Who needs Neymar? Mbappe, Di Maria and Icardi thrive as Paris Saint-Germain maintain Classique dominance

By Sports Desk October 27, 2019

The signs on Sunday evening were ominous for Marseille inside the opening 20 seconds of Le Classique.

Angel Di Maria struck just wide following slick interplay with Mauro Icardi and Kylian Mbappe, and the Paris Saint-Germain trio would go on to dominate the headline match of the Ligue 1 weekend.

Neymar, expected to be out for at least another two weeks due to a hamstring injury, was looking on from the stands at Parc des Princes as PSG's new-look front three ran riot against fallen giants.

As far as attacking performances go, it was as close to perfect as you will get. PSG were 4-0 up by half-time, meaning there was no pressing need to inflict further damage on their floundering rivals, though the champions certainly tried.

The Parisians were spearheaded by players who have ensured the absences of Neymar and Edinson Cavani have not only not been felt, but rather embraced as an opportunity. Thomas Tuchel's side are eight points clear in Ligue 1 and have looked imperious in the Champions League.

Winning over PSG's fans again after his public attempt to leave the club may not be the only battle Neymar faces once he returns to fitness.

Marseille are winless in the last 16 Classique meetings in Ligue 1, but with their opponents in this kind of form, Andre Villas-Boas' side never stood a chance as PSG's fearsome front three reigned supreme in the capital.

MARVELLOUS MBAPPE TAKES THE SPOTLIGHT... AGAIN

Neymar strutted into PSG as the club's superstar signing, but it is Mbappe who is now the leading frontman in this show. It did not take him long to claim the starring role on Sunday.

With Icardi having helped himself to PSG's opening two goals, Mbappe - who scored a hat-trick and provided an assist after coming on as a substitute against Club Brugge in midweek - got in on the act with a tap-in just after the half-hour mark.

A typical poacher's goal was followed by the typical Mbappe goal, France's prodigy racing onto a perfect Di Maria pass before beating Steve Mandanda.

Mbappe is a force of nature and, despite his own injury struggles this term, already has eight goals from 10 appearances in all competitions.

DI MARIA DAZZLES

Di Maria thundered in an outrageous free-kick as PSG went on to win the corresponding fixture 3-1 in March last season. This time, he settled for a playmaking role, and did not disappoint.

After teeing up Icardi's opener, Di Maria slipped in Mbappe to put PSG 3-0 by the 32nd minute, though it was his sublime, sensational throughball for the France forward just prior to half-time which topped the lot.

Arguably in the form of his career, Di Maria has surely cemented himself as the first player on Tuchel's team sheet, whether Neymar is fit or not.

CAVANI'S BOOTS A GOOD FIT FOR ICARDI

If you are going to phase out the leading goalscorer in a club's history, then having a replacement of Icardi's quality certainly helps.

While Romelu Lukaku's fine form has meant Inter are not exactly feeling the loss of their former captain, Icardi has played like a man with a point to prove since his arrival in Paris. Heading into Sunday's encounter, the Argentina striker had scored a goal every 24 touches during his time in Ligue 1.

Record scorer Cavani came on as a substitute for Mbappe, yet at 32 and with injury problems having plagued his start to the season, his days as PSG's chief marksman look to be at an end.

Icardi's deal is at this stage a temporary one, but with seven goals in as many matches, surely PSG have found the heir to Cavani's throne.

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    What's Reinier's favoured role?

    "Reinier is at his best in a No.10 role, but he does like to play slightly more advanced than a traditional '10', staying close to the striker as much as possible," Andy surmised.

    It is an area in which Madrid are by no means short, but Reinier also boasts the flexibility to fill in right across the frontline. "He has actually been used as a striker at times by Flamengo as a result," Andy added.

     

    What are his greatest attributes?

    A Brazilian attacker coveted by Real Madrid – you might be able to guess at a few of his strongest traits, though Andy has also been impressed by Reinier's poise when it matters.

    "A quick, direct dribbler who can glide past his man with ease, as well as possessing deceptively good close control and technique," Andy said. "He's also got a real eye for goal, with six goals in 729 minutes of senior football, with his composure really impressive given his very young age."

     

    In which areas does he need to improve?

    While he is certainly costly, it should not be forgotten Reinier has only just turned 18 and is by no means the finished article. Our expert has reservations over the Flamengo product's physicality and athleticism at the moment.

    He said: "He needs to progress physically as we have seen him struggle to keep up the pace in the latter stages when playing a full 90 minutes, but that should all come as he learns the game and adapts to a more rigorous training regime in Europe. As with any young Brazilian, he will need a lot of growth on the tactical side of the game, but his six months under Jorge Jesus will prove a real benefit, rather than playing under some of the archaic Brazilian coaches."

     

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    How does his potential stack up compared to Rodrygo and Vinicius?

    There is no doubt Madrid are backing their own track record of turning raw young talents into the world's best, such has been their investment in under-23 players over the past few years. And the consensus is, Reinier's potential is vast.

    "It's difficult to say given Rodrygo and Vinicius were given more time to show their talents in Brazil before moving, but Reinier's talent has been obvious since his very first game and I think the general feeling is that, if all goes well, then he could end up being the best of the lot," Andy observed.

     

    Have there been any concerns relating to his mentality?

    Talent can only take you so far. As a teenager moving to a new continent, Reinier will surely face mental challenges and those will likely determine whether or not he achieves success – but in terms of professionalism, he is seemingly well set.

    "Reinier's team-mates and coaches have all been very positive about his attitude and willingness to learn, so he looks well-placed to make the most of his talents," Andy commented.

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