Match Preview: Valenciennes vs PSG


Ligue 1

Venue: Stade du Hainaut

Date: 6th May 2012

Kick-Off: 20:15 (GMT)

Paris Saint-Germain’s midweek win over Saint-Etienne and Montpellier’s draw at home to Evian has once again blown the title race wide open.

It is amazing what just one or two results can do in transforming, what was perceived – including myself – as a title race won by Montpellier. PSG’s defeat away to champions Lille last Sunday was extremely damaging and it looked for the entire world that the surprise leaders would go ahead and complete a miraculous feat. However, just as this season has proved, absolutely anything can happen and the drama has been nothing short of gripping.

Evian TG of all teams handed Les Parisiens a mighty lifeline by playing out a frenetic 2-2 draw with the leaders on Tuesday night at the Stade de la Mosson. This was perceived by many to be a home banker but the visitors played with tremendous spirit and even took the lead before a late leveller by Olivier Giroud. The drama that ensued in stoppage time was however unbelievable and could have a big bearing on PSG winning a third Ligue 1 crown. In a fracas where four players were sent off – including MHSC maestro Younes Belhanda – Souleymane Camara missed a penalty in the 98th minute to the relief of those in the capital. Had he converted, it would have more or less put a nail in PSG’s coffin but instead it opened the door for them to cut the lead at the top to just three points the following evening.

That indeed happened with a 2-0 win over Saint-Etienne at the Parc des Princes. Many Parisians were sceptical beforehand as Les Verts have proved to be rigorous opponents down the years but a penalty from Nene and Javier Pastore’s late strike breathed new life into a title race that seemed dead and buried.

The most incredible thing about this now is Paris could take top-spot at the expense of MHSC with victory over Valenciennes tomorrow night. With La Paillade playing a day later in Rennes – no easy feat by any means – their lead at the top will not only be vanquished but will also find themselves looking up at a new leader.

We may be getting ahead of ourselves as there is still a job to do at the Stade du Hainaut on Sunday night. Our opponents are currently in 12th and on the back of a heavy drubbing at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais. Their form has been patchy, picking up some important wins against Rennes, Toulouse and Nice. Their home form is also impressive, only one of six clubs to reach double figures in terms of wins in the league this season. PSG are unbeaten in the last four against them but will be way of the threat they possess tomorrow.

Carlo rang a couple of changes in the win over ASSE in the week with Maxwell coming into midfield, Sylvain Armand coming in at left-back and veteran Zoumana Camara coming into the centre of defence alongside Alex. Camara had never given up hope on the team’s title prospects even though they were being written off after the loss to Lille. He told the club’s Official Site; People were saying we would even lose second place. But we’re still here…right here! We’re back in the hunt. You can see how important every game is and that every team can drop points. We’re only three points behind.”

His thoughts are echoed by Sylvain Armand. PSG’s cult hero is under no illusions that the team have used up all of their lifelines and must capitalise with maximum effort in the final three games of the campaign;We have to approach the Valenciennes match as calmly as possible. We need to build on the win over Saint-Etienne if we want to stay in the race with three games left to play. We have used up all our chances. Now we have to do the job.”

As of yet there is no news on any injuries. Jeremy Menez returned to the fold on Wednesday after his ankle problem and should be fit for tomorrow. Mamadou Skaho is of course suspended following his red card last weekend.

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