The curtain raiser for the new season is tomorrow as the champions Paris Saint-Germain take on Coupe de France winners Guingamp in the infamous Worker’s Stadium in Beijing for the Trophee des Champions. Amazing to think we are about to embark on another campaign with the FIFA World Cup concluding just three weeks ago. As the likes of Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Maxwell and Ezequiel Lavezzi finish their extended breaks (Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi returned to training in Paris on Wednesday) the squad currently in the Far East look to retain a trophy that was Laurent Blanc’s first as Parisien coach last summer.
It was a fitting victory in Gabon last year. Blanc was in charge of his first competitive game against the club where he made his name as a coach, Girondins de Bordeaux. It took a stoppage time winner from Alex to mark the start of a history making campaign where we did a league and cup double. With the same aspirations as well as a desire to go further in the Champions League, tomorrow is a great opportunity again to keep the winning momentum going. We were not exactly pulling up trees in the weeks after last year’s victory in this fixture – drawing the opening two games – but it set the tone for an incredible streak of 21 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Blanc has encountered the same problem this time around as he did last year following the Confederations Cup. A host of his senior players have had extended breaks following their World Cup exploits and thus having no pre-season. When the Brazilian contingent joins up along with El Pocho – not to mention the two Les Bleus pros – they will be straight back into competitive football. Can this be a problem? Of course, but the biggest test for LB is to get his samba boys mentally right after a disastrous conclusion to their World Cup, notably the new boy David Luiz. The world’s most expensive defender came in for heavy criticism because of the 7-1 mauling at the hands of Germany so the staff at Camp des Loges must make sure he settles in straight away. It should not be too much of a big deal, he will be relishing the new challenge but it is something to keep an eye on.
The guys who are in China were treated to a warm welcome. The popularity of the club in Asia is growing by the day, as the scenes in Hong Kong proved. Having the Trophee des Champions played overseas has been a masterstroke by the LFP as the interest in Ligue 1 broadens. It will be a spectacle tomorrow which Guingamp will be playing a key part in as well.
Their Coupe de France victory was yet another fairy-tale, much like their first back in 2009. They did just survive relegation by two points last season and it should be yet another season of struggle. But they have brought in seven new players, notably Sylvain Marveaux who has arrived on loan from Newcastle United. He will have something to prove after four years in the wilderness but EAG will be hoping he can produce some of the form he demonstrated at Rennes.
It is a match both teams want to win, no more so than the other. Salvatore Sirigu has stated that from a Parisien point of view and he is absolutely right. The pre-season has been good. Some of the younger contingent have given Blanc food for thought and may start tomorrow (notably Hervin Ongenda and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck).
With the trip to Reims just a week away where we will start our title defence, victory in the Worker’s Stadium will set us up perfectly for it.