Montpellier HSC VS Paris Saint-Germain
Venue: Stade de la Mosson
Date: 9th August 2013
Kick-Off: 19:45 (GMT)
Amazing to think that it was just under three months ago that the city of Paris was oozing in the euphoria of capturing that long elusive Ligue 1 title after a 1-0 win away to Lyon. Now, after a summer of complete change both on and off the pitch, we now embark on the challenge of defending our crown.
No Carlo Ancelotti to mastermind another fruitful season, Leonardo has cut his losses after his ban and headed back to Italy and a number of personnel such as Sylvain Armand, Kevin Gameiro and David Beckham are no longer with the group. Now it is up to Monsieur Blanc to steer the Parisien ship that has hit some choppy waters this summer but after last week’s humdinger of a victory in Gabon in the Trophee des Champions against Bordeaux, the mood is rightfully bright.
No better way than to kick off a season than by winning some silverware. The jubilation last week was there for all to see. Alex’s stoppage time winner outpoured emotion from all those affiliated to the club and the celebrations were magical. You would have thought the club had just won the European Cup but it emphasises the player’s craving for more honours, more success. Sure, we won the league last season but we want to do it again, and win so much more on top. This is important for Blanc to continue that mentality and keep the group hungry. The success back in May was wonderful but it is only the beginning of something quite wonderful – as long as the group want it!
With the vast majority of last season’s squad still intact, marquee names still at the club (having wavered off Barcelona’s advances for the skipper Thiago Silva) and young blood coming through (Hervin Ongenda, Kingsley Coman, Antoine Conte) as well as the three lads that have come in (Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos, Lucas Digne) it would not be incorrect to say that the squad is a lot stronger than this time last year. The arrival of Cavani, who has yet to make an appearance yet (but is in the squad for tonight), has the Parisien fans salivating at the prospect of him forging a formidable partnership with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Then there is the Brazilian prodigy Marquinhos who has the capability to become just as good – if not better – than Thiago Silva. Last but no means least, Lucas Digne who will be given an astute education by Maxwell at left-back. He will feed his knowledge to a teenager who already possesses bags of ability and unbridled potential.
So matters now turn to the opening game against the club that pipped us to the title the season before last, Montpellier. It was at the Stade de la Masson last season where Maxwell opened the scoring for PSG with the most diligent chip that had goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren awe struck. But, Remy Cabella equalised on the hour mark – 50 minutes after Mamadou Sakho was given a straight red card.
MHSC have lost three key personnel over the course of the summer. John Utaka has departed for Turkey. The Nigerian will go down in the club’s history as one of the pivotal members of the title winning team in 2012. Defender Henri Bedimo has completed a move to Lyon for a snip at €2m. But, the biggest departure and even though it was inevitable is that of Younes Belhanda. Although his desire to seeking pastures new was not a surprise, his club certainly was. Dynamo Kiev came in with an offer and the Moroccan went, despite being linked to some of Europe’s top clubs. The Ukrainian giants seized their opportunity and forked out €11m.
We will encounter a familiar face this evening however. Siaka Tiene, who completed a move to southern France back in June after his contract expired at the Parc des Princes will most probably start.
Tonight will be a weaker Montpellier team than the one we have faced in the last two seasons. Regardless, Laurent Blanc – who is hero at the club having played eight years there in the 80’s to early 90’s – will be under no illusions that this will be a test. Blanc is in actual fact, the club’s all-time top goal scorer, netting 84 times. You would not have thought it for someone who played the majority of his career in defence but he in actual fact he played in midfield for large quantities at La Paillade.
Having gone 12 years without a win at the Stade de la Mosson up until a 3-0 win back in 2011, it does emphasise our troubles there. Javier Pastore netted a brace that night and Kevin Gameiro got on the score sheet too. It will be a test but we should have more than enough to obtain all three points. Marquinhos, Clement Chantome and Thiago Motta (calf strain) are absent but Cavani is in the squad for the first time. The rest of the big hitters are also in the group and fully fit.
Blanc may very well keep the team more or less the same (exception to Motta) to the one from last week against Boredeaux. The big question is though does he start Cavani? If so, Ezequiel Lavezzi will probably start out on the left-hand side with Ligue 1’s most expensive signing partnering Ibra up front. Food for thought for the coach.