PSG are not fooling around this season. One week after winning the Trophee des Champions with a 4-0 walloping of Nantes, the reigning Ligue 1 champions opened their title defense with a 5-0 road win against relegation candidate Clermont Foot.
Neymar scored the opening goal and assisted the next three, and Lionel Messi closed out the scoring with the final two goals as the PSG stars showed they are already on their game under new manager Christophe Galtier.
What probably has their foes shuddering is that they’ve done it without superstar Kylian Mbappe. The French World Cup champion missed last week’s match due to suspension, and then was ruled out with an adductor injury against Clermont. Galtier confirmed he’ll likely return against Montpellier next weekend.
The new PSG manager fielded the same lineup for the second week in a row and it produced similar results as Les Parisiens are already building a head of steam on the back of its superstars.
Messi bicycle goal, but was his assist better?
PSG were already up 4-0 when Lionel Messi sprinted in behind to receive a long ball. With his back to goal, he took it off his chest and sent an overhead kick over the ‘keeper for the exclamation mark on his and his club’s performance. Watch the GIF below:
And if you thought that the bicycle kick was nice, the assist he had on Neymar’s goal was probably even better for the finesse and the football IQ that he showed:
Messi and Neymar set the example with their selfless running throughout the match. The team kept a solid shape throughout the match and goalkeeper Gigi Donnarumma barely had anything to do against an inferior Clermont team. But there were few lapses of concentration.
PSG were dialed in from the start. And although they had moments where they stepped on the ball and pulled back slightly, they were focused and cohesive from start to finish, which was rarely seen last season under Mauricio Pochettino.
Neymar sends a message
Prior to the season there were many who believed that Neymar could be on his way out of PSG as part of the changes that needed to be made for PSG to get back on track.
Two goals and an assist against Nantes last week followed by a goal and three assists the next tell you all you need to know about where the Brazilian sees his future.
Past the goals and assists, what stood out most about Neymar’s performance is his running back to defend and apply pressure. There were matches last season where that level of defending was optional by the three front men. It has been an important part of PSG’s success so far under Galtier. We’ll see if it remains consistent throughout the season, especially during the tougher matches.
“What I take away [from the game] is the collective desire to want to recover the ball right away, and the high intensity without any relaxing,” Galtier said postgame. “Pablo Sarabia gives us good balance, Leo Messi is quick and reacts when we lose the ball, and Ney has made an effort in getting back. And that allows the team block to be very compact and to win the ball [in that density of players].”
Special debuts for PSG
PSG were really flexing their muscle with the quality of the personnel they brought off the bench against Clermont.
How about newly acquired French defender Nordi Mukiele for Sergio Ramos in defense. And the promising Hugo Ekitike for Pablo Sarabia in attack. In-demand Argentine international Leandro Paredes replaced Vitinha. And then there was Warren Zaire-Emery who filled in for Marco Verratti.
If you’ve never heard the name Zaire-Emery, get used to it. He has impressed the coaching staff with his performances during preseason and he did well enough that Galtier gave him his official debut for the club making him the youngest senior player in club history, four months younger than Kingsley Coman.
“It’s also important to put words in action,” PSG manager Galtier said. “We speak about our [PSG] youth development being of a very high level. And so our young players need to feel involved. In that sense, we’ll make an effort to have them play when matches appear to be over.”