Paris Saint-Germain VS Olympiakos
UEFA Champions League
Venue: Parc des Princes
Date: 26th November 2013
Kick-Off: 19:45 (GMT)
Paris Saint-Germain maintained this incredible unbeaten run on Saturday with a with a 3-0 win away to Reims. Ironically, that victory was against the club that inflicted our last defeat all the way back in March when a post-mortem was opened up regarding the motivation of Les Parisiens’ stars. Even Carlo Ancelotti had question marks over his head in some of the French papers. Even though revenge against one of France’s most historic clubs was never on Laurent Blanc’s agenda, it was still nice to get the win. In doing so, it is now 34 games unbeaten. The team is as hungry as ever, we are four points clear at the top and now Champions League qualification can be sealed tonight at home to Greek side Olympiakos.
I admit it, before the last UCL game at home to Anderlecht I thought the team were an absolute certainty to gain three points and thus progress into the latter rounds with two games to spare. Unfortunately it did not pan out that way and the Belgians gave a heroic display to restore some pride after their 5-0 hammering on home soil a few weeks prior to that. Things could have been worse after going a goal down but Zlatan Ibrahimovic saved our blushes with a quick time equaliser.
The big man bounced back from his disappointment with Sweden last week with two assists and a goal in Reims. The FIFA World Cup next summer will be extraordinary but there is a twinch of sadness from most affiliated with PSG that Ibra’s presence will not be there. It is somewhat of a football tragedy but of course I am being bias. I would have loved for him to be there but he was outdone by Cristiano Ronaldo who virtually won the tie on his own.
The French boys played a pivotal role at the weekend as well. As ever, Blanc made his usual pre-Champions League selections. Jeremy Menez (who scored), Lucas Digne, Adrien Rabiot and Christophe Jallet all came into the team. Good to see again from Blanc. He really does know how to rotate and not once has it been detrimental thus far.
Lucas Moura scored a cracker of a goal to get the ball rolling in Reims. He gave a good account of himself and he needs to continue to do so. Questions have been asked about his development in the French media of late but nevertheless he is still a young boy adjusting to European football. There will be a time during this season where he will hit a blistering run of form but he has to usher out Ezequiel Lavezzi in order to do so which will be no easy feat. Blanc may need to give him a run of games at some point for him to really grab the bull by the horns. We all know the Brazilian is a star in the making, he just needs to bide his team, continue what he is doing and no doubt he will deliver.
His compatriot Thiago Silva is getting more minutes after making his comeback at the start of the month. He even got a good outing for his country Brazil (75 minutes) against Chile in Toronto last week. Then he followed that with a full 90 in Reims a few days later. Clearly an eye still needs to be kept on him just in case. We do not want this injury reoccurring but the medical staff at the club have been terrific as well as the Brazilian national team who did not exert him to much whilst he was away.
The skipper will be in the team for tonight against an Olympiakos team that are on an incredible run. Since we beat them 4-1 on match-day one – which was a stunning performance by the lads in the second-half – they have not lost a single match. In 13 matches, they have won all but two. And their form in Europe sees them a place behind ourselves on 7 points with qualification in their grasp. Even though we need just a point to advance, the Greeks know they can make it to the knock-out stages if they get obtain points in these last two games. So they will be fired up. We can ill afford to be so lackadaisical as were three weeks ago against Anderlecht and I think Blanc will get his message across. It will be nice to get a positive result with Lyon coming to town on Sunday. Always one of the standout fixtures.
Sealing qualification tonight will be an important step. It will be a task out the way and something not to worry about on the final match-day. Maxwell echoed that in yesterday’s pre-match presser: “It is very important for us to qualify for the next round of the Champions League. This is a match, which is of huge importance. After the Anderlecht game, we want to play better for the fans, the club and the team. This is a very important match, so we will give everything to win”.