The resumption of the revamped Champions League kicks off at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, as Atalanta and PSG play the first of four quarterfinals in a four-day span.
The entertaining Italian side will look to tame the French champions, who have desperately been seeking European success to go along with all of their domestic trophies. Despite a massive financial outlay in recent years, PSG has been eliminated in the round of 16 or quarterfinals in each of the last seven Champions League competitions. Making things more difficult for Thomas Tuchel’s side is the availability of French star Kylian Mbappe, who was injured after a hard tackle in the Coupe de France final less than three weeks ago. He returned to training prior to the match, though, and is on the bench.
Atalanta has never reached this stage before, and it’s playing with a ton of emotion, after its small town of Bergamo was ravaged by the coronavirus. Gian Piero Gasperini’s club is one of the most explosive in all of Europe, having scored 98 goals in Serie A, and has what it takes to unsettle its more accomplished opposition.
PSG dealt well originally with Atalanta’s midfield pressure, but it was the Italian side that had the game’s first chance. Papu Gomez was played in on goal, but he fired his low shot right at Keylor Navas.
On the other end, Neymar missed an even more gilt-edged chance. After a fantastic combination at the midfield line that sprung him free, Neymar was in on goal, with a direct run down the center, but he shanked his shot far right of the post, a sensational miss given the circumstances.
It was Atalanta’s turn to come close next. Hans Hateboer was the recipient of a ball to the right post, and he headed down, appearing to bounce it into the upper right-hand corner, but for Navas’s sprawling save.
Neymar had another opportunity unfold after another one-two by the midfield line, this time on the sideline. The Brazilian raced down the left wing, but he pushed his chance wide right again, perhaps expecting Mauro Icardi to race to the far post for the finish instead of taking a confident shot of his own.
PSG was made to rue those early misses. Mario Pasalic gave Atalanta the lead in the 27th minute, curling a gorgeous left-footed shot from just inside the box by Navas after the ball fell into his path.
Neymar nearly responded immediately, cutting centrally on the dribble and rifling a low, right-footed shot that went just wide left of the post.
In the 35th minute, Neymar had another chance, this one off a long-range free kick. He curled his chance from 25 yards on target, but it wasn’t too difficult for goalkeeper Marco Sportiello to handle, and he made the clean grab.
PSG continued to find space in behind Atalanta’s high line, and in the 40th minute, another opportunity presented itself for the Ligue 1 champions to score. Pablo Sarabia was the one streaking down the left-hand side with acres of space, but his cross for Mauro Icardi was overhit.
Another chance fell Neymar’s way on Hateboer’s awful backpass moments later, with the PSG star freed down the left only to wildly hit his chance too high and too wide.
Mbappe entered on the hour mark, with PSG’s frustrations continuing after halftime and Atalanta looking quite comfortable continuing to play with its level of pressing and pace. He looked to make an instant impact after replacing Sarabia, but Icardi couldn’t quite get to his cross from the left.
It appeared like PSG had suffered an injury setback some 10 minutes later, when Navas went down with an apparent leg injury and Sergio Rico had stepped to the touchline, ready to replace him, but the Costa Rica veteran shook off the knock and remained in.
Two minutes later, PSG nearly pulled even, with Mbappe racing down the left and demanding a save from Sportiello.
Stay tuned here for live updates and highlights of goals and key plays from throughout the match (refresh for most recent updates).
Here are the lineups for both teams:
The winner will face the winner of RB Leipzig vs. Atletico Madrid in the semifinals, with those two teams playing on Thursday. The other side of the bracket will feature the winners of Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich (Friday) and Manchester City vs. Lyon (Saturday).