SAINT-ETIENNE VS PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
VENUE: STADE GEOFFROY-GUICHARD
DATE: 17th MARCH 2013
KICK-OFF: 20:00 (GMT)
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After the euphoria of the Champions League draw where we learnt we will be coming up against the greatest footballing side on the planet in a matter of weeks, attention now needs to be fixated on the task in hand tonight.
We are facing an impressive Saint-Etienne side that are sitting in fourth, eyeing a Champions League place and are unbeaten in their last nine league games. They can also boast the fact that they knocked us out of the Coupe de la Ligue earlier on in the season via penalties and subsequently have a final to look forward to against Stade Rennes next month.
Let us not forget that it was Les Verts who inflicted our first league defeat of the season last November, humbling us 2-1 at the Parc des Princes with Zlatan Ibrahimovic receiving a red card. Incidentally we won at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard just before last season’s winter break thanks to a Stephane Ruffier own goal which gave us the title as ‘winter champions’. That was also Antoine Komboaure’s last game in charge, sacked a matter of days later.
David Beckham will be familiar with tonight’s venue which pretty much set the precedent for his destiny. It was there at the 1998 FIFA World Cup where he was famously sent-off for England against Argentina for kicking out at Diego Simeone. England of course bowed out on penalties with Becks using that night as a springboard to catapult his career into a parallel universe.
The Englishman may be in line for a start with Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti missing through injury. Jeremy Menez is also out as is Lucas Moura leaving Carlo Ancelotti scratching his head for the team selection. He may very well go with three in the middle of the park with Beckham, Clement Chantome and of course Blaise Matuidi – up against his former club. Zlatan will lead the line, supported by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore.
Christope Galtier and his infamous coat will have to make do without Brandao and of course midfielder Jeremy Clement whose season was brought to an abrupt end thanks to a horrifying tackle by Nice midfielder Valentin Eysseric. As a result Clement suffered a broken leg and Eysseric has been banned for 11 games by the LFP. It is a shame for any player to suffer such an horrific injury, especially for someone like Clement who has been magnificent for his team. I really do hope he comes back from this and I wish him all the best in his rehabilitation.
Their star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been a revelation this campaign, paid homage to Clement by having his teammate’s initials shaved into his hair. He has bagged 16 goals in the league thus far, only second to Zlatan who he trails by eight goals. Hopefully for our sake that lead extends tomorrow.
Three points will be massive for us as it will open up a seven point lead over Lyon who were battered 4-1 by Bastia yesterday. A resounding score-line that has reverberated all across France. Marseille also could not pick up maximum points, drawing a blank with Ajaccio on Friday.
If we can create a seven point gap tonight with just nine games left, we will put ourselves in an envious position to close in on a third league title. Tonight will be mightily difficult however.