Paris Saint-Germain renew Ligue 1 duties on Thursday shorn of a clutch of their most prized coronavirus-quarantined stars and facing the daunting task of four games in 11 days. The delayed season-opening travel to Lens could not have come at a worse time for coach Thomas Tuchel and his players as they shake off the hurt left by the Champions League last defeat to Bayern Munich. COVID-19 has ripped the heart out of Tuchel’s side, with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes testing positive.
PSG confirmed three more cases with L’Equipe identifying them as Argentine striker Mauro Icardi, Brazilian defender Marquinhos and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Except for Mbappe all of them contracted the virus after holidaying in Ibiza following the 1-0 loss in Lisbon final month.
Mbappe tested positive on France duty at the start of the week, forcing the world’s second most expensive player to sit down out Tuesday’s World Cup last rematch with Croatia.
Just to complicate affairs further, striker Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting is out of contract, even though the domestic press raise the opportunity he might signal an extension.
Tuchel’s plight used to be laid naked when at training on Monday he only had 11 players at his disposal, with others absent on international duty.
PSG’s scheduled first game against Metz used to be pushed back because of their Champions League commitments. They then requested and were granted a further delay to the start of their title defence so they can get over their European hangover.
Tuchel will be grateful some of his away men will be returning from playing for their countries this week, as PSG face a hectic return to domestic duties.
After Lens they host arch rivals Marseille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday, a conflict many of the quarantined players are also expected to overlook according to both sporting director Leonardo and Tuchel.
“After the holidays, after this quarantine phase without training, I’m under the impression this match on Sunday comes too soon. But we are going to wait a bit,” Tuchel said Wednesday.
“The following day (Thursday) we’re in Lens, I think some players will have the ability to do some individual session, and after maybe two players will have the ability to return to training Friday while maybe two will come back Saturday,” he added.
Whether provided the virus all-clear they must be back in time for Metz at home on September 16 and Nice four days later.
This all leaves Tuchel with a selection headache for the travel to northern France, switching midfielders Julian Draxler or Pablo Sarabia up into attack and relying on PSG’s pool of youngsters.
And in goal, with Navas out and Sergio Rico unavailable as he signed his contract after the original August 29 date for the fixture, Tuchel must call on 20-year-old Marcin Bulka who has played just one first-team game for the club.
Captaining Tuchel’s mix ‘n match team is likely to be Presnel Kimpembe following the departure of Thiago Silva to Chelsea.
PSG completed a sweep of the domestic trophies final term, winning Ligue 1 for the seventh time in eight attempts in a season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
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