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How Luis Enrique’s decisions cost PSG, then almost saved them, before leading to a Champions League defeat



How Luis Enrique's decisions cost PSG, then almost saved them, before leading to a Champions League defeat

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain head coach Luis Enrique and his players have their work cut out for them in next week’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final after the Spanish tactician made a raft of tactical changes that didn’t quite work out on Wednesday. While a 3-2 defeat at the Parc des Princes isn’t fatal to the French giants’ hopes of reaching the semi-finals, things are now certainly harder than they need to be after Raphinha conceded a pair of avoidable goals either side of Ousmane Dembele and Vitinha. efforts and the head winner of Andreas Christensen.

For the first 17 minutes of the second half, it looked like Luis Enrique’s changes would pay off after a minor correction to overturn the decision to start Marco Asensio. Bradley Barcola’s introduction sparked a 134-second blitz on the Barca goal, turning PSG’s game on its head. Lucas Beraldo’s problematic defensive combination with Lucas Hernandez and then Marquinhos failed to work in either half and ultimately undid that mesmerizing spell of home dominance in Paris early in the second half.

The most baffling decision of all, however, was to appoint Warren Zaire-Emery as a substitute rather than starting him. While it may have been rooted in form-based logic, it also made the midfield trio of Vitinha, Lee Kang-in and Fabian Ruiz essentially an experimental trio, which is not a recipe for success in a UCL quarter-final. The fact that the France international was brought on for the Korean after just an hour suggested that Luis Enrique finally saw the need for a central midfield pivot who would restore balance in a key position.

Dembélé out wide instead of through the middle – as is often the case in some bigger matches – was an eyebrow-raiser, even if it didn’t stop the French star from scoring the equalizer in spectacular fashion and later hitting the post at 2-2. The former Barca man played a key role in much of what Les Parisiens attempted and was involved more regularly than Kylian Mbappé, but problems elsewhere on the pitch meant Dembele was not the difference-maker he could have been had he played a more influential central role . from the start rather than just when Paris fell behind.

This was perhaps down to Luis Enrique’s gamble to deploy Asensio as a false nine, leaving the hosts without a real focal point in attack, as evidenced by the lack of big shots on target from central positions. Goncalo Ramos and Randal Kolo Muani were both unused substitutes until very late in the Portuguese international’s case, although there was a lack of sharpness early on. Asensio and Dembele moved out wide and Mbappe occasionally failed to move centrally enough to fill the void left by the Spaniard as he sought his more natural wide berth, resulting in an intermittent attacking fluidity.

“It wasn’t the result we wanted,” Luis Enrique admitted. “We played a very good game against a very good opponent. We made the game a bit complicated by conceding the first goal. They didn’t give the ball away and played very well. In the second half we turned the game around and we “I had two chances to take a 3-1 lead, but then they scored a third goal. Everything is still open. We go to Barcelona with great desire and ambition. It will be a final for us and I have confidence in my team.”

PSG had zero shots from the center of the penalty area


Strangely, the decision imposed on Luis Enrique – Marquinhos rolling back the years to remind us of his versatility as a right-back – was the one that worked best and even that was reversed after just one half. Following a terrible performance from Lucas Beraldo alongside Lucas Hernandez in central defence, the France international switched captaincy at half-time to no avail. Achraf Hakimi wouldn’t have transformed this backline into something sturdier, but there would have been less rushing and switching, ultimately taking PSG out of open play twice and it was no surprise that left-back Nuno Mendes was the only defender who looked confident his position. positioning.

Overall, as against Newcastle United early in the group stage and against Milan away – PSG’s most recent defeat the previous November – Luis Enrique made big decisions that didn’t pay off. This time it could really cost the Ligue 1 leaders as they now have to go to Catalonia and win by more than one goal to progress to the semi-finals, which seemed to be within reach before the match. Whether the Spanish tactician’s line-up in the first leg would have been better suited for the second leg will only be answered by the line-up of Les Parisiens and how they perform next week.