Ousmane Dembele shines without Kylian Mbappe as PSG warm-up for Real Sociedad UCL clash with strong Lille win



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PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg clash with Real Sociedad by beating Lille OSC 3-1 on Saturday in Ligue 1. Goncalo Ramos, an Alexsandro own goal and Randal Kolo Muani secured Luis Enrique’s men all three points in a fightback at Parc des Princes after Yusuf Yazici had given Les Dogues an early lead.

Kylian Mbappe was rested from the off after taking a heavy ankle knock in midweek but the French superstar was present on the bench along with many regular Parisien starters. One of them was Gianluigi Donnarumma who was displaced by Keylor Navas for a rare runout for the Costa Rica international who was picking the ball out of his net inside of six minutes.

It also gave Ousmane Dembele a chance to get into good form ahead of the return to continental duty and it was one which he took with aplomb and produced one of his best PSG showings so far. He and his teammates were looking to tear into LOSC from the off and they did that at will despite falling behind early.

Tiago Santos put Lucas Beraldo in trouble as the Brazilian January arrival continued to struggle to adapt to this new PSG team and Yazici was able to finish from close range. Ramos did not need long to reply, though, tapping home from a Dembele assist just four minutes later for his second goal in as many games.

The France international took center stage without Mbappe present and produced a superb performance before being withdrawn after an hour. PSG’s second goal was fortuitous in that Alexsandro badly miscued Fabian Ruiz’s ball in to put it past Lucas Chevalier after 17 minutes which held into the second half until Kolo Muani tapped in after great work by substitute Bradley Barcola to complete the win.

“It was a good performance and we are very proud of ourselves — even if it started badly,” said the French striker postgame. “I think that it was a very good test before Wednesday’s game. We feel better and better as we get closer to the most important and crucial moments of the season. I think that we are working well and we need to keep this going. As long as I am on the field, then I am happy.”

It was not undeserved either as the hosts created plenty despite a rotated starting XI which bodes well ahead of next week’s clash with Sociedad. Captain Marquinhos, Achraf Hakimi, Warren Zaire-Emery and Vitinha all started the game alongside Mbappe, Barcola and Donnarumma on the bench.

Nordi Mukiele and Marco Asensio were afforded valuable minutes and the former showed that he has plenty to offer Luis Enrique should he look to use him more over the second half of this term. Arguably most encouraging for PSG ahead of this game is Sociedad’s current form which makes for grim reading ahead of next week’s visit to the French capital.

The Basques are on a four-game winless run without even scoring a single goal and although three of those games ended with draws Saturday saw them beaten at home by Osasuna. Not ideal preparation for the trip to Paris but music to the French champions’ ears as they finished with a win over a tricky Lille side with a rotated team and now new injury concerns.

Luis Enrique will be grateful that he did not have to rely on Mbappe who finally got some rest after a fortunate escape from serious harm against Stade Brestois 29 in the Coupe de France. PSG usually find themselves starting to sweat ahead of their return to Champions League action but that is not the case this time and the Ligue 1 leaders can focus on securing a strong first leg result.

“We did not want to take any risks with Kylian,” said the Spanish tactician after the game. “We could have sent him on but it would have made no sense. He was very lucky. Had this game been a final, then he probably would have played. I think that it was intelligent of him and myself to save him for Wednesday.”

Having the likes of Ramos, Kolo Muani and particularly Dembele running hot will be hugely important for Les Parisiens if they are to take a strong lead in their tie with Sociedad. Should they be able to do so next Wednesday, they will fancy their chances of reaching the quarterfinals with their chances of a deep run enhanced greatly.





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