Paris Saint-Germain

Messi & Mbappe magic papers over PSG's glaring deficiencies in RB Leipzig win

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
The pair both scored, but the team around them was sorely lacking
The pair both scored, but the team around them was sorely lacking / BSR Agency/GettyImages
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In the hours preceding Paris Saint-Germain's far-from-convincing 3-2 victory against RB Leipzig, a football club with a strikingly similar recent history to their own put on an exhibition of sexy football in Belgium.

Man City's 5-1 win over Group A minnows Club Brugge would have stung PSG as just a few weeks previously, they had travelled there with an equally expensively-assembled squad and faltered, limping to an embarassing 1-1 draw.

This is the same Club Brugge that Marc Albrighton and Leicester City put to the sword back in 2016, remember.

Although PSG have since beaten Man City (fortuitously we might add) since that night in Brugge, it would be bonkers to argue that the Ligue 1 side are better placed to triumph in Europe this season than the Premier League champions.

Mauricio Pochettino's side's performance against Leipzig was another reminder of how far they seem from being a true elite force in the Champions League this season, even if they did win and even if that victory did put them top of Group A.

Right from the off, their opponents fired a warning shot with Christopher Nkunku - a player grown from PSG's very own academy - fluffing his lines inside three minutes by laying it off by Konrad Laimer, who is famously allergic to goals, instead of powering home himself.

The build-up to that opening was classic PSG in Europe and typical of their structural deficiencies all night, with both Leipzig's goals scored with concerning ease.

Keylor Navas
PSG did not defend well / BSR Agency/GettyImages

With Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes having the same commitment to defending as Boris Johnson has to telling the truth, Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe were frequently left to fend for themselves.

Support was not forthcoming for midfield either with Idrissa Gueye, who continues to look out of his depth when he has to compete with opponents superior to the Clermont Foot midfield, putting in an ill-discipline performance.

At least Marco Verratti was trying to help, with the super-busy Italian's face mirroring the anguish of a parent trying to get their two toddlers to behave on a long-haul flight to Thailand.

The ease with which Leipzig cut through PSG was also not helped by their star-studded forward line's aversion to pressing. Against better sides - Leipzig currently sit eighth in the Bundesliga - they would have surely conceded more than too, and on the night that should have probably been the case anyway.

However, as much as these complaints will continue to rile up fans of coherent football teams, the PSG way of prioritising star power over balance is not without its merits. Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both provided a timely reminder of their worth in a wondrous seven minutes spell in the second half.

Prior to this, Messi in particular had been a real peripheral figure, walking around the pitch seemingly uninterested, uninspired and demotivated.

If this is how he's feeling following his strange summer, he did not show it when combining joyously with Mbappe to grab PSG's equaliser. Pouncing on a Leipzig era, the Frenchman darted through the defence before laying it back to his teammate who tucked the rebound after his one-touch finish was kept out.

The pair also teamed up for the winner, albeit in different circumstances. This time, Mbappe's direct running resulted in him being dragged down in the box.

Messi stepped up and converted a sumptuous Panenka.

It was the sort of moment capable of draining the cynicism out of even the most jaded of football fans, and also acts as a neat microcosm of PSG's current state.

Messi's sprinkling of magic means that the glaring structural deficiencies exhibited throughout the Leipzig victory will be swept under the carpet and forgotten about - until their rear their ugly head in the knockout stages like they do every year.

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