Paris Saint Germain will be aiming to win their second consecutive UEFA Champions League 2022/23 Group H fixture when they make the long journey to Israel to take on Maccabi Haifa at their home on Wednesday night. The hosts opened their Champions League account with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Benfica. Meanwhile, PSG secured a comfortable 2-1 victory over Juventus at the Parc des Princes in their opening matchday.
Last season, Maccabi Haifa had failed to make it out of their Europa Conference League group stage. However, this season they find themselves playing in Europe’s biggest continental competition for the first time in 13 years. That being said, Maccabi’s first Champions League match in that long ended as expected as they got outclassed by Portuguese side Benfica.
While the Israeli outfit did well to hold their own and went into the break with the scoreline still at 0-0, Benfica came out roaring in the second half of the contest. Rafa Silva and Alex Grimaldo struck early to put the game beyond Maccabi’s reach and the match ended in a 2-0 defeat.
In the Israeli Premier League however, it has been business as usual for the club from Haifa and unlike their European form, victories have followed them in the league. They bounced back from their continental defeat with a 3-1 success over the 10 men of Sekzia Ness Ziona at the weekend thanks to a brace from star man Omer Atzili.
The team managed by Barak Bakhar are competing in the UEFA Champions League for only the third time in their history participating in the group stages of 2002-03 and 2009-10 before crashing out. While they made the headlines earlier this season with a spectacular 4-0 rout of Greek side Olympiacos on their own home turf during the qualifiers of the Champions League, Maccabi’s losing streak in group-stage games now stands at seven.
They could end up making history for all the wrong reasons this week and become only the second team in history to lose eight in a row without scoring a single goal.
Ahead of their first UEFA Champions League match this season, rumours were rife that not all was too well between two of PSG’s star men Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Fights over penalties and not passing to each other have been quite common in their relationship over the years. However, on the pitch, the duo struck a terrific chemistry when Juventus came to town as Christophe Galtier’s side ended up winning 2-1.
Neymar’s delightful chip from the edge of the box found Mbappe’s run perfectly and the French superstar volleyed it home with quite some aplomb to send the Parisians into the lead of the contest. He then doubled Paris Saint Germain’s lead before half time and although Juventus pulled one back through a bullet header from Weston McKennie, the home side held on to secure all three points from the opening fixture.
PSG then went on to post a 1-0 Ligue 1 victory over Brest this weekend. Growing into the role of a playmaker more and more in his twilight years, Argentine sensation Lionel Messi provided yet another assist, this time to Neymar to score the only goal of the game. The match also required goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to palm away an Islam Slimani penalty.
The Parisians are currently on a four-game winning run across all competitions. Their unbeaten record in the 2022-23 season is also intact as they aim to score at least three goals away from home for the ninth game running. If they find the scoresheet in Israel, PSG will also be able to equal Real Madrid’s record of scoring in 40 consecutive Champions League group-stage games – set between 2008 and 2015.
The French Champions’ form on the road was a cause of concern in the Champions League last season. They have gone winless in each of their last five away matches in this competition and therefore, securing a victory over Maccabi Haifa in the first ever match between the two teams will be of extreme importance to Galtier.
MAC vs PSG, UEFA Champions League 2022/23
Date: 15th September, 2022
Time: 12:30 AM IST
Venue: Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa
Maccabi Haifa Champions League form:
Maccabi Haifa form (all competitions):
Paris Saint Germain Champions League form:
Paris Saint Germain form (all competitions):
Maccabi Haifa wins: 0
Paris Saint Germain wins: 0
Maccabi Haifa Team News:
During their defeat to Benfica, Maccabi Haifa were forced into making a couple of changes. Midfielder Ali Mohamed had to come off after just 32 minutes and the resulting injury also ruled him out of the league clash with Sekzia Ness Ziona.
Suf Podgoreanu had also only been on the pitch for 11 minutes before suffering an Achilles injury, so Atzili should certainly come in for a start here after being benched for the trip to Portugal. Mohammed Abu Fani will likely take the place of Mohamed in the engine room for Maccabi Haifa, who are still short in that area as Mahmoud Jaber recovers from a fractured femur.
Paris Saint Germain Team News:
As far as PSG are concerned, Presnel Kimpembe had a bad day in the office as the French centre-back was guilty of conceding the penalty against Brest which was fortunately saved by his goalkeeper. Kimpembe, however, suffered a hamstring injury while tackling Irvin Cardona.
The 27-year-old has now been ruled out for upto six weeks while reserve goalkeeper Keylor Navas will not be boarding the flight to Israel due to a back problem. Renato Sanches will also miss out because of an adductor issue.
Despite those absences, Galtier still has enough midfield resources to count upon. He could probably consider bringing in Carlos Soler or Fabian Ruiz this week to ease the burden on ever-presents Vitinha and Marco Verratti.
Maccabi Haifa possible starting lineup:
Cohen; Seck, Goldberg, Batubinsika; Eliyahu, Fani, Lavi, Haziza; Chery; Atzili, Pierrot
Paris Saint Germain possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Pereira, Marquinhos, Ramos; Mukiele, Verratti, Ruiz, Mendes; Messi; Mbappe, Neymar
While there’s no running away from the fact that PSG mostly met with failures away from home in the Champions League last season, that doesn’t necessarily apply to this particular side galvanized by Christophe Galtier. The French champions have been in unbelievable form at the start of the season and are gunning on all fronts.
The Israeli champions did manage to frustrate Benfica for a good chunk of time on the opening day, and PSG could not score a horde of goals against a five-man Brest backline, but Galtier’s men should get the job done with minimal trouble this week. The hosts are also short in midfield which might impair their ability to trouble the French opposition in the final third.
All said and done, the side having Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe is expected to run riot and it won’t be surprising to see a goalfest here.