PSG – Nantes (next Sunday at 8pm) kicks off the season for Ligue 1 clubs. The Trophy will again be played in Tel Aviv.
After their tour of Japan, Christophe Galtier’s Paris Saint-Germain tackle their first competitive match and first test, the Champions Trophy against Nantes, with no Kylian Mbappe suspended, Sunday (8pm) in Tel Aviv.
“We want this trophy to start the season in the best conditions. We know how important it is,” Gianluigi Donnarumma told club media.
The Italian goalkeeper, who starts the season in the role of the holder, after sharing the position with Keylor Navas for a year, remembers that Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG missed this first step last summer. He had been beaten by Lille (1-0) where Galtier, champion of France 2021, had made way for Jocelyn Gourvennec.
The new coach will be able to break through his system in 3-5-2. During his Japanese tour, where he could also measure his great popularity, PSG rolled over his opponents, successively beating Kawasaki Frontale (2-1), Urawa Red Diamonds (3-0) and Gamba Osaka (6-2).
But the Nantes of Coupe de France winner Antoine Kombouaré is of a different stamp and is a good test for Galtier.
The two men appreciate each other, having made an assault of pleasantries before the final in May last year by the Kanak for Nice du Sudiste (1-0).
Suspended, Mbappé will not be replaced by newcomer Hugo Ekikike, hired from Reims, who suffered from a thigh bone and did not make the trip
But this time Galtier has PSG’s golden workforce. “It’s up to me to show that I’m capable of leading an army of very, very good players,” he told L’Equipe in mid-July. “If I hadn’t felt able to handle this pressure, I would have gone elsewhere.”
For the Champions Trophy, he is stripped of one of them, Mbappe, who was suspended at the end of last season for excessive yellow cards. The 2018 world champion will not be replaced by newcomer Hugo Ekikike, hired from Reims, who has suffered from a femur and has not made the journey, like Mbappé.
PSG’s ‘undesirables’ also remained in Paris: Georginio Wijnaldum (near Roma), Ander Herrera, Julian Draxler, Layvin Kurzawa, Thilo Kehrer and Rafinha, awaiting takers on the transfer market. Galtier should give playing time to the newest recruit, Nordi Mukiele (ex-Leipzig), who could return as a right-hand piston or centre-back, as he was chosen notably for his versatility.
Nantes with the memory of the Unicorn
On offense, Mbappe’s absence leaves room for Pablo Sarabia, convincing in Japan, to complete the attacking trio alongside Leo Messi and Neymar. Behind the Spaniard waits Arnaud Kalimuendo, who is not yet sure whether he will stay with the club, or even Mauro Icardi.
In Nantes, which will return to European competitions this season, Kombouaré will also have to integrate rookies, the Euro 2016 finalist Moussa Sissoko or the Egyptian striker Mostafa Mohamed, who is on loan from Galatasaray.
The match will be sold out, just like last year at the Bloomfield stadium where PSG always lost: in 2021 against Losc and in August 2010 (4-3) against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the play-offs of the Europa League (after winning 2-0 in the first leg). After the United States, Gabon, China, Morocco or Austria, Ligue 1 returns to Israel to show its “League of Talents” to a foreign audience, with the international television rights of the championship in the background.
PSG have won this Champions Trophy a record ten times, including eight of the last nine contested. Nantes has not won since 2001, against RC Strasbourg (4-1). After winning the 1999 edition against Bordeaux (1-0) for the inauguration of the Unicorn stadium.