Paris Saint-Germain’s pre-season tour of Japan begins with a showdown against reigning J1 League champions Kawasaki Frontale at the Japan National Stadium on Wednesday evening. Les Parisiens have already got the better of Quevilly-Rouen in a training ground friendly this summer and now face three games against local opposition in the space of a week. Winning the Ligue 1 title simply does not cut the mustard at the Parc des Princes anymore, and Mauricio Pochettino was the latest name to find that out the hard way, as PSG’s trigger-happy board relieved the Argentine of his duties after just 18 months in charge.
Pochettino departed having led PSG back to the summit of French football, but his side failed to go all the way in the Coupe de France and do not need reminding of their calamitous Champions League elimination at the hands of Real Madrid in the last-16. Christophe Galtier – who pipped PSG to the 2020-21 Ligue 1 title with Lille – has arrived to spark a new era at the Parc des Princes after departing Nice, during which he transformed Les Aiglons from mid-table languishers to Champions League challengers, although his side were forced to settle for fifth in the end. Rather than spend big on ready-made superstars, PSG boss Galtier and new football advisor Luis Campos have focused their transfer business on up-and-coming players so far, bringing in Vitinha and Hugo Ekitike, but a couple of established names in Milan Skriniar and Renato Sanches could soon follow.
As mentioned, PSG have already beaten Quevilly-Rouen 2-0 this summer thanks to Sergio Ramos’s penalty and Djeidi Gassama’s second-half effort, and their Ligue 1 title defence will begin with a trip to Clermont Foot on August 6. Meanwhile, Kawasaki Frontale were once again the dominant force in Japan’s top division last season and will relish the opportunity to test their mettle against a fellow national champion, even if the gulf in class becomes evident on the pitch. The Blue-black ended the 2021 season with a whopping 92 points to win their second consecutive J1 League title and fourth since 2017 – finishing 13 points clear of second-placed Yokohama F. Marinos – but they are already playing catch-up this term.
Toru Oniki has overseen all of Kawasaki Frontale’s J1 League triumphs since 2017, but his side are third in the 2022 rankings behind Kashima Antlers and leaders Yokohama F. Marinos, who are eight points clear of the champions having played two games more. The Blue-black ended a three-game winless run in all tournaments last time out with a 4-0 thumping of Gamba Osaka back on July 9, and having had 11 days to recover from those exertions, Oniki’s men ought to be in peak condition for a memorable battle with PSG. The futures of several PSG players have seemingly become clearer after Galtier named his 25-man strong squad for the trip to Japan, with Georginio Wijnaldum headlining a list of notable absentees.
Julian Draxler, Ander Herrera and Layvin Kurzawa have also been left at home, but Sergio Rico, Mauro Icardi, Idrissa Gueye and Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe are all with the squad. Presnel Kimpembe has also made the journey despite speculation surrounding a possible move to Chelsea. While Galtier will of course make wholesale changes during the contest, the crowd at the Japan National Stadium can potentially look forward to seeing Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all feature from the off. Galtier has affirmed that a back three is a possibility for his side, which would see Kimpembe, Ramos and Marquinhos all start in a formidable defence. As for Kawasaki Frontale, playmaker Yasuto Wakizaka – who leads the team in assists this term with five – has emerged as a doubt for Wednesday’s game after coming off against Gamba Osaka with an unspecified injury.
Brazilian centre-back Jesiel is also on the long road back to recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, and Ryota Oshima – who recently made his comeback after sustaining ankle ligament damage in March – was also absent from their most recent outing. Ex-Brazil international Leandro Damiao is poised to lead the line for the Japanese champions, with five-goal wingers Marcinho and Akihiro Ienaga – still going strong at 36 – supporting the frontman.
Paris Saint-Germain possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Ramos; Hakimi, Paredes, Vitinha, Mendes; Messi, Mbappe, Neymar
Kawasaki Frontale possible starting lineup:
Jung; Yamane, Taniguchi, Kurumaya, Sasaki; Songkrasin, Tachibanada, Tsukagawa; Ienaga, Damiao, Marcinho