ManCity versus PSG: a team here, heroes there – sport

In the end, a smile crossed the face of Mauricio Pochettino, the coach of Paris Saint-Germain. A thickly wrapped man had come down the steps of the Manchester City stadium and moved to the edge of the field by the time most visitors left the stadium, fearful that the pubs would have their hands on the Last Order bells. Former Italian world class player Alessandro Del Piero approached Pochettino.

They talked lively and friendly, just like Del Piero and Pep Guardiola smiled and talked shop when he watched the city trainer after the TV interviews like a fan. And see: Pochettino seemed to forget for a few minutes that he was with PSG lost 2-1 after a 1-0 lead – and that there was also the chance to reach the round of 16 as group winners. PSG expects an opponent from the weight class in the knockout round in the new year, who is getting closer and closer to Del Piero. For example FC Bayern.

The defeat was the negative climax of a week that had not been easy for Pochettino. Since the sacking of coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by city neighbors Manchester United, Pochettino has been the favorite to succeed him, and on Thursday the newspapers in Manchester were full of speculation about alleged transition coaches. The French Rudi García (formerly Olympique Lyon), the Spaniard Ernesto Valverde (FC Barcelona), the Swiss Lucien Favre (BVB) and Ralf Rangnick (RB Leipzig) were named. Which read like they were shooting at United. In The Parisian again it was alleged that the PSG officials sat down with the French legend Zinédine Zidane. He would be ready for the new season to replace Pochettino. Allegedly.

If Pochettino were to leave Paris, it would be tantamount to surrender

How true are these rumors? Good question. But it was noticeable that on Wednesday Pochettino sounded like he would like to return the interest in front of everyone. His reference to his contract, which runs until 2023, sounded tight-lipped, as did his assertion that he felt comfortable in Paris, where he lived in the hotel. He looked more like someone who had just been caught stroking the United owners’ knees under the table. Only: For the time being, Pochettino is trapped in a golden cage. And it’s less about the money than about its reputation.

Because: Leaving a club that has given him employees like Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. or Kylian Mbappé and with which he has not yet won anything that is relevant (not even the French league) – that would be a surrender which is not appropriate in this trade. It would be an admission that this ensemble, overloaded with so many stars, cannot be led. But who knows? Perhaps Pochettino can bring himself to underpin it with words, which can best be read from the way PSG plays. In any case, there was a reason why Captain Marquinhos warned that defensive work is a collective matter.

“What a team! What players”, Pep Guardiola gasped when he appeared at the press conference. Only: his own, anything but talent-free team had won mainly because they acted as an alternative to PSG. City acted as a team: solidarity, organized, self-sacrificing. And it was clearly superior to the Parisians.

Guardiola’s plan was clear: City pushed PSG as hard as they could and sometimes forced the French to try to build up the game with cross passes under the crossbar of their own goal. This aggressiveness should ensure that Messi, Neymar and Mbappé remain cut off from the supply channels; the nature of these three offensive forces simply dictates that they only run backwards on selected occasions. It was almost enough. City did not put the ball in the goal despite many opportunities to finish; once captain Ilkay Gündogan put a ball on the outside post (33.).

The 2-1 through Manchester City? Arts!

But then, shortly after the break, the ball flickered back and forth between the feet of Neymar and Messi and Ander Herrera until Mbappé shot it through the legs of City’s goalkeeper Ederson to take the lead (50th). In the end, City was able to reward himself for the many efforts and thoughtful attacks: When Raheem Sterling equalized, there was a little luck, the substitute Gabriel Jesus had rather involuntarily extended the ball to Sterling, who dusted off more than pushed it in from a close range.

The 2: 1 on the other hand? Arts. Mahrez crossed from the right side of the penalty area to Bernardo Silva, who put the ball back on Gabriel Jesus as elegantly as a roulette croupier pushes the chips across the table: Rien ne va plus. Now there is only one Champions League game left for the Citizens: on December 7th in Leipzig. “We can now focus on the Premier League and then work to be in good shape for the knockout stage (the Champions League),” said Guardiola.

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