Marquinhos PSG GFX

Paris Saint-Germain, it is often said, are a team carried by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

The 26-year-old Brazil international may not have the profile of his offensive colleagues, but the centre-back proved once again on Wednesday that he is a vital pillar in their side.

Marquinhos is the reason that PSG go into the final matchday of the Champions League group stages strongly favoured to progress, having been critical in the manufacture of their3-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Of course, the headlines in France will be won by Neymar for his outstanding game-sealing strike in stoppage time, but the foundation behind the success was his compatriot at the other end of the field.

The spotlight may be Neymar’s, but it was Marquinhos who produced the fixture’s two defining moments.

PSG were rocking in the second half as they grimly held on at 1-1. Their superstar forward pairing were miles adrift of the midfield and a lack of cohesion or apparent game plan was evident.

Indeed, the Ligue 1 champions would have been heading for a European exit had their captain not produced a quite improbable block on an Anthony Martial shot that was surely bound for an empty net.

Given Martial’s toils in front of goal lately, he will doubtless be castigated for the miss, but in truth it was an outstanding piece of defending that thwarted him.

It was a moment that amply justified the campaign of sporting director Leonardo for Marquinhos to be moved back into the heart of the defence, having spent much of the last year employed as a midfielder.

Midway through the second period, he came up with another critical moment.

Following a corner, the ball broke kindly to kind him in the box. He obliged by rolling a shot into the corner of the net.

This goal opened the game and helped produce the space that resulted in Neymar scoring PSG’s wonderfulcounterattacking third in the dying embers.

Marquinhos, though, has history of producing clutch moments for his side in big European matches.

With Neymar and Mbappe both lame in the ‘Final 8’ in Lisbon back in August, he was PSG’s inspiration to reach the final.

Thomas Tuchel’s side were staring down the barrel of a shock loss to Atalanta when he prodded home a Neymar cross from close range to kickstart an incredible late quarter-final rally, and the he headed the opener in the 3-0 semi-final rout of RB Leipzig.

He may be dwarfed by the superstar duo in terms of his profile, but in terms of his importance to the team, he is not second best to anyone.

When PSG host Istanbul Basaksehir next Tuesday with a place in the last 16 on the line, it will be effectively the third time in succession that they will have played a knockout match after losing two of their first three fixtures.

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