So bad are the selection problems that Paris Saint-Germain face ahead of their trip to Manchester United on Tuesday, Thomas Tuchel has branded the team he will have to play at Old Trafford his “Plan D”.
PSG had just about managed to digest the absence of Neymar (£20.11) for the match when Edinson Cavani (£2.21) pulled up having scored a penalty in the first half of the weekend’s 1-0 win over Bordeaux at home.
The Parc des Princes crowd held its collective breath as the Uruguayan went off three minutes before the break only to fail to emerge for the second half. Then came another period of waiting overnight for news as to just how serious the problem is.
Tuchel had braced the support on Saturday evening for bad news.
“It’s super close and I don’t know if it’ll be possible for him to play,” the German announced.
The subsequent scan revealed the coach’s pessimism to be well founded, with a chance the Uruguayan will not even be able to play the second leg – a match that already seems beyond Neymar.
While PSG are just about capable of replacing one member of their star offensive trio, which is headed up by the still-fit Kylian Mbappe (£16.54), missing two represents a huge issue.
Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (£1.15) is next in line to feature through the centre, but with just one goal to his credit this season, it seems improbable that he will be tasked with the responsibility of leading the line at Old Trafford.
It is a responsibility that is set to be shouldered by Mbappe, and while he has already won multiple honours, including the World Cup last summer, it represents perhaps the sternest test of the 20-year-old’s career to date.
January fears over the midfield, too, have been realised. Marco Verratti (£2.49) is set to play but there remain questions over his readiness to do so, while alongside him there is little certainty over who might feature, with Adrien Rabiot (£2.72) out of favour, Leandro Paredes (£2.30) still finding his feet and Dani Alves (£1.84) likely to operate at right-back in the absence of Thomas Meunier (£1.62), who is concussed.
For so many question marks to hang over the team on the eve of their biggest fixture of the season to date, with just three first-team players absent, speaks volumes as to how ill-prepared PSG’s directors have the team for knockout European football.
A combination of poor planning and bad luck have PSG by the throat ahead of their trip to England, which suddenly promises to be a far more intimidating affair than when the draw was originally made in December.
If Tuchel’s men can ride out the storm and win this tie, it will be the clearest indication yet that on the field they are ready to win the Champions League, though off it, they still seem deficient.