Tuchel's PSG finally show guts and team spirit

Tuchel's PSG finally show guts and team spirit
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Paris St Germain Press Conference - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - February 11, 2019 Paris St Germain coach Thomas Tuchel during the press conference Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff -
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain's 2-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday showed that the French champions may finally have found, under coach Thomas Tuchel, the heart and collective spirit they had been lacking in recent years.

Many predicted a defeat in the Champions League last-16 first leg by a resurgent United after forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani were ruled out injured.

Instead, PSG rose up to the challenge and stepped onto the field a compact side showing no fear -- a sharp contrast to the team who blew a 4-0 lead over Barcelona to lose 6-1 at the same stage of the competition in 2017.

Marquinhos, who bossed the midfield alongside Marco Verratti, recalls a meeting with Tuchel which he believes was key to PSG's performance.

The German coach took over from Unai Emery last year as the Qatari-backed club look to shine on the continental stage after four consecutive eliminations in the quarter-finals followed by two successive last 16 exits.

"This meeting was very important," the Brazilian, who usually plays centre back, said.

"The coach gave us the strategy. He started with the defensive aspect, underlining the qualities of the opponents' attack and their speed on the break.

"He insisted on us not losing the ball too quickly after winning it back in midfield."

PSG stayed compact throughout, with Julian Draxler often dropping deep to strengthen the midfield.

"Defensively we were solid. We showed that with the right mindset we could do great things," captain Thiago Silva said.

Often criticised for missing the 'club culture' key to success in Europe, PSG entered the tie with confidence despite lacking two players who between them who have scored 30 goals in Ligue 1 and seven times in the Champions League.

"It is not just thanks to the coach," said Silva.

"It is also the whole staff who have been working to give us information on the other team. Everything the staff told us would happen on the pitch happened."

Even without Neymar and Cavani.

"They are world class players but we remain a world class team without them," added Draxler.

The Ligue 1 leaders, who have already almost secured the domestic title, now have three weeks to gear up for the second leg in Paris, where they will look to avoid a slip-up similar to the Nou Camp debacle.

"We should stop being scared," said forward Kylian Mbappe who scored PSG's second against United.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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