It has been one of the stranger weeks in recent times for Paris Saint-Germain. The first defeat in 36 games to Evian last week was a real dampener on what has been a terrific season thus far. It was a bitterly disappointing evening considering a result would have made history and equalled the club’s longest unbeaten run of 37 games. That defeat also marked our first of the season and ended – what the daily ‘Le Parisien’ had been dreaming of – an invisible-esque season with no defeats. Nevertheless, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic said after that 2-0 loss; “We hadn’t lost for a long time. Maybe this will be a good thing in the long term. We have to stay focused on our objectives”. And just like Zlatan to be Zlatan, his prophecy was right.
The 5-0 drubbing of Sochaux three days later could not have been a better response. It was a champion like display by giving a tremendous response when all eyes would have been on the character of the players. They all delivered, especially Zlatan who netted a brace as well as his teammate up top Edinson Cavani who was highly influential as well. Being at the Parc certainly helped but that result was an important one. We were below par in Evian but anything but back on home soil. Yes, Sochaux may be at the bottom of Ligue 1 but to overturn them so comprehensively, netting five goals and obtaining 70% possession takes some doing after what had transpired a few days prior. We even put an extra point between ourselves and the chasing pack. Lille were beaten 1-0 by Bordeaux which resulted in them slipping to third and Monaco’s win over Ajaccio moved them up to second – two points off us.
We are still the team to beat, no question about it. The Evian result was hopefully just a blip. Laurent Blanc will be under no illusions that victory in Rennes this weekend is vital, considering we meet title rivals Lille a week later at the Parc which could determine if we go into Christmas as the ‘Winter Champions’ for a third consecutive year.
Things in the league are healthy as they are in Europe despite a 2-1 defeat to Benfica on Tuesday night in a sparsely populated Estadio de Luz. Blanc decided to leave the likes of Ibra and the skipper Thiago Silva back home, whilst Gregory Van der Wiel and Marco Verratti were suspended. Blanc made a surprise call by fielding Kalifa Traore at right-back for his debut. Incredibly, it was only his 17th professional appearance, with the previous 16 taking place in Ligue 2 with Sedan. Credit to Blanc, he could easily have fielded Christophe Jallet but the gaffer will always distribute opportunities to others. Traore had a difficult night in truth but the experience for him will be invaluable. He did concede the penalty for Benfica to equalise on half-time after Cavani had given us the lead but it will be harsh to overly criticise the 22-year-old. He is out of contract next summer and whether or not he is offered a new deal remains to be seen.
So Lima scored from the spot and after the interval the Portuguese got the win thanks to Nicolas Gaitan. It is a defeat that means nothing. Sure, any win is nice but this is hardly going to be detrimental in any way. The group was already won, the players could relax and some of the big hitters could put their feet up ahead of this weekend. Finishing top of the group is a huge boost ahead of Monday’s last-16 draw. Avoiding the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich is massive but we could get the English duo of Arsenal and Manchester City. Even AC Milan could be drawn after those three clubs all finished second.
So the next week or so is an important one. Not only finding out who we will do battle with next February in the European Cup but hopefully we can rack up two important wins to go into Christmas top of the pile.