PSG's Tuchel Eyeing 'Plan D' vs. Manchester United with Neymar, Cavani Injured

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured Columnist

SG coach Thomas Tuchel, left, speaks with PSG's Edinson Cavani as he leaves the pitch during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Christophe Ena/Associated Press

Thomas Tuchel and Paris Saint-Germain have been left searching for a different plan amid a slew of injuries ahead of the UEFA Champions League tie against Manchester United in the last 16.

The first leg will take place at Old Trafford on Tuesday, and Les Parisiens will be without Neymar, Edinson Cavani (right hip) and Thomas Meunier (concussion), the club revealed on Sunday.

However, Tuchel was confident that his side can find contingencies:

Cavani was substituted with an injury during the first half of Saturday's 1-0 win over Bordeaux in Ligue 1 at the Parc des Princes. Tuchel didn't sound positive when he assessed the Uruguay international's chances of being ready for the United game:

It was a quirk of misfortune that Cavani appeared to be injured after taking and scoring the penalty that increased PSG's lead in the table to 13 points. Tuchel's men also have a game in hand over nearest challengers Lille and Lyon.

Continuing domination of the domestic game in France isn't why PSG hired Tuchel, though. He replaced Unai Emery in the summer to try to end PSG's inability to go all the way in the Champions League.

Neymar's broken metatarsal hasn't helped the former Borussia Dortmund manager's cause. Cavani's absence would add to the burden on Kylian Mbappe, the last striker standing in PSG's star-studded front three.

Mbappe is just 20, but there is no doubt he is the player United will fear most. He has 25 goals in all competitions already this season, and his long strides, pace, close control and ruthless finishing will offer the Red Devils defence a stern test. 

Tuchel will know Mbappe needs support, even though providing it won't be easy given PSG's issues in midfield. Les Parisiens were forced to move 35-year-old right-back Dani Alves into the middle of the park against Bordeaux.

Keeping Alves in midfield for the trip to Old Trafford likely won't be an option with Meunier out.

Alves' unfamiliar role is a symptom of the many problems PSG are taking into the two-legged tie against a United squad back in form since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager in December.

The one silver lining for Tuchel came from Marco Verratti's return from injury. He played almost an hour, and ESPN FC's Jonathan Johnson has reported the Italy international playmaker "is now in contention to start in Manchester."

Verratti, who will be suspended for the second leg in the French capital on March 6 if he's booked on Tuesday, will be a vital player in Manchester. His technique and eye for a pass can help keep the ball away from a lethal United attack and create chances for Mbappe to exploit.

Even with Verratti, the absences in midfield and up top will tax all of Tuchel's abilities. He needs to come up with ways to arrange weakened personnel into the right combinations. Tuchel must also devise a strategy to help a makeshift team halt United's seemingly unstoppable momentum on Solskjaer's watch.

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