Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Preview: Atalanta BC vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain take on Atalanta BC in the first of the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday evening aiming to keep alive their quest for an unprecedented quadruple.

PSG have already claimed all three domestic honours on offer and are now looking to triumph on the continental stage for the first time, with this Atalanta’s debut at this stage.

The one-legged match will be played at the Estadio da Luz after the remainder of UEFA’s showpiece competition was switched to Lisbon in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

As incredible as it may sound on the face of it, 2019-20 could yet be deemed a disappointment for PSG despite the fact that they have those three trophies in the bag.

They were crowned French champions in March after the coronavirus pandemic ended the Ligue 1 season 11 games early, boasting a 12-point lead at the summit at the time.

PSG then had a five-month wait before beating Saint-Etienne 1-0 in the Coupe de France final on July 24, a week before overcoming Lyon on penalties in the Coupe de la Ligue final.

Thomas Tuchel’s men have also played a number of friendlies to keep them ticking over and, taking those fixtures into account, have scored 17 goals since last conceding.

Scoring goals is not exactly an issue for the French giants, either, even if Kylian Mbappe is a major doubt for this clash with Atalanta due to an ankle injury.

That is especially true on the continent, having scored in each of their last 32 Champions League games since the 2015-16 season – the longest current streak in the competition.

Goals can very much be expected in Lisbon on Wednesday as Atalanta scored an incredible 98 times in Serie A en route to finishing third this season.

That is a tally that only Manchester City (102) and Bayern Munich (100) can better in Europe’s top five leagues.

Atalanta have conceded more goals than any other remaining team in this season’s Champions League, however, and have the highest expected goals against tally among the final eight.

While PSG will arguably enter this match a little rusty, even accounting for those two recent finals, Atalanta will be near enough at peak fitness.

The Italian side have played 13 times in the last five months, winning nine of those matches and losing just one.

Like their opponents, though, La Dea are without their leading marksman as Josip Ilicic has missed the last month because of personal reasons.

PSG are without the suspended Angel di Maria and injured midfielder Marco Verratti, while Mbappe appears almost certain to miss out despite returning to training.

That could force Tuchel into a tactical rethink, with his favoured 4-4-2 formation likely to become a 4-3-3.

Ander Herrera has been tipped to come into central midfield alongside Marquinhos and Idrissa Gueye, with Pablo Sarabia on the right of the front three.

Neymar is fully fit and has scored 12 goals in his last 16 knockout games – only Cristiano Ronaldo (33), Lionel Messi (16) and Robert Lewandowski (14) have more since 2014-15.

With Ilicic not expected to play any part, Gian Piero Gasperini will probably stick with a front three of Ruslan Malinovskiy, Alejandro Gomez and Duvan Zapata.

At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini has been ruled out with an injury and will be replaced by Marco Sportiello, who made just five league starts this term.

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Sportiello; Toloi, Caldara, Djimsiti; Hateboer, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Gomez, Malinovskiy; Zapata

Paris Saint-Germain possible starting lineup:
Navas; Kehrer, Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat; Gueye, Marquinhos, Herrera; Sarabia, Icardi, Neymar