Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais will raise the curtain on the new French season tomorrow in the Trophee des Champions in Montreal. The champions will be looking to retain the trophy for the third year on the bounce against our closest challengers for the title last season.
But, the contrast during pre-season in terms of results is huge! Les Gones have only managed one victory and suffered four defats including a 6-0 battering at the hands of Arsenal in the Emirates Cup. PSG on the other hand rounded off a successful tour of the US with a valiant 2-0 win over Manchester United; the first ever meeting between the two clubs. Only a penalty shoot-out defeat to Chelsea was in the midst of four victories, with three accumulating towards the International Champions Cup triumph.
The tour of America as a whole was a huge success for the football club. You can see the global appeal growing year by year and it has certainly been more evident this summer than in previous tours gone by. The popularity in the States is apparent and it was good of the club to arrange a mingling session with the supporters club in New York City which drew plaudits.
On the pitch, there have been plenty of positives. The emergence of Jean-Kevin Augustin has been the biggest for me. The 18-year-old who signed a professional contract at the start of the year has been a real bright spark, chipping in with five goals which makes him the leading goalscorer in Parisian colours during pre-season. Serge Aurier has proved his versatility by playing at centre-back. Lucas Digne, whose future has been questioned all summer, has showed his quality that brought him to the club. New signings Kevin Trapp and Benjamin Stambouli have settled in with ease. And Zlatan Ibrahimovic has looked fresh since he came back from his holidays by netting in three consecutive games which was rounded off with a productive performance against United.
Coach Laurent Blanc has had to contend with key personnel arriving at later dates due to international commitments over the summer months but it has not been a hindrance. If anything it has been a benefit by giving the youth a chance and blending them with the experienced pros.
Tomorrow will be interesting in terms of LB’s team selection. The two Argentines Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi have yet to kick a ball in a PSG shirt this summer due to their late arrival. They joined up with the squad earlier this week so this will be an idea time to give them some minutes with competitive football just a week away. Edinson Cavani can do with some minutes too as he was late arriving due to the Copa America. The likes of Augustin and Lucas Moura could start from the bench as a result of this.
Lyon have only spent €5m thus far but it should be money well spent. Claudio Beauvue joined the club from Guingamp where he will add to Hubert Fournier’s fruitful attack. Alexandre Lacazette committing his future to the club is huge! Last season’s Ligue 1 top scorer can no doubt match that feat again and with Nabil Fekir signing a contract extension last month there is real optimism at the Stade de Gerland. But, the 22-year-old will not participate tomorrow as he is suspended which angered president Jean-Michel Aulas who again found a reason to have a pop at PSG. Aulas made the request to Al-Khelaifi, who is part of the LFP administrative council, but the Qatari rejected. Aulas would tell Le Progres; “I’m going to follow the game but I won’t be in Montreal. I’m sulking. I asked the PSG president, Nasser Al Khelaifi, to allow Nabil Fekir to play in the Trophee, for the spectacle, for football. And he answered ‘No’’.”
In a way you can agree with Aulas that a player of Fekir’s quality is a loss to the spectacle. Nevertheless, it should still be a marquee occasion in Canada with the TDC being in another country for the seventh year on the trot. It is good for domestic French football by catering to a global audience and as PSG’s tour in the States shown, the interest is growing all the time.
Let the 2015/16 season commence!