play. The Bebbi have gone 191 minutes without a goal in Champions League play since Renato Steffen secured that draw in September with Basel’s lone tally in the European tournament thus far.
With seven goals, Delgado is well ahead of his scoring pace from last season in which the Argentina international totaled 12 in 34 games across all competitions. Delgado is tied for Basel’s scoring lead with Seydou Doumbia, but the Ivory Coast international has been held to two goals in his last seven contests.
Basel have a strong track record in home matches against French teams, losing just once in seven matches (4-2-1), and beating AS Etienne 2-1 in the round of 32 of the Europa League last season. Additionally, Basel are still trying to beat Emery for the first time, having also lost to him 3-0 in a two-legged aggregate in last year’s Europa League round of 16 against Sevilla.
This is the first time PSG is playing a Swiss opponent on the road in European competition. Basel midfielder Steffen and PSG counterpart Thiago Motta will both miss the next match if they are given yellow cards in this contest.
Ovidiu Hategan will head an all Romanian officiating crew for this match.
Probable Lineups: Basel (4-4-1-1) – Vaclik, Lang, Suchy, Balanta, Traore, Fransson, Zuffi, Bjarnason, Delgado, Xhaka, Doumbia. PSG (4-3-3) – Areola, Kurzawa, Silva, Marquinhos, Aurier, Matuidi, Verratti, Rabiot, Di Maria, Cavani, Lucas.
Prediction: PSG 1-0