Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi combining to blow away Marseille could be PSG's UCL blueprint without Neymar

27 days ago CBS Sports

Paris Saint-Germain served up their best performance since the FIFA 2022 World Cup with a 3-0 win away at Olympique de Marseille in Ligue 1 on Sunday. Kylian Mbappe scored twice and Lionel Messi got the other as the French champions' two star attackers combined to devastating effect at Stade Velodrome. The French superstar's brace moved him to 200 PSG goals and level with Edinson Cavani as the Championnat leaders' all-time top scorer. However, of greatest importance was how this display against a very good Marseille side could point the way to Les Parisiens overcoming Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

It did not start in the best fashion as Presnel Kimpembe had to be stretchered off early with a serious injury which left him on crutches when he returned during the second half. With Neymar already out after being stretchered off in the 4-3 home win over Lille OSC last week, it was not a welcome development for head coach Christophe Galtier just 16 minutes in.

Mbappe and Messi quickly swung the contest in the visitors' favor, though, with a clinical four-minute show of power where each one teed up the other for two well-worked goals. The third arrived 10 minutes into the second half and was the pick of the bunch as Mbappe scored with a superb low-volleyed effort from a magnificent Messi assist to definitively silence their hosts.

Gianluigi Donnarumma did have to make some important saves and also had a few worrying moments of his own, but only a second Ligue 1 clean sheet of 2023 was a big boost. Per Opta, the Italy international kept out a stunning 2.7 goals, which is a new individual best since he arrived in the French capital.

What this result and performance underlined more than anything was its credence in the idea that PSG can get more out of the likes of Mbappe, Messi, and Neymar with two of the trio -- not all three. Without the injured Brazilian, Mbappe and Messi thrived with the France international lethal on the counterattack and the legendary Argentine at his brilliant creative best behind Mbappe's sheer pace.

We saw how PSG struggled without Mbappe when he was out recently and that Neymar and Messi were not as productive as the Mbappe-Messi combination was here. However, we also saw last week how devastating Mbappe and Neymar can still be with Messi a passenger in the Lille win until his match-winning late free-kick.

Galtier still has some defensive issues to iron out with Kimpembe now facing another spell in the treatment room but he will know that Bayern would have found it hard to keep PSG out here. Perhaps the big difference is in midfield where Marco Verratti, Vitinha, and Fabian Ruiz rediscovered some of their early season form with Nordi Mukiele and Nuno Mendes on either flank.

The defense will almost certainly remain vulnerable but it is not there where the second leg against Bayern must be won anyway given that the Germans lead 1-0 from Paris.

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