Champions win without injured stars
Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were at the Parc des Princes to watch as Paris Saint-Germain made hard work of Toulouse on Saturday.
Edinson Cavani led Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-0 Ligue 1 win over Toulouse in front of the injured duo.
Club record goalscorer Cavani netted a superb opener inside nine minutes to seemingly set the tone for PSG to soar to victory. Yet the champions appeared to feel the absence of the world’s two most expensive players as their momentum waned.
Thomas Tuchel’s men were still able to hold on for a 14th consecutive victory to start the Ligue 1 season. But the story may well be different when Liverpool arrive in Paris on Wednesday for a make-or-break Champions League meeting.
PSG will hope to see Neymar and Mbappe on the pitch rather than in the stands for that match. Especially having underwhelmed against modest domestic opponents.
With the focus on his absent team-mates, Cavani did not take long to provide a reminder of his talents. The forward claimed a loose ball in the area with his back to goal, turned brilliantly past his marker and thumped a volley into the net.
However, PSG’s suffocating possession initially led to few further openings. After Cavani had a second goal disallowed, Toulouse threatened with a couple of speculative efforts before the break.
There was more urgency to the hosts’ play at the start of the second half. Thomas Meunier headed over, but that just about proved to be the extent of their attacking ambition.
Christopher Jullien blazed over at the other end when he should have equalized. Presnel Kimpembe crucially intervened on the goal-line to protect the points in a nervy finish.
PSG’s possession figure rarely strayed far from the 75 per cent mark. Although Marco Verratti and Co had some difficulty converting this control into chances. Tuchel will hope this does not prove to be a sign of things to come in the Liverpool game, with Neymar and Mbappe perhaps returning. The Reds will offer a far greater threat going the other way and could potentially punish PSG.
Cavani was scoring for PSG at a staggering rate long before Neymar and Mbappe came on the scene. Therefore it was no surprise to see the Uruguay international thrive again under pressure. The forward took his early opportunity with style, saw a close-range header ruled out for offside and ran Toulouse ragged throughout.
Julian Draxler promised on Friday that he was capable of stepping into the sizeable shoes of Neymar and Mbappe. Yet the lack of a creative spark was evident from PSG in the first half. The Germany international did not lay on a single chance for his team-mates. If PSG are relying on Draxler against Liverpool, he must improve considerably.
PSG have lost only one of their last 18 Ligue 1 games against Toulouse (W15 D2), back in September 2016 (0-2).
That big clash with Liverpool awaits PSG on Wednesday, with the French champions hoping to be able to welcome back their star duo.