How PSG Can Set Up to Stop Cristiano Ronaldo
Paris Saint-Germain will be reunited with former coach Carlo Ancelotti for the first time since the Italian departed for the Spanish capital last month.
Having won PSG their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years, the two-time Champions League winner left the club for Los Blancos.
Now, the pair meet in Gothenburg on Saturday, a match scheduled before Ancelotti left for Real, as part of both side’s preseason preparations.
For the French champions’ players, it is their last chance to show new coach Laurent Blanc what they can do before the curtain-raising Trophee des Champions in Libreville, Gabon, next week.
But the Spanish giants are still only partway through their preparations.
New signing Edinson Cavani will be present in the crowd, but not on the pitch, at the Nya Gamla Ullevi stadