Matchday 5 Build-up
The unforgiving schedule of matches in November and December continues with yet another Champions League group stage matchday. After this round, only a handful of clubs will still need to fight to fill the remaining vacant spots in the round of 16. Other clubs will compete to either qualify for Europa League or win their respective groups hoping for easier draws in the knockout stage. Matchday 5 opens with:
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid
- Lokomotiv Moscow vs Salzburg
If you missed it, it is worth going back to check on NMA’s UCL Matchday 5 Preview. My fellow author and UCL expert Prakhar has also given us his insights on MD5 players picks, and PPQ shared his team selections in all competitions including UCL Matchday for your ratings and comments.
The Busby Babe Interview
MiQ: Hello Brent, and deep thanks to Manchester United Blog on SBNation “thebusbybabe.com” for participating in this mini-interview! Starting things off, [last season] Manchester United reached the semifinals in both the Europa League and FA cup. They also finished third in the English Premier League. How do you rate last season in general?
Brent: Last season was such a unique (and long) one that it’s tricky to put into perspective. All things considered though, I would rate 2019-20 as a qualified success. It was a disappointment to end the season trophyless — as it should be, for a club with United’s expectations — but finishing third in the league and securing a return to the Champions League was the most important goal that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to meet, and he did that.
MiQ: In order to provide our readers with an advantage in this season’s UCL fantasy, we would love to hear your opinion on a few subjects. How is the general fans’ reaction to the results of the group stage so far? How would you rate the rumors (in terms of being serious) surrounding Ole to be sacked when Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir delivered one of the competition’s surprises in MD3, defeating a rotated team 1-2?
Brent: The result in Istanbul was a shock and a disappointment, but nine points from four matches in what is probably the toughest group in this year’s competition is still a good start. Winning the reverse fixture took a lot of the sting out of that first Basaksehir loss, and now United might even need as little as one or two points from the final two matches to ensure qualification to the next round. At a club like United, especially in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, we’re only ever two bad results away from fans and media declaring a CRISIS, but I don’t think there was ever any real chance of Solskjaer’s job being in jeopardy after the loss to Istanbul Basaksehir.
MiQ: UCL fantasy is based on player price vs points return. As an expert of everything Manchester United, who are the best consistant performers? And who are the players we should stay away from when selecting our teams? Donny Van de Beek seems to be out of favor so far. Do you expect him to have a bigger role in the near future?
Brent: Probably the biggest thing to be wary of this week is injuries. Anthony Martial missed the match at the weekend with illness and, as of Monday morning, still hasn’t been able to train. Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay may pass late fitness tests, but both are currently considered unlikely to start. Van de Beek was very good at the weekend, and unless the more defensive option of McTominay is available, I would expect Donny to start again on Wednesday. In terms of fantasy value, Alex Telles might be a good bet. United depend on their full-backs for width, and most of their attacks are focused on the left side of the pitch. On top of that, Telles has been taking set-pieces as well. A cagier game will suit United on Wednesday as well, so there’s also the possbility of a clean sheet bonus.
MiQ: Based on the selected line-up in the away-match against Southampton, how will Man United line up in the return leg at home against PSG in MD 5?
Brent: With everyone available, I would’ve expected United to line up similarly to how they did in Paris (3-5-2), but with Luke Shaw injured, Axel Tuanzebe suspended, and Scott McTominay doubtful, Solskjaer may not even have the option of starting with a back 3. At time of writing, I would expect United to line up with the same side that started the second half at Southampton: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelöf, Telles; Matić, Fred, van de Beek; Fernandes; Rashford, Cavani.
MiQ: I would like to thank you again for participating and I expect to be waving for your attention for another interview in the knockout stages.
PSG Talk Interview
It was my pleasure as well to host and interview Ed from PSG talk for Important insight on who from PSG is going to get more playing time in the coming weeks:
MiQ: Hello Ed, and deep thanks to “PSGtalk.com” for participating in this mini-interview! Starting things off — PSG had a rocky start in this season’s Champions League accompanied with a long list of injuries. Fortunately, PSG finished MD4 having the upper hand against RB Leipzig on away goals. Last season, PSG won the “suspended Ligue 1” and lost its best chance yet to win the European honors. How do you rate last season in general?
Ed: Last season was easily the best of the Qatar Sports Investments era. Since their takeover of Paris Saint-Germain, the goal has always been to win the UEFA Champions League, and after some catastrophic collapses, the club finally broke through to the final where they were defeated by a single goal by arguably the best team in the world right now [Bayern Munich].
That return leg against Borussia Dortmund stands out as a special moment. Not only did the team come from behind in the tie to advance to the next stage, but the visuals of the fans celebrating outside of the Parc des Princes at the outset of the pandemic is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I wish the season had ended with Neymar hoisting the Champions League trophy, but I still rate the season as a success despite coming up short of the ultimate goal.
MiQ: In order to provide our readers with an advantage in this season’s UCL fantasy, we would love to hear your opinion on a few subjects if you do not mind. How was the general fans’ reaction to the group stage draw followed by a somewhat unexpected loss to Manchester United in Paris? How is Tuchel handling the pressure?
Ed: I think the overall reaction to the group stage draw was that PSG should qualify for the knockout stage without too much trouble while Manchester United and Leipzig would battle it out for second place. PSG had just dominated Leipzig in the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League, and on paper PSG’s squad is much more talented than United.
Leading up to the match against the Red Devils, PSG had already suffered several losses in Ligue 1, so confidence wasn’t too high. I saw the match as an opportunity for PSG to right the ship and get some revenge for the loss they suffered to United in the 2018-19 Champions League campaign.
It’s difficult to read Tuchel. He’s abrasive in front of the media, and he isn’t getting along with the sporting director. PSG sit top of Ligue 1, but they already have three losses and a draw. Combine that with the losses to United and Leipzig in the Champions League, and he is very much on the hot seat. Another loss to United and that could be the end of Tuchel’s tenure in Paris.
MiQ: UCL fantasy is based on player price vs points return. As an expert of everything PSG, who are the best consistant performers? And who are the players we should stay away from when selecting our teams?
Ed: You might expect me to say Kylian Mbappé here, and while he is an unbelievable talent, the fact is he hasn’t scored in the Champions League in over a year. The Frenchman has been excellent when it comes to recording assists, but he has struggled to score in the competition as of late. Perhaps he has a breakout game against Manchester United, but it’s a gamble at this point.
PSG’s other superstar, Neymar, is just coming back from injury, but I would lean towards selecting him over Mbappé. He typically takes PSG’s penalty kicks, and we all know what he can do with the ball at his feet. I like his play-making ability, and he’s more likely to get an easy goal-scoring opportunity. If Moise Kean gets the start, I would suggest selecting him as well. In a season that hasn’t gone PSG’s way, he has stood out during his loan from Everton. He has six total goals with two coming in the Champions League along with an assist.
Keylor Navas has been solid this season and I think you would do well to start him. I think he’ll have to make several saves just because the defense in front of him is so bad. Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe are probably the two best defensive players if you’re looking for someone there, but I would stay away from pretty much everyone else.
In the midfield, Marco Verratti might be worth a look, but he is also coming off an injury and commits far too many fouls. I’m not sure you can trust him right now. I would also stay away from Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Julian Draxler, Abdou Diallo, Layvin Kurzawa, Mitchel Bakker, Thilo Kehrer, Pablo Sarabia, Alessandro Florenzi, and Danilo Pereira. They just haven’t been consistent enough this season.
MiQ: I am sending you those questions right after PSG came back in just two minutes from trailing 1-0 to winning 1-2 against Bordeaux, with Neymar and Kean on the scoresheet. Do you expect PSG to continue to achieve positive results, or is it going to be inconsistent this season?
Ed: That match actually finished 2-2 with former PSG academy player Yacine Adli scoring a late equalizer. I expect more of the same until a change is made at manager. There is no reason for Mbappé to go a year in the Champions League without scoring. There’s no reason for a team with Di Maria, Mbappé, Icardi, Neymar, and Kean to look so bad offensively. There’s no imagination going forward, and at times it looks like the players are just going through the motions. PSG needs a new voice and someone to bring a new offensive strategy to get the most out of the players.
MiQ: To close, How will PSG line up in the revenge tie away from home against Man United in MD 5?
Ed: I think you’ll see Tuchel play it safe with a 4-3-3. Navas will be in goal with Bakker at left-back, Kimpembe and Marquinhos at center-back, and Florenzi at right-back. In the midfield, I think Tuchel will go with Danilo, Verratti, and Ander Herrera (or Leandro Paredes). Up front, I expect to see Neymar, Mbappé, and Kean.
Crazy Monday - Injury/suspension/participation Updates
The Matchday 5 Preview article included many players that ended up playing in the domestic leagues. It is worth noting that all of those players were categorized as doubtful, and the same will be updated in this article.
- Atletico Madrid: Diego Costa is still doubtful. Torreira and Suarez are yet to test negative for COVID-19, but that could happen today. Herrera’s muscle injury is being monitored; he is doubtful against Bayern Munich. Both Carrasco and Felix were rested in the weekend and will feature.
- Bayern Munich: Sule returned in Bayern’s domestic league match this weekend as a substitute and should be given a start to rest either Boateng or Alaba. Kimmich and Davies remain long term absentees. Roca is suspended in matchday 5 after being sent off against Salzburg. Lewandowski, Goretzka and Neuer earned their rest and did not travel to Madrid for UCL Matchday 5. Martinez featured in the press conference and should start the game.
- Borussia Monchengladbach: Plea is back and should take Embolo’s place to lead the attack. Ramy Bensebaini will look to return a negative test result before the match tonight, but Hoffman remains doubtful. Midfielder Neuhaus featured in the press conference and will start the game.
- Inter Milan: With a clean bill of health of the main players, only Vidal will not take part in matchday 5 against Borussia M after he was sent off against Real Madrid. Rannochia featured in the press conference yesterday and will start the game.
- Real Madrid: Benzema is back to lead Real Madrid attack. Hazard suffered yet another injury and will miss the remainder of the Group Stage. Valverdi and Carvajal did not travel due to injuries as well. Captain Sergio Ramos and Ordiozola will miss the match as well against Shakhtar.
- Manchester City: Guardiola’s injury list is down to center back Nathan Ake who could return sooner rather than later.
- Ajax: M Kudus is the only injured player and will miss the rest of the group stage.
- Liverpool: The injury list for the EPL Champions includes Gomez, and Van Dijk probably for the season. Shaqiri, Keita, Thiago and Oxlade-Chamberlin are all doubtful. Henderson is back and featured in the press conference with Klopp. The tactician informed us that Matip is injured and will not play against Ajax, and he was not happy with Milner’s new injury.
- Atalanta: Gasperini informed the press with Djimisti featuring as well that Gosens is available for selection after reports that he was injured against Liverpool.
- Chelsea: Lampard eased Pulisic in at the weekend against Tottenham Hotspur, so he may get the nod to start in matchday 5.
- Sevilla: Navas returns from matchday 4 suspension while Bono needs to return a negative test result today and Suso remains doubtful for matchday 5.
- Lazio: Milinkovic Savic is still positive for COVID-19; Staroshka returned a negative result on 19 November, but he has been ensnared in Lazio’s ongoing testing procedure controversy; he could still start against Dortmund.
- Dortmund: Meunier picked up an injury in Dortmund’s defeat this weekend and is doubtful.
- Barcelona: Umtiti, Busquets and Araujo are nearing recovery but remain doubtful. Ansu Fati is out until February. Pique is out for at least four months, Sergi Roberto until January. Lenglet is added to Koeman’s injury list and will not play against Ferencvaros.
- Juventus: Bonucci returned from injury while Cheillini is still out. There are conflicting reports on Buffon if he will start the game in matchday 5.
- Manchester United: Wan Bissaka picked up an ankle injury on Tuesday but expected to be ready to play by matchday 5. Shaw and Jones are out until mid December at best; Pogba remains doubtful. Van De Beek broadcast a photo of his swollen ankle and is doubtful.
- PSG: Other than Bernat, who is set to miss out the match against Manchester United, Icardi, Gueye, Kehrer, Draxler remain doubtful.
- RB Leipzig: Mukeile, Halstenberd and Upamenaco returned from injury in midweek, and I expect Angelino to be rested as a result. Klostermann and Laimer are out.
Keep an eye on the comments section for any updates on reported injuries before today’s deadline. Good luck to everyone!
How’s your team faring? Have you been hit by any of the missing players? Do you have any tactical questions? And which matches do you plan / wish to watch as a fan? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!