Atalanta v PSG: Mbappe injury tips balance towards the underdogs

PSG are clear favourites to win in Lisbon on Wednesday night but doubts over the fitness of their star striker means the odds on Thomas Tuchel's side winning in 90 minutes look too short, says James Eastham...

Atalanta vs PSG
Champions League quarter-final
Wed, 20:00 BST
Live on BT Sport 1

Ilicic a major loss for Atalanta

Atalanta striker Jocep Ilicic will sit out the match having returned to Slovenia to deal with a personal matter. The Serie A outfit will miss his threat in front of goal.

Kylian Mbappe has been named in PSG's squad for the game but has only a slim chance of starting as he recovers from an ankle injury. Angel Di Maria is suspended. In midfield, Marco Verratti is ruled out, also by injury.

PSG's chances overrated

PSG are 2.10 to see off Serie A's Atalanta in 90 minutes in Lisbon on Wednesday night but do the Ligue 1 champions really deserve to be such clear favourites given that star performer Kylian Mbappe will almost certainly not start the game because of the ankle injury he suffered in the French Cup final last month?

Without Mbappe PSG's build-up play can be ponderous and predictable - as we saw a week after Mbappe collected that injury when PSG laboured to a 0-0 draw against Lyon in the French League Cup final (PSG won on penalties).

No matter how talented a front trio Neymar, Angel Di Maria (suspended for this match) and Mauro Icardi are, PSG are simply easier to thwart without the pace and energy that Mbappe provides to get behind opposition lines. Against Atalanta's pressing style the France international striker's electric acceleration would have been a massive asset; without him, PSG will have to come up with new ways of breaking behind the Atalanta defence and their Plan B simply does not look as effective.

At 3.50 Atalanta are a more appealing selection. The absence of Mbappe certainly makes the Serie a outfit's task easier and their pressing style is something that PSG rarely encounter in Ligue 1. There's a good chance that Atalanta will be able to disrupt PSG's passing out from defence and in midfield as the Ligue 1 side prepare to face the sort of tactics that often make them uncomfortable.

Without the injured Verratti PSG's supply line to the front players will be less reliable anyway. Like Mbappe he's a player with no real understudy able to provide anything like the quality he delivers, and his absence is another reason why Atalanta are worth consideration.

Atalanta a smart Asian Handicap pick

The 3.50 odds on Atalanta throw up opportunities to back Gian Piero Gasperini (pictured above) and his players on the Asian Handicap. You can support them at 2.16 with a +0&+0.5 start. In simple terms this selection will net you a profit as long as Atalanta avoid defeat in 90 minutes. for a full guide to Asian Handicap betting, click here.

Even though PSG may not be our pick on the night, however, Neymar is a player worth considering in the scorers markets. With Mbappe likely to be absent there's even more importance than usual on the Brazil international as PSG look to atone for recent Champions League disappointments and make it to the last four. Reports from the PSG training camp say that Neymar is happier and more relaxed than he has ever been as a PSG player and is relishing the opportunity to take centre stage for his team.

As creator-in-chief and penalty taker Neymar is the man most likely to get on the scoresheet for PSG. He's also been in fine form in front of goal: he scored the winner in PSG's 1-0 French Cup final victory over St Etienne (Jul 24) and has netted four times in three pre-season friendlies since PSG returned to action last month. At 2.10 to score any time Neymar would be the smart pick if you're looking for an interest in the player markets.

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