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'We're a different team': PSG, Manchester United set history aside for Champions League opener

Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. PSG are hoping to go all the way in the Champions League this season after losing the final to Bayern Munich in August.
Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. PSG are hoping to go all the way in the Champions League this season after losing the final to Bayern Munich in August. © Franck Fife, AFP/File
4 min

Paris St Germain will focus on combating Manchester United's counter attacks in their Champions League opener on Tuesday, 18 months after a heart-breaking elimination by the English side in Europe's premier club competition.

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PSG wasted a two-goal first-leg lead in a 3-1 home defeat by United at the Champions League last 16 stage in 2019, but this year reached the final before losing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in August.

Coach Thomas Tuchel warned that previous achievements would mean nothing on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes.

"Last season is over, and we're a different team now. My challenge is to create a good atmosphere in a tight-knit squad," Tuchel told a news conference before the Group H clash.

While United have already conceded 12 goals in four Premier League games this season, which seems to make them vulnerable to the attacking power of PSG's Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Angel Di Maria, Tuchel has set his side's priorities.

"They have made many changes - to the 2018-19 team - they brought in new players with more confidence and more experience," the German coach said.

"Paul Pogba is a key player, one of the best midfielders in the world. It's key to stop him, and also to stop Bruno Fernandes. He plays with three very fast forwards.

"They're one of the best teams in Europe in terms of attack and transitions. It's key to stop them before they start their counter attacks."

PSG will not have it easy as they are without injured midfielders Marco Verratti and Argentine Leandro Paredes, with the Italian out of action for three weeks with a thigh problem.

Cavani out

Manchester United will not benefit from its full slate of talent, either. Harry Maguire did not travel to Paris with the squad for its Champions League match as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed Bruno Fernandes will captain the visitors.

"We're a little bit depleted but we've got more than enough players," said Solskjaer, who is without Maguire, Mason Greenwood, Eric Bailly, Jesse Lingard and new-signing Edinson Cavani for the game.

Cavani, PSG's all-time leading scorer, had hoped to make his Manchester United debut against his former club on Tuesday. The 33-year-old Uruguay striker joined United on a free transfer after his PSG contract expired last season. He spent seven seasons with the French side, netting a club record 200 goals in the process.

"We hope that the players won't be away for too long. Edinson needs a few more days training before maybe we can think about the weekend, hopefully Harry can and Mason as well but we're not sure about that," added the United manager of the players' prospects of being back to face Chelsea on Saturday.

Fernandes, who scored in the 4-1 weekend win at Newcastle United, described being given the captain's armband in Maguire's absence as "an honour, an important achievement".

United are returning to the Champions League this season after missing out in the last campaign.

Tuesday's clash will also bring back memories for United, of the sides' 2019 encounter, when Solskjaer's team won thanks to a dramatic late penalty at the Parc des Princes to earn a place in the quarters. But, the Norwegian said, "That's history for us, it's in the past, so great history, great game but it has no impact whatsoever on this game.

"We know we're a different team, they are a different team, it's a different stage of the competition, it's of course also without fans so it's going to be a different game."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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