PSV v Barcelona talking points as Dembele asserts himself

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Ousmane Dembele

Barcelona qualified as group toppers after stealing a 2-1 win away to PSV Eindoven in their fifth game in the Champions League.

The Blaugrana midfield was absolutely awful but the frontline bailed them out and prevented what could have been an embarrassing defeat.

We take a look at some of the talking points from the game.

BARCELONA’S MIDFIELD DROPS A SHOCKER

Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquests had a horrendous first half, committing silly mistakes that could have led to goals. Luuk de Jong and Hirving Lozano were the star performers for the hosts, latching onto every mistake but lacking the prowess to finish off the chances.

Steven Bergwijn was a constant threat on the left and Nelson Semedo found it hard to keep up with the Dutchman. The trio could have combined to score two goals in the first half alone, had the woodwork not betrayed them.

Barcelona’s midfield was suffocated by PSV’s pressing and gave the ball away easily, on many occasions.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen was at his distributive worst and lost possession way too often. It’s only fair that the German writes a thank-you note to the frame of the goal for saving his blushes.

De Jong’s header kissed the crossbar and Pablo Rosario hit the wrong side of the post in the dying moments of the first half.

A lead at half-time could have completely changed the dynamics of the second half for PSV ad they were unlucky not to achieve this.

Sergio Busquets should have done better

Sergio Busquets should have done better

OUSMANE DEMBELE ASSERTS HIMSELF

Two words for Dembele’s performance against PSV – absolutely elegant. The visitors were on the back-foot throughout the first half despite seeing more of the ball. Dembele’s performance could be the one positive that Ernesto Valverde would pick from the first half.

The Frenchman was a constant threat that the likes of Angelino and Gaston Pereiro just could not deal with.

The 21-year-old was clever with his decisions on the field, for a change and could have bagged a couple more assists with the quality of his passes.

The ambipedal winger completed all four of the dribbles that he attempted, delivered three key passes and was dispossessed just once during the 78 minutes that he played.

The Frenchman grabbed an assist as he set up Lionel Messi in a crowded PSV box and could have scored a couple more himself.

The youngster might just have established himself as an undisputed starter with a performance like this.

Ousmane Dembele was magnificent

Ousmane Dembele was magnificent

GALLANT PSV PUSH BARCA TO THE EDGE

The hosts were all over the Spanish giants whenever they had the ball. For all of Barcelona’s meaningless possession, it was PSV who created clear-cut chances.

Lozano has been on Barcelona’s radar after his impressive performance in the World Cup and the Mexican did not work hard to hide his admiration for the club too.

With a performance like this, it’s safe to say that the 23-year-old has drawn some attention from his potential future employers. The Mexican created quite a few clear cut chances for Bergwijn to miss. Lozano had a couple of chances which he should have buried but the youngster can be proud of staging a spirited performance.

De Jong was PSV’s best player on the night and deserved the consolation goal. The Dutchman was always among the thick of things that transpired in the neutral third and was absolutely relentless with his pursuit for the winner.

The result was a tad bit unfair for the hosts but PSV can be proud of a spirited performance that pushed Barcelona to the edge.

 Luuk De Jong impressed for PSV Eindhoven

Luuk De Jong impressed for PSV Eindhoven

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Manager in Focus: Jurgen Klopp loses tactical battle in Liverpool's defeat to PSG

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Paris Saint-Germain turned in an inspiring performance to beat Liverpool 2-1 in their Group C Champions League clash.

Juan Bernat opened the scoring in the 13th minute as the hosts began brightly while the influential Neymar added a second in the 37th minute.

Angel Di Maria’s lunging challenge brought down Sadio Mane inside the area as the away side pulled one back when James Milner converted the resulting penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Here’s a look at how Jurgen Klopp fared in the tactical battle with Thomas Tuchel.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 1

Shots – 8

Possession – 56%

Tackles – 19

Dribbles – 3

30-SECOND REPORT

If Liverpool were the dominant force at Anfield, the tables were certainly turned at the Parc des Princes, particularly in the first half. The Reds struggled to get going and were caught off guard by PSG’s vibrancy and effervescence from the get-go.

Liverpool’s defence was not allowed time on the ball to play out from the back while Jordan Henderson didn’t help proceedings. He didn’t show for the ball enough and when he did, he opted to play a back pass more often than his side would’ve liked.

Klopp almost seemed surprised by the way PSG started and could only make an impact after the break. The Reds were much better in the second period, pressing higher up the pitch while Mohamed Salah and Mane seemed to attack the half spaces in the final third better.

