LEIPZIG, GERMANY (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and RB Leipzig meet once again in the Champions League tomorrow (4am Brunei time) with the pressure on Kylian Mbappe to deliver after a run of poor form in front of goal in Europe.
The World Cup-winning France superstar burst onto the scene with Monaco in the early months of 2017 when, as an 18-year-old, he scored six goals in six Champions League knockout games – including two against Manchester City – as the principality club reached the semi-finals.
He went on to net on his debut for PSG in the competition and he set the record, with 19, for most Champions League goals scored before the age of 21.
But since then, nothing.
Mbappe has appeared in seven Champions League matches in 2020 without finding the net, most recently in last week’s 2-0 win away to Istanbul Basaksehir.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has scored as many goals (two) in the competition at the Parc des Princes since the start of 2018/19 as Mbappe.
Not that Mbappe has done nothing recently for PSG in Europe.
His electrifying pace helped turn around the quarter-final against Atalanta in the ‘Final Eight’ in Lisbon after an injury had restricted him to the role of substitute.
And he was back in the side for the 3-0 win over Leipzig in the semi-final as the club from the French capital reached the final for the first time in their history, only to lose narrowly to Bayern Munich.
In Istanbul last week he set up both goals for recent loan signing Moise Kean, even if his touch for the second goal was really a failed attempt to control the ball. “He is very, very young. He still has lots of things he needs to improve,” pointed out PSG coach Thomas Tuchel at the weekend when asked about the form of a player signed in a EUR180 million deal in 2017, the second biggest transfer in history after that of his teammate Neymar.
“We know he is the key player for us, the decisive player.”
Tuchel was speaking after Mbappe converted a penalty which he had won, and also set up another goal, in PSG’s 3-0 win at Nantes in Ligue 1.
He later came off grimacing and holding his right hamstring, although Tuchel put that down to “fatigue” and will be determined to have his superstar forward available in Leipzig.
Mbappe, who turns 22 in December, has scored seven times in the last six domestic outings for his club, while also netting the winner for France in Croatia in the Nations League recently.
He is back on top of the scorers’ charts in France, having been Ligue 1’s leading marksman in each of the last two seasons.
Nevertheless, he was signed to deliver in Europe first and foremost, and PSG need him to get back among the goals in what is a key game in Leipzig.
The Qatar-owned club are playing catch-up in Group H after losing to Manchester United in their opening game, and they are already without the injured Neymar for the trip to Germany.