Blaise Matuidi will lead PSG to new Champions League heights

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I love watching Zlatan just as much as the rest of you.

He’s really one of the most electric players out there, without a doubt, and would qualify as a pure gamechanger.

But as much fun as he is to watch, and as vital as his goalhawking is (with his brace today he has 10 of PSG’s last 15 away goals in the Champions League) he’s not the French giants’ most important player.

I know, I know, that’s blasphemy, but bear with me.

Despite Zlatan’s spark, the designation must go to the man who gets about 1/1000th of the credit, but makes the team churn – Blaise Matuidi.

In a match where PSG got off to a explosive start and didn’t look back, the 26-year-old midfielder was the linchpin in Les Parisians whirring mechanism.

Taking a look at the first goal, and you see all you need to know about his work rate. Matuidi intercepts the ball on the right touchline, seeing the pass well before Simon Rolfes even knew he was going to attempt it. Then, after dishing to Gregory Van der Wiel, he doesn’t power down his afterburners until he gets the ball back and puts it in the back of the net, shielding off Roberto Hilbert to create space for his run.

Later, Matuidi does all the hard work to construct the foundation for PSG’s third goal, the foundation on which Ibrahimovic – as he has so often this year – builds a masterpiece atop.

source: Getty Images
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the face of PSG, but Blaise Matuidi is their workhorse.

The Toulouse product braced himself against both Omer Toprak and Emir Spahic (who had a nightmarish performance), attempting to make something for himself before realizing he was out of options.  He went to ground but remained calm, reaching out and finding his Swedish superstar at the last possible moment for a special finish.

Matuidi eventually came off in the 67th minute, with Laurent Blanc not wishing to risk a second yellow for his most important player already ahead 3-0.

This match, however, is just one small example of Matuidi’s brilliance this year in the French Ligue 1 and beyond.

According to Squawka statistics, Matuidi has a 92% pass completion rate, including a sparkling 86% (57/66) on long balls. His superb strength also helps him defensively, completing 64% of his tackles successfully in the midfield.

In today’s match, he wasn’t needed defensively as much with PSG dominating possession until Matuidi’s exit (not a coincidence).  However, he still chipped in with a successful tackle in his only attempt, as well as three interceptions, two blocked crosses, and a successful clearance.

And while his numbers in Ligue 1 play are great, he leaves his A+ game for the biggest stage – with today, he now has a goal and three assists in the Champions League, while racking up three goals and two assists in 24 Ligue 1 matches.

Ibrahimovic may get all the international headlines, highlight videos, press coverage, and fan love – and rightly so, the guy’s both a beast on the pitch and marketable off it – but Blaise Matuidi’s importance to this PSG side cannot, and should not, be understated.

With Matuidi’s guidance (along with Marco Verrati’s service and, obviously, Ibra’s flair), this team has the very real possibility of finding themselves in the Champions League final four, no question possessing the potential to shock the world with an upset or two along the way.

It’s a bit late, but I’m officially on the PSG bandwagon, and you should be too.

VIDEO: Previewing all 10 Premier League games

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Jose Fonte of Southampton and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
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A busy midweek for Premier League teams in Europe sees some high-profile match-ups when league play resumes this weekend.

Chelsea is hosting former manager Jose Mourinho, Arsenal looks to keep up its red-hot play, and Manchester City is hoping an extra day’s rest on Southampton makes a difference to its recent dry spell.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on  NBC Sports 

Below you will find video previews of all 10 games coming up this weekend in the PL.

Manchester City vs. Southampton — Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Burnley vs. Everton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Swansea City vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Hull City vs. Stoke City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Chelsea vs. Manchester United — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

West Ham United vs. Sunderland — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

PST EXTRA: Will Mourinho go ultra defensive vs Chelsea? (video)

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After Thursday’s thumping of Fenerbahce, Manchester United’s focus turns to Chelsea.

You can bet Jose Mourinho has been daydreaming of this day from the moment he started jockeying for a new Premier League job; leading a team onto the Stamford Bridge pitch to face his former club.

[ MORE: Mourinho says Pogba needs time ]

Two years ago, Mourinho was leading Chelsea to the Premier League title. He didn’t last the next season, as a run of shocking results motivated Chelsea to cut ties with its “Special One”.

Joe Prince-Wright is here with another PST Extra, breaking down Sunday’s big match between Mourinho’s Red Devils and Antonio Conte‘s Blues at 11 a.m. ET.

Manchester United: Pogba explains why he took PK over Rooney

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United runs with the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba scored a pair of goals in Thursday’s big Europa League win over Fenerbahce, but the first was up for discussion.

Wayne Rooney started the game and has handled plenty of penalty kicks in his day, but the captain bowed to Pogba’s request to break the deadlock.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s fantastic goal ]

Pogba would later score a much better looking goal, but many debated the PK duties for much of the game (ad nauseam). Anthony Martial converted United’s second penalty of the night in a 4-1 win, but it was Pogba’s that was at the center of discussion.

From the BBC:

“I told Wayne (Rooney) I wanted to take the penalty and he let me. I am very happy to score that penalty and from a player like him to let me it is big respect so I am very glad.

“I feel comfortable with all of the team. It is just at the start of the season and there is still a long way to go and we want to go up and do our best and be top of the league.”

Pogba certainly knows the right way to turn a phrase, proffering plenty of praise for Rooney. Pogba had a very good game aside from a few early misplaced passes, and this performance could put his form in a fine place for Sunday’s match against Chelsea.

Mourinho says Pogba needs time to adjust to Premier League intensity

Manchester United's Paul Pogba, centre, celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the Europa League Group A soccer match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
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Paul Pogba had a very good match for Manchester United in the Europa League on Thursday, but manager Jose Mourinho still wants supporters to pump the brakes as the French midfielder continues adjusting to life in the Premier League.

Pogba, 23, has been under the microscope since returning to Old Trafford after a tremendous stint with Juventus. That scrutiny tends to come with a world record transfer fee.

[ MORE: UEFA Europa League roundup ]

On Thursday, he scored a pair of goals in United’s 4-1 defeat of Fenerbahce, a win that boosted the Red Devils back atop their Europa League group.

Mourinho was obviously asked about his midfielder’s starring performance.

“Paul Pogba needs time. I was in Italy, I know Italian football. To be in Italy for four or five years and come back I was not expecting it to be a click of the fingers for intensity. He needs time.”