UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Ajax vs Paris Saint-Germain
It is a big five days coming up for Paris Saint-Germain. The home clash with Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday is one to whet the appetite but first up is a trip to Amsterdam to take on Dutch champions Ajax. This is a glamour tie if ever there was one, coming up against a stalwart in European football within their stomping ground, an arena where its pitch is graced by top young talent playing the Johan Cruyff way. An ethos that has been emulated by many of Europe’s marquee clubs.
Facing Frank de Boer’s side away from home is one of the sterner tests of our Group F clashes. Really, if we were to leave Amsterdam empty handed tomorrow it would be an horrendous start, especially when you consider Barcelona will be the next opponents. On paper, we should get a result tomorrow despite facing a well-disciplined outfit. With all due respect to ‘de Godenzonen’ we have the better team but as you know in Europe, anything can happen and this will be a test for Laurent Blanc’s men.
It was evident during the 1-1 draw with Rennes last Saturday that this game was seemingly more of a priority. As I said in my article a few days ago, we tend to suffer from this nausea before a Champions League fixture and very rarely play to our full capabilities. The manner of the result was the biggest gripe for me. Blanc may very well have had tomorrow’s game in mind but he showed no real intent to tweak his tactics to push for the win.
Something we lacked, particularly in the last half hour of that game, was energy. Blaise Matuidi has been out of favour due to the terrific form of Javier Pastore within the three man midfield. It would not be a bad idea to recall BM back into the team, not necessarily as a like for like for Pastore but maybe for little Marco Verratti. Thiago Motta can sit quite easily on his own in front of the back four and there is every chance Ajax will enjoy a fair amount of possession. Having Matuidi’s legs in there would be a big help.
Speaking of little Marco, the Italian signed a brand new contract yesterday till 2019. He told the club’s official site: “When I think about my career, I only see myself at Paris Saint-Germain. I want to continue winning trophies with this club, while continue to improve as a footballer alongside truly world class players. Paris is magic!”
Tying him down is a statement of intent and all the more when you take into account the interest that has been shown in him from other clubs. He still has so much more to learn, especially in eradicating his petulance but he will eventually be one of the best central midfielders in world football.
In defence Blanc has a decision to make. At the moment it seems as if David Luiz is still struggling to overcome his injury having not participated in full training yesterday. Serge Aurier did. He may consider putting the Ivorian in central defence alongside Marquinhos. If not, then Zoumana Camara will make a consecutive start.
One thing we can exploit of our opponents is their defence. Eight goals they have conceded in their five opening league games, two of which were consecutive defeats to PSV Eindhoven and then Groningen. Things picked up though when De Boer started young Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik last weekend where he is on loan from Bayer Leverkusen. He scored a brace in a 2-1 win over Heracles.
Tomorrow night is a test but it is imperative that we get a result. The form Barcelona is in at the moment – despite some question marks over their tactical awareness – is impressive. The last thing we want is to go into that game against the Catalans under pressure so early on in the competition.