Harambee Stars defender set for epic showdown against Kylian Mbappe's PSG

STARS ABROAD Harambee Stars defender set for epic showdown against Kylian Mbappe's PSG

Mark Kinyanjui 14:33 - 11.11.2023

Okumu will be facing Kylian Mbappe for the first time in his career hoping to get the better of the French superstar.

Harambee Stars defender Joseph Okumu is set to battle out against Kylian Mbappe's Paris Saint-Germain in what is set to be the towering defender’s biggest challenge since joining Stade de Reims from Belgian outfit KAA Gent in July.

Okumu has been in stellar form for Reims as the Will Still-coached outfit have become Champions League contenders following a series of solid displays and wins in Ligue 1 this season.

In eight appearances, he has started seven times, having a pass success rate of 83 percent. He makes 4.2 tackles and interceptions per game, making 5.4 clearances and recovering the ball 6.3 times a match.

He also makes 5.3 duels per match, with SofaScore giving him an average rating of 7.01. He has also appeared in the Ligue 1 team of the month for October already and will be full of confidence facing PSG.

While their Champions League destiny remains in the balance, PSG's run of four successive Ligue 1 wins means they have recovered nicely from a stumbling start to the new season and come into the game in second place in the table. 

"Your last result sets the terms for the following game. We're looking at what we must improve, we have to accentuate the positives and keep working. It's a completely different competition," said Luis Enrique, who saw his team pick apart Montpellier 3-0 in their most recent domestic outing before slipping to the 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in Italy on Tuesday. 

"I hope that we'll be able to bounce back as we have already shown we can. We have to have the right attitude to turn things around as of Saturday. It's clear that we're still not leaders in the league or the Champions League. So we still have to improve."

The PSG boss will be forced to make changes with the suspensions of Achraf Hakimi and Randal Kolo Muani for the game. Presnel Kimpembe, Nuno Mendes, Keylor Navas, and Danilo are all sidelined by injury, while Marco Asensio has recovered from a foot problem but remains short of match fitness.

"Reims are an aggressive team that plays good football, but we're prepared for the game. We know it won't be easy, they have a good idea of how they want to play and they press well. It'll be a tough game, we'll have to be on our guard from the start of the match," added the PSG boss.

"They're one of the best sides this season, with a well organised team that knows how to exploit space. They're going to play to win. It'll be an intense, difficult match, and we'll need to focus for 90 minutes." 

Reims do head into the match in tremendous form too. Junya Ito's goal was enough for them to win at Nantes last time out, despite coach Will Still being suspended and his younger brother, Nicolas, on the touchline.

It was the Champagne club's sixth win in their opening 11 games - the last time they achieved that tally so early in a top-flight campaign was the 1974-75 season when Still was not even born. 

Reims are winless in seven league matches against PSG and have only scored once in that run, though that did come in the teams' 1-1 draw last season. 

"We're going to face Paris on Saturday and we'll try to cause them problems by forcing them to do things that they don't necessarily want to do," said Still, who is seeking to return some of their lustre to the two-time European Cup runners-up following last season's 11th-place finish that left Reims as far from the European places as the relegation zone.

"We're trying to go in the right direction and have an environment which enables everyone to be productive and to perform well. We no longer just want to be the Ligue 1 club that finishes 13th or 14th and is safe in March. Historically, we're a very big club, and let's be proud to be Stade de Reims."

Veteran defender Yunis Abdelhamid is set to make his 200th Ligue 1 appearance, but Still is without the injured trio of Ibrahim Diakité, Marshall Munetsi and Keito Nakamura while leading scorer Teddy Teuma will not be able to add to his team-high four league goals as the Malta international is suspended. 

Probable teams

Reims: Diouf; Agbadou, Okumu, Abdelhamid (c); De Smet, Matusiwa, Richardson, Foket; Ito, Salama, Daramy

PSG: Donnarumma; Hernandez, Marquinhos (c), Skriniar, Mukiele; Zaïre-Emery, Ugarte, Lee; Mbappé, Ramos, Dembélé

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