Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that the French club’s all-time top scorer, Edinson Cavani, will miss the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Manchester United.

The German spoke to an international cross-section of the media at Old Trafford late on Monday afternoon, and told reporters that the Uruguayan would be absent due to an injury picked up in his side’s 1-0 victory over Bordeaux on Saturday.
 
It means the Parisians will be without two of their first-choice attacking trio – Brazilian star Neymar has also been ruled out of the match due to a metatarsal problem.
 

“Neymar is one of the key, key players in Europe and we cannot replace him,”

commented Tuchel. 

“Would Manchester United miss Pogba, if he was not there tomorrow? Of course. Would they miss Rashford, if he was not there? Of course they would. You cannot replace quality players like this.

 

“Of, course we miss him a lot and now we miss a second key player with Edi [Cavani]. And with Marco [Verratti], we have a player with only 60 minutes in his legs.”

Cavani scored the only goal in PSG’s win over Bordeaux on Saturday, but could not complete the game.
Italian midfielder Verratti returned to action after several weeks out with an ankle issue in the Bordeaux match, but the former Borussia Dortmund coach was keen to stress that he and 20-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe would not be expected to make up for the aforementioned absentees.
 

“You can’t just place all of the burden and pressure on Kylian,”

 he explained. 

“But we’re talking about Mbappe. He has his own qualities. It’s not really his job to replace Cavani and Neymar, and he can’t do all three things at the same time. He can’t be himself and the other two. He has to be free to play his game, to play with confidence and I want us to be capable to help him.

 

“[That means] to provide him with the right kind of support and passes. In my opinion, he needs to play with a good mindset, as it were. He needs to be positive and realise that he’s here, it’s part of his development. I think it’s the kind of moment when you really are able to develop as a player.”

Despite their injury issues, Tuchel claimed that PSG would not alter their style, which has earned them a dominant 13-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.
 

“We have our identity as a team, of course, and it’s not easy to change a team’s identity,”

 said the coach. 

“Obviously we’re going to be missing a couple of key players and key attackers, that’s obvious and clear to everyone including me. But you don’t change your identity for that reason. I don’t know if it’s the right time to change our identity.

 
”We have tradition, we play attacking football, we’re PSG and that’s how we’re used to playing, creating opportunities. It’s in our DNA. That’s how we play. To change that is really tough, it’s difficult.
 

“Nevertheless, I’m sure there will be times tomorrow when we will be defending deeply, absolutely, because I imagine United are going to be very bold, they’re going to play a lot of attack-minded players so, yeah, I can see in this kind of match there will be times when we are going to have to play in a whole range of situations and we have to be at the top level throughout the game.”

The PSG leader was asked what kind of result he was striving for in tomorrow’s first leg, ahead of the second installment at the Parc des Princes on 6 March.
 

“I don’t really want to talk about the result we are aiming for tomorrow,”

 remarked the 45-year-old, 

“but we’re here to score, absolutely. We want to score and perhaps more than one. We want to score some goals.”

 
When asked about United’s revival under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tuchel acknowledged: 

“It’s an impressive run, and for us to play at Old Trafford at this moment against this Manchester United is, again, like in our group stage, one of the toughest challenges you can have.

The return of inventive midfielder Verratti is a welcome boost to Tuchel on the injury front.

“We have a phrase in Germany – ‘if you go to the doctor and he heals you, then he is right.’

How he does it, we don’t care. If the pain goes away, he is right. So if he [Ole Gunnar Solskjaer] wins the game, he is right, and he wins a lot of games so it’s very impressive.

“He was a super-dangerous player on the field. Any time he came on, he was there to win games for Manchester United and he does the same here now as a manager, so it’s impressive.”

PSG qualified for the last 16 by finishing top of Champions League Group C, ahead of Liverpool, Napoli and Red Star Belgrade. The Rouge et Bleu won three of their six games, but lost 3-2 to Liverpool at Anfield and were held to draws in both matches against Napoli.

“Over 180 minutes, I would say it’s a 50/50 game,”

 agreed Tuchel, when asked if he thinks this tie is well balanced.

“If it’s just tomorrow, with them as the home team at Old Trafford, I’m not sure it’s 50/50. But to assess it over 180 minutes, we have the second leg in Paris where we feel very strong and comfortable at Parc des Princes, then yes I’d say it’s a 50/50 game.”

German World Cup winner Julian Draxler also spoke to the media at Old Trafford.
DRAXLER: DI MARIA KEY FOR US
 
Germany international Julian Draxler followed Tuchel into Old Trafford’s No.7 suite to also be quizzed by journalists ahead of Tuesday’s game. 
 

“We expect Manchester United to play like they played the last games so they will attack, that’s clear,”

 said the wide man. 

“But we cannot forget that we also have a second leg in Paris so it’s not all or nothing tomorrow. I think we will also see some tactical football but it will not be all or nothing, I’m sure of that.

It was put to Draxler that his team-mate Angel Di Maria, as a former United player, could have extra motivation for this match.

 

“I was asking Angel some questions about Manchester United and I won’t tell you what he said, but he will be ready for tomorrow,”

 replied the German.

“He’s a big player. He has a lot of respect for the club so there is nothing terrible in what he said, but it is between me and him so I won’t tell you right now. He’s a good player, he’s been in good form for several months and we need him tomorrow, especially without Cavani and Neymar. We need a player like him and hopefully he will have a great performance tomorrow.”

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