PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe took one minute this week to show why he remains the French league’s most dangerous player.
Monaco’s defenders will be bracing themselves for a refreshed and goal-hungry Mbappe when the sides meet on Friday night at Stade Louis II.
After being sidelined with a minor thigh injury for three games, Mbappe came off the bench for France against Sweden on Tuesday. Immediately on the ball, he skipped down the left wing and clipped over a perfectly-weighted cross that striker Olivier Giroud met with a diving header.
Crosser, dribbler, finisher: Mbappe’s repertoire is huge, and it makes him potentially decisive as soon as he gets on the ball.
Monaco knows that all too well, having developed him through its youth ranks into the world star he is now. After winning the league title and reaching the Champions League semifinals with Monaco in 2017, he joined PSG in a whopping deal worth 180 million euros ($213 million). He netted 26 goals in 44 games in a season where he turned 18.
Mbappe has 97 goals in 132 games for league leader PSG and, had he not been ill with the coronavirus and minor injuries, would likely already have reached the century mark by now.
He has played only eight matches so far this season, scoring seven goals.
His fitness is most welcome for PSG coach Thomas Tuchel, who has a big injury list to deal with. Given that situation, eyebrows were raised when Mbappe joined France on international duty despite carrying an injury.
In the end, a relieved Tuchel praised France coach Didier Deschamps for leaving him out against Finland and Portugal and only playing him for 30 minutes in a 4-2 win against the Swedes.
“I’m very happy. There’s good communication with the France team, we know what they did with him in training,” Tuchel said. “He took part in a full training session for us yesterday (on Wednesday).”
Tuchel has to decide whether to start Mbappe against his former club, or to bring him on.
“He’s feeling very good,” Tuchel said. “We need to decide how many minutes he plays.”
One small consolation for Monaco’s defenders will be that Mbappe is unlikely to be paired alongside Neymar for much of the game.
Neymar was called up by Brazil for their international games, even though he was nursing an injury, but did not play and the Selecao let him leave the squad.
“I’m confident he will play a few minutes against Monaco,” Tuchel said.
Tuchel is missing midfielder Marco Verratti, striker Mauro Icardi, winger Julian Draxler, midfielder Idrissa Gueye and left back Thilo Kehrer through injury, while left back Juan Bernat could be out for the rest of the season.
Given PSG’s precarious injury situation, Tuchel also has to protect his South American players coming back from international duty. Brazilian Marquinhos and Argentines Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria all played this week.
“We have to be careful and be intelligent in terms of minutes played,” said Tuchel, whose side is chasing a ninth straight win after losing the first two games.
Fifth-place Monaco, meanwhile, will be without top scorer Wissam Ben Yedder as he continues his recovery from COVID-19. He tested positive last Thursday when on international duty with France.
Ben Yedder was the league’s co-top scorer last season with 18 goals — level with Mbappe — and has four in seven games this term.
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