UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
APOEL FC vs Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain overcame a mini crisis on Friday with a shortage of players as they downed RC Lens 3-1 at an atmospheric Stade de France. Laurent Blanc’s preference to rest key players ahead of a Champions League fixture had to be put aside for once.
The coach’s hand was forced as Thiago Silva – who was deemed fit to play – withdrew due to personal reasons involving his father’s health. Without Marquinhos and David Luiz, Thiago Motta had to fill in at centre-back alongside Zoumana Camara. Yohan Cabaye came into the centre of the midfield trio with Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti either side. Unfortunately, Matuidi had to come off after 20 minutes after feeling a twinge in his hip. Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura played off Edinson Cavani who had an eventful night.
The Uruguayan finally bagged a goal after four games without but was unfairly dismissed for two bookings. The referee deemed his celebration as provocative to the RCL support and did not take kindly to the protest from the number nine, subsequently brandishing him a second to the dismay of Les Parisiens. This all came after the promoted side took the lead via Adamo Coulibaly before Cabaye pulled things level and Maxwell scored an absolute stunner with his unfavoured right boot.
The conundrum for Laurent Blanc next week against his former club Bordeaux is that he will be without a centre-forward as Edi is suspended and Zlatan Ibrahimovic still looks as if he’ll be out as he recovers from his heel injury.
But, the group for tomorrow’s game in Cyprus against APOEL is encouraging. Luiz, Silva, Matuidi and Lucas Digne are all in the squad. As is young Presnel Kimpembe who made his Parisian bow on Friday to a warm reception from the PSG support.
Having the skipper back along with Luiz is huge. It will take a brave man to bet against them both starting despite their recent injury wobbles (Silva especially after being out for over two months). He did say in an interview with Canal+ that he is mentally affected by the injury; “It’s always difficult to come back. I need to work a little physically and psychologically too. The leg is okay now, but in my head I am a little afraid to play”.
It is a huge opportunity to more or less book our passage into the next round. APOEL are no pushovers by any means but having beaten Barca, and with the Catalans facing a double bill with Ajax, the chance is there to get at least four points. We sit top of the group wih four points, just a point ahead of the La Liga leaders.