Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Kylian Mbappe brace leads Paris Saint-Germain past Nantes, but Vitinha injury a cause for concern

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Paris Saint-Germain continues to lead the way in Ligue 1 after a 3-0 win away at FC Nantes ensured that Olympique de Marseille’s time at the summit was brief. Kylian Mbappe scored twice and Nuno Mendes added a third at Stade de la Beaujoire on Saturday with Antoine Kombouare’s hosts down to 10 men for over two thirds of the game.

The sole negative for Christophe Galtier was a first-half injury to Vitinha which the French tactician will hope is not too serious given the Portuguese midfielder’s growing importance to the starting XI. PSG switched things up with Neymar and Sergio Ramos taking a breather and starting from the bench in Nantes, but it did not slow Mbappe down and the French superstar was clinical inside of 18 minutes.

Messi teed his strike partner up and Mbappe gave Alban Lafont no chance with a finish reminiscent of the 23-year-old’s hat-trick strike in Barcelona back in early 2021. It took until nine minutes into the second half for the combination to work again with Messi patient in providing a simple finish for the No. 7.

That is where Mbappe’s involvement ended with Neymar coming on his place and Marco Verratti also withdrawn as Ramos was sent on. The Brazilian needed just a few minutes to get involved and hit the post before Mendes followed up to score as PSG eased to victory and gave valuable minutes to the likes of Hugo Ekitike too.

It was an ideal warm up ahead of Juventus in the opening Group H fixture of this season’s UEFA Champions League (on Paramount+) and Galtier will be encouraged by this result and the midweek win over Toulouse. Messi got two more assists there while Mbappe, Neymar and Juan Bernat scored as some key figures were rotated for freshness ahead of a busy run.

Vitinha’s injury is not good news, but the late transfer window arrivals of Fabian Ruiz from Napoli and Carlos Soler from Valencia gives Galtier a wider range of alternatives than just Renato Sanches. The Portuguese who was signed from Lille OSC earlier this summer is yet to blend in seamlessly and Danilo Pereira is now starting to get more minutes as Galtier keeps his squad’s condition in check.

“He took a big blow to his knee,” Galtier said of Vitinha after the final whistle. “There was no twisting nor is there a ligament risk. We will see if it becomes a hematoma. We will do what we can to get him back for Juve and see how he reacts, but we will go with somebody else if we have to.”

AS Monaco have been PSG’s one true test so far this campaign which ended in a draw and keeps them level on points with the likes of Marseille and potentially Olympique Lyonnais as well as RC Lens. Juve this coming Tuesday will arguably be the acid test of this encouraging early season at Parc des Princes and Les Parisiens do seem better prepared than they have done for quite some time.

What cannot be argued with is that this is the most convincing PSG have looked since Messi’s arrival and that the star attacking trio of the Argentine, Mbappe and Neymar appear focused and primed for an assault across all competitions this term. A winning start against Juve and Galtier’s report card will be looking pretty positive heading towards the international break later this month.

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