Stade de Reims vs Paris Saint-Germain
Tomorrow night Paris Saint-Germain begin a consecutive defence of l’Hexagoal as the champions kick off the new domestic season away to Stade de Reims. Following a successful tour of Asia which was topped off with a comfortable Trophee des Champions victory over Guingamp, there is yet another sense of optimism at what lies ahead in the forthcoming campaign.
Laurent Blanc will be rubbing his hands together at having – AT LAST – his entire squad back together. Maxwell, the skipper Thiago Silva and the new man David Luiz all returned to Camp des Loges following their extended breaks due to the FIFA World Cup. Blanc will be giving his pre-match presser today where Luiz will also be officially presented as a Parisien player. The infectious nature of the former Chelsea man has clearly rubbed off on his new colleagues already, judging by the footage of his first day at the training ground. He will be a popular figure at the club you feel but the most important thing is that he knuckles down and proves that the €49.5m fee is in fact well spent.
Ezequiel Lavezzi is also back. Well, after those leaked photographs surfaced on the internet on Tuesday, El Pocho must have wished he was back on vacation. The bearded Argentine is still a PSG player as it stands but that can all change in the next few weeks of the transfer window as we get to the climax of the Angel di Maria transfer saga. He also returned to training this week with Real Madrid.
There is some interesting news on the squad numbers. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck has been handed the number 15 shirt where as Hervin Ongenda has been given the number 18. This is the biggest indication yet that both young men have a role to play this season and rightfully so after their impressive displays during the last month – particularly Bahebeck who should start tomorrow night.
There should not be too many surprises really to the team tomorrow. The Brazilian trio and Lavezzi will miss the game due to a lack of match practice (you would think). The friendly in Naples next week against Napoli will be a perfect opportunity to bed them in and give Luiz his debut.
Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye only returned to training last week. Is it too soon for them? Well, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti have settled straight back into the midfield. Javier Pastore completed the trio in Beijing last Saturday and did relatively well. Blanc may feel inclined to continue with that if we do go with a 4-3-3. The formations though are interesting. During the TDC, Blanc altered the side to a 4-3-1-2 when Edinson Cavani was brought on (with Zlatan Ibrahimovic dropping deep and Edi playing through the middle). The standard 4-4-2 was also utilised in the last 10 minutes when Lucas Moura come on. But, if I was a betting man I would predict he will continue with the tried and tested 4-3-3 that he has stuck with since his tenure.
This is the thing though, with so many players returning late from the World Cup, it gives Monsieur Blanc leeway to keep faith in those who have done well in pre-season. He has time to consider what the best solution is to accommodate Cavani who will not put up with another season out wide.
As for our opponents, the famous old club is embarking on its third consecutive Ligue 1 campaign. After a fruitful season last time out where they were in the top-10 for a relatively long period – before finishing 11th – the former European Cup finalists will have to make do without midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak who departed for Sevilla and of course their now former coach Hubert Fournier who took over the reins at Olympique Lyonnais. So it is going to be a period of transition for them.
President Jean-Pierre Clot has maintained that staying in the division is the most important thing, despite their improvement on the season before last. New coach Jean-Luc Vasseur has overseen a more than decent pre-season which entailed of just the one defeat and brought in some new young blood, including Antoine Conte who made his move there permanent from PSG.
Tomorrow is far from easy as we embark on yet another defence of our Ligue 1 title. But, with some of the big guns waiting in the wings, it is a superb opportunity for the likes of Bahebeck and Ongenda (if they start) to prove once and for all that they can be regulars in the Parisien line-up.
Putting all that aside, it is fantastic to have the domestic season back! Allez PSG!