Clubs, French Ligue 1, Marco Verratti, Paris Saint-Germain, Story

Critics are still out on Neymar, but there’s no denying the beginning of this 2018/19 PSG campaign has been nothing short of scintillating.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel claimed midfielder Marco Verratti is an “extraordinary” talent ahead of Sunday’s Ligue 1 clash with Lyon.

Verratti, 25, has recently returned to action after a lengthy injury lay-off but his presence was sorely missed in a 3-2 Champions League Group C defeat away at Liverpool. The Italy international returned against Red Star Belgrade in Europe and was instrumental in a 6-1 battering of the Serbs.

Speaking at a prematch press conference on Saturday, Tuchel emphasised the importance of the midfielder.

“Marco Verratti is an important player, extraordinary — one of the best in the world,” he said. “He finds solutions in the tightest of spaces and works like crazy to win the ball back. Marco influences others, like the fans. He is important.”

Looking ahead to Lyon’s visit to Parc des Princes this weekend, Tuchel recognised Les Gones‘ “top-quality” players and ability to raise their game against stronger opposition.

“It is a tough match against a top-quality team,” he said. “OL are better against bigger sides, as we saw against both Marseille and Manchester City — we saw their true ability both times. Lyon feel freer when they are not considered favourites.” 

Tuchel admitted that Lyon will treat the PSG clash like a Champions League one and stressed the importance of the French champions maintaining their current pace that has seen them rack up a record-equalling eight consecutive wins in Ligue 1.

“Lyon will take a Champions League approach here and we must keep ours,” he said. “They are direct competitors. We want to win and also set this new Ligue 1 record (nine straight wins to start the season for the first time ever). “My players are hungry to win. We are at our level now and we need to keep that for each match.”

Marquinhos was rested for the demolition of Red Star in midweek but Tuchel confirmed that the Brazil international will start on Sunday, possibly at the expense of suspended midfielder Adrien Rabiot.

Tuchel is also unsure whether or not Gianluigi Buffon or Alphonse Areola will start in goal after their recent rotation because of the Italian legend’s Champions League suspension.

“Marquinhos will play, yes,” he said. “In a 4-4-2 or not, we will see — it is a possibility. We can play with a No. 6 or 3 defenders. I am not sure if Gianluigi will be in goal, I need to think. I am not sure what was planned with the goalkeepers.”

Meanwhile, Tuchel confirmed that Christopher Nkunku is out against Lyon with an injury and that Julian Draxler, as well as Lassana Diarra, will be “assessed after the final training session.”

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