The penultimate match of Paris Saint-Germain’s Japan Tour 2023 will see the Ligue 1 champions take on the hometown side Cerezo Osaka at the Yanmar Stadium Nagai on Friday afternoon. PSG come into this match after playing out a stalemate against Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr on Tuesday, while the hosts will take a break from the heat of the J1 League, where they managed a crucial 2-0 win over the Urawa Reds in their last match. The PSG players are likely thankful that they are away from Parc des Princes at the moment with all the drama surrounding the board and Kylian Mbappe’s potential move away from the club.The 2018 World Cup winner has been linked with several clubs across Europe, but the news that has been dominating headlines in recent days has been the blockbuster offer made by Saudi league side Al Hilal, which has been reported to be in the region of $332 million. Winning Ligue 1 has become a bare necessity for Les Parisiens, and while they managed to retain their title last season, it was far from a straightforward victory as they finished just one point above Lens. As expected, PSG made a number of changes to their regular starting 11 against Christiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr in the week, and while they dominated possession for the majority of the match and made nine changes, they were unable to find the back of the net.
That performance has raised several questions about the attacking prowess of PSG without Mbappe, and while these are friendly encounters, the new boss Luis Enrique will likely feel that winning this next match is vital to put some of the nerves to rest as his side close in on their first league match against Lorient in a couple of weeks time. Meanwhile, Cerezo Osaka are currently in fifth place in the fiercely contested J1 League and picked up a vital three points in their last match over the side directly above them, with Leo Ceara and Jordy Croux finding the net in the first half. Not only did that result help them gain ground on the side directly above them, but it also saw them creep closer to Nagoya Grampus in third and Yokohama FM in second, with both those sides suffering losses in their last match.The hosts are now on 35 points and just four points behind the AFC Champions League qualifier spots, but more importantly, it helped ensure that they avoided their third consecutive league defeat after losing to Sagan Tosu and Avispa Fukuoka in the preceding matches.
While the majority of their points this season have come on their home patch, their record is far from impressive, currently standing at six wins, one draw and four losses in 11 matches, and they have also scored the fewest home goals of any side in the top half of the table.
The hosts will relish the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best footballers in the world in this one, but it will also be important preparation for their fourth-round Emperor’s Cup tie against Shonan Bellmare next week.
With both sides using this match as preparation for bigger things to come in the upcoming weeks, there will likely be loads of changes made throughout the 90 minutes.
With Mbappe’s exclusion from the squad, PSG have been very busy in the transfer market, with the likes of Manuel Ugarte, Lucas Hernandez, Milan Skriniar and Marco Asensio, among others, being brought in during the summer break. Asensio has started the last two matches in the number nine role and will likely do so again in this one, while Neymar could be returned to the starting 11 after remaining as an unused substitute against Al Nassr. Ugarte was subbed on in midweek and will be hoping to play from the off in this one, and he could form the midfield partnership alongside Marco Verratti, who was also brought off the bench in the last match. Ceara is in a bit of a purple patch at the moment, scoring four in his last five matches in all competitions, and he is now up to nine in the league, leaving him fifth on the top goal scorer chart and likely to start in this one. Satoki Uejo was surprisingly left out of the starting 11 against the Urawa Red Diamonds after scoring a brace in their cup win over Omiya Ardija, and the winger will be hoping to return to the first 11 with Capixaba the most likely to drop to the bench.