PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN VS Dynamo Kiev
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
VENUE: PARC DES PRINCES
DATE: 18TH SEPTEMBER 2012
KICK-OFF: 19:45 (GMT)
It is finally here! After eight long years, Paris Saint-Germain can once again realise a dream by being alongside the creme de la crème of Europe in the UEFA Champions League.
Not only are we back with the elite but clubs all across the continent foresee Les Parisiens as a genuine threat to them in the competition. This is something that has been envisaged for 18 years or so when we were lost champions of France. The mammoth spending and luring some of the game’s top talent to the club has not only strengthened us, but weakened others significantly such as Milan. A huge, massive, iconic club such as themselves have lost arguably two of their best players which fundamentally – you would imagine – put us in a better position than them to go afar in the competition.
Nevertheless, it is not as clean cut as that. We are about to dip our toe into an entity we have no fundamental history in. We saw last season with Manchester City – now the champions of England – how difficult they found their experience in the tournament, being eliminated in the group-stage. Yes, we have a team that is getting better with each passing game but it would be naive to think we will cruise through the group and qualify. It just will not be that simple, especially with the company we are in – FC Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb.
For now, Carlo Ancelotti will be keen to stress that each game will be taken as it comes. The goal of course is to qualify from the group and whatever follows that will be a bonus. Can we win the whole thing? Realistically no, but if we can put down a marker, go for the jugular and upset a few apple carts along the way, then it will be a worthy return to the competition.
Dynamo Kiev, the Ukrainian giants will be welcomed to the Parc des Princes tomorrow night as our first opponents. The Bilo-Syni are currently third in the Ukrainian Premier League, losing two of the nine opening games and winning the other seven. The problem is their rivals Shakhtar Donetsk are in imperious form, sitting top of the pile, six points clear of Kiev and have doubled the goals they have scored. Yuri Semin’s team know however it is a marathon and not a sprint, and will be looking to knock Donetsk off their perch.
Dynamo possess a wealth of talent in their ranks. Their set-up is similar to ours and they may utilise the Christmas tree formation. At home domestically they like to play with two men up top but it is hard to envisage them doing that in a European tie away from home. The 23-year-old Nigerian striker Ideye Brown will lead the attack on his own. He has been in sterling form, already begging eight goals this season. He will be familiar to French football fans as he spent a successful season at Sochaux before moving to Ukraine last year. He is quick, agile, loves to make runs in behind the defence and his finishing is devastating. PSG must quell him tomorrow and with Thiago Silva making his debut it seems, the Brazilian will be able to cope with his agility more so than Alex.
Former Tottenham Hotspur player Niko Kranjcar will support Brown, playing just off him with possibly Denis Garmash also undertaking a role alongside. Kranjcar is a technically gifted player and his passing prowess will be a danger if he is able to provide slick through balls to Brown. Garmash is only 22-years-old and only made his debut for his country in the fall of last year. His physique is very much similar to our own Javier Pastore, lean, tall and also very gifted with the ball.
Another man to look out for is Andriy Yarmolenko, very much the golden boy. Seen as the man to fill the boots of legend Andriy Shevchenko, the 22-year-old has been operating down the left-hand side this season and has been effective. He flourished during Ukraine’s co-hosting of Euro 2012 and is certainly one for the future.
As for ourselves we know this is a challenging fixture but the back-to-back wins in the league have been fundamental in the team’s development. The side is gelling more and more, with the side pretty much picking itself nowadays – bar one or two. Marco Verratti has flourished into something really special and he is NOW a really important member of the team.
Club record signing Thiago Silva is in line to make his debut at long last in the centre of defence. Who he partners remains to be seen but it will most likely be his Brazilian compatriot Alex. With both speaking the same language and being together in the Brazilian squad it makes sense, despite Mamadou Sakho being terrific of late. There are slight concerns over both Sakho and Alex though as they picked up niggles against Toulouse, but both should be fine. Gregory van der Wiel is also set to start at right-back. Captain Christophe Jallet may be pushed into midfield, but again at this stage it is hard to second guess Ancelotti’s thinking. Jallet has also picked up a knock to his calf last Friday and it may be a good enough excuse for Ancelotti not to risk him. Meanwhile, attacker Ezequiel Lavezzi will also be back in contention following his rest at the weekend and will be raring to go.
It is a brand new adventure for Les Parisiens and one we should revel in. The aura the competition brings when that anthem bellows around stadiums all across Europe is something to behold. The Parc des Princes will be rocking come tomorrow night. Allez PSG!