It has been a month marred by off-field controversies for Paris Saint-Germain, but it is the fitness of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar that casts the longest shadow over the French club ahead of Wednesday‚Äôs Champions League crunch clash against Liverpool.
PSG go into the game at the Parc des Princes in third place in Group C, and a defeat against last season‚Äôs runners-up, coupled with a win for Napoli at home to Red Star Belgrade, would condemn the Qatar-owned side to an early elimination.
Such a prospect is unthinkable for a club with the ambitions of PSG, who are desperate to improve on consecutive exits from the Champions League in the last 16.
Thomas Tuchel has won every domestic game since his appointment as coach in the summer, but PSG‚Äôs results in Europe have been underwhelming, with a 3-2 defeat at Liverpool in September being followed by two draws against Napoli.
Indeed, a 6-1 win over Red Star last month is the French side‚Äôs only victory in their last seven Champions League matches ‚ÄĒ not exactly the form of potential winners.
‚ÄúWe have to play very well to beat Liverpool. An average performance won‚Äôt be enough against a team like that. We are talking top level and we need to be perfectly prepared. It‚Äôs a decisive match,‚ÄĚ club captain Thiago Silva told PSG‚Äôs official website.
But would they really be so well-prepared if the two most expensive players in the world were both absent against Jurgen Klopp‚Äôs team?
Mbappe and Neymar both suffered injuries playing in international friendly matches last week, and watched Saturday‚Äôs 1-0 home win over Toulouse from the stands.
Both of those players have scored 13 goals this season, while Edinson Cavani has 10 in all competitions. Their influence on the team is huge.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre getting better every day, we have time before now and Wednesday. It‚Äôs good for us. I think they‚Äôll be able to play,‚ÄĚ was Tuchel‚Äôs optimistic assessment at the weekend.