The signing of Angel di Maria and the build-up to it has overshadowed Paris Saint-Germain’s opening game away to Lille tonight at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy
The champions begin their title defence against a team with a new coach and ethos in Herve Renard. Although Di Maria put pen to paper on a four-year contract on Thursday before his unveiling yesterday, the Argentine will not be involved. He will be out for up to three weeks (at least two) with an injury he suffered to his hamstring just before last month’s Copa America Final which ruled him out of the South American showpiece.
Nevertheless, the new number 11 – succeeding the number vacated by his compatriot Ezequiel Lavezzi last season – is absolutely thrilled to be a PSG player. It was a year in the making, a multi-million pound move to the Premier League in the process, but Angel di Maria now adorns a PSG shirt. He said in his presser yesterday; “I’m very happy to be here, to sign for Paris Saint-Germain. The club had been following me for several years. I am very proud to now be able to play for this great club, alongside such great players. The club has a very important ambition to win the Champions League. That’s also my ambition. The club has a great project, the club is growing and winning more and more titles, every year. I wanted to be a part of this project to help reach the club’s objective. Being here today is an immense source of pride. I will try and bring that little bit extra to help the team past the quarter-finals of the Champions League. I am delighted to come here to this city, to France and represent such an important shirt.”
There has been a lot of emphasis on the Champions League with this signing. President Nasser Al-Khelaifi sees the arrival of ADM as integral in the club advancing beyond the last-eight of the competition. The dominance on domestic soil was epitomised last season so the next logical step is the evolvement in Europe. Di Maria played a key role in Real Madrid landing their 10th European Cup last year so he has that winning mentality in abundance (considering all the other titles he has won).
Regarding the game tonight, we will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This came as no surprise after he endured a fair bit of medical attention on his knee during the Trophee des Champions win last Saturday. He has strained ligaments and has been left to sit this one out. It is a real pity because the big man was heavily involved all game, as he had been during his outings in pre-season.
Edinson Cavani will play the lone man down the middle with Lucas Moura on the right. Who plays opposite? That will be an interesting one. It would be no shock if coach Laurent Blanc opted to start the young man Jean-Kevin Augustin but he may see it as too much too soon for the lad. Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi are the most likely unless Pastore is dropped into the midfield trio.
There are no other notable absentees but Nicolas Douchez may have to start facing up to being left out of matchday squads. He has not been named in this one with Salvatore Sirigu and Kevin Trapp both ahead of him in the pecking order. The German Trapp looks as if he is to be the number one for the club this season and this will be consolidated if he starts tonight.
Our hosts Les Dogues are a completely different outfit this time around with Renard brought in to nurture the younger talent. They have lost seasoned pros such as Idrissa Gueye, Simon Kjaer, Adama Traore and Nolan Roux over the summer. Divock Origi has also departed after his season-long loan with Liverpool came to an end. Just €3.4m has been spent over the summer so it suggests that tough times may lay ahead in the immediate future for the 2011 Ligue 1 champions.
This will by no means be an easy task for PSG. Trips to Lille are always intense and if the opening day of last season is anything to go by – that frenetic 2-2 draw away to Reims – then this could be a cracking contest.
Football is back!