close
Thursday December 02, 2021

Pochettino starts to make mark as PSG eye top spot

By AFP
January 16, 2021

PARIS: Mauricio Pochettino needed less than two weeks to win his first trophy with Paris Saint-Germain but his new team are still doing the chasing in Ligue 1, a point behind leaders Lyon heading into the second half of the season.

PSG go to Angers on Saturday fresh from beating Marseille 2-1 in Lens in midweek to win the Champions Trophy, the traditional curtain-raiser to the French season moved to the middle of winter as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on football.

The game conveniently came just 11 days after Pochettino returned to the club where he once played, allowing him to win the first trophy more than a decade after his coaching career began but after just three games in charge of the Qatar-owned club.

“My thoughts are with (former coach) Thomas Tuchel and his staff, who allowed us to play this match,” Pochettino said, with a nod to the man who guided PSG to a clean sweep of domestic honours in France last season but was sacked in late December.

“It is difficult to describe with words, especially as this is a club that helped me become a better person and better player.”

PSG have claimed back-to-back wins under the Argentine after drawing at Saint-Etienne in his first game at the helm. The return of Neymar as a substitute after a month out was significant, as the world’s most expensive player came off the bench to score a crucial late penalty against Marseille.

“We want to put our ideas in place and we are progressing in every area,” said Pochettino, who has done away with Tuchel’s tinkering with a three-man central defence and notably moved Marco Verratti into a more advanced role behind the striker. They are minor changes and it remains to be seen how PSG shape up by the time their Champions League last 16, first leg against Barcelona comes around in mid-February.

In the meantime Neymar could now start on Saturday in Angers as PSG look to pile the pressure on Lyon, who are a point better off than both the capital side and Lille in third. With Lyon not playing Metz until Sunday, a win for Paris will take them back to top of the table, at least for one night.