However, despite enjoying far more possession with PSG sitting off them a bit, they still lacked direction going forward and never really looked like getting the equaliser.

Sadio Mane won the penalty to keep Liverpool in it.

Sadio Mane won the penalty to keep Liverpool in it.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Gomez at right-back

Following some good displays in recent games, why Klopp would bench Trent Alexander-Arnold and start Joe Gomez at right-back instead is bewildering. The latter – presumably in the manager’s eyes – is more astute defensively he looked out of his depth against the pace and movement of Neymar and Mbappe.

Alexander-Arnold on the other hand, while not free of flaws himself, has proven his worth in big games. His performance against Cristiano Ronaldo when Liverpool lost last season’s final to Real Madrid being a shining example.

He even coped well with Neymar when PSG visited Anfield in September. Gomez not only struggled to find his bearings in defence, panicking in possession when boxed in by the press, but also failed to produce quality going forward.

Alexander-Arnold’s delivery from wide areas serves as an added weapon in Liverpool’s armoury but Gomez never looked eager to get early crosses in and when he did decide to whip one in, it was always well off the mark.

Joe Gomez struggled at right-back.

Joe Gomez struggled at right-back.

VERDICT

Klopp just seemed less prepared than his counterpart. Tuchel had a specific plan laid out and Liverpool had just arrived hoping to do what they do and triumph. It’s rarely that simple in the Champions League. The Reds boss must shoulder most of the blame especially with his changes in the second half having no impact as well.

Rating 5/10

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Tuchel masterminds PSG's win over Liverpool with inspired tactics and Neymar role

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Paris Saint-Germain turned in an inspiring performance to beat Liverpool 2-1 in their Group C Champions League clash.

Juan Bernat opened the scoring in the 13th minute as the hosts began brightly while the influential Neymar added a second in the 37th minute.

Angel Di Maria’s lunging challenge brought down Sadio Mane inside the area as the away side pulled one back when James Milner converted the resulting penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Here’s a look at how Thomas Tuchel fared in the tactical battle with Jurgen Klopp.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 2

Shots – 11

Possession – 44%

Tackles – 17

Dribbles – 7

30-SECOND REPORT

With the prospect of elimination lurking, Tuchel had it all to do in this fixture. Given PSG’s ambitions in the competition, the pressure was on and the first good thing the manager did was get his players riled up for the challenge.

Even on the touchline, Tuchel yelled and gesticulated like a madman to the extent that perhaps even the eccentric Klopp was taken aback.

It wasn’t all about ranting, raving and winding up the crowd to produce a hair-raining atmosphere though. Tuchel clearly planned for this contest meticulously and his tactics had an air of sophistication.

The flexibility of the team, utilising various shapes in different phases of play over the course of the game was remarkable. Early on, they seemed to immediately dominate the ball by means of a 3-4-1-2 formation with Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat pushing up while Marquinhos dropped in to support Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe.

That changed as soon as they broke the deadlock though and for the majority of the match, they operated in a 4-4-2 without the ball and a 4-2-3-1 in possession. Neymar was the key, linking up play superbly while Kylian Mbappe was his favourite outlet.

PSG were impressive.

PSG were impressive.

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Neymar’s role

Barcelona wasn’t big enough for two talismanic figures and so Neymar was always destined to leave Camp Nou from under Lionel Messi’s shadow. Now at PSG, the Brazilian has shown his ability to lead the team in their quest for European glory and Wednesday night was another example of that.

The fact that he doesn’t seem consumed in competition with a young trailblazer like Mbappe and instead plays the more influential role, feeding the blossoming talent of his team-mate shows great maturity.

Tuchel realises that and his utilisation of the 26-year-old was excellent. Without possession, the Brazilian was entrusted with left midfield role while Mbappe had the freedom of staying upfront with Edinson Cavani. Neymar was even seen tracking back to support Juan Bernat on occasion.

Meanwhile, he was the conductor in attack, breaking quickly in the transition and assuming a central role linking midfield with attack. Only Marquinhos had more touches than Neymar who was easily the most influential figure on the pitch.

Neymar starred against Liverpool.

Neymar starred against Liverpool.

VERDICT

Tuchel brought his A-game for this one and had it not been for Di Maria’s desperate tackle, his side may even be celebrating a more comfortable win. His tactics were inspired and there didn’t seem to be any shortage of motivation. Even his substitutions seemed to be the right ones although he was let down by his players’ inability to kill off the game.

Rating 8/10

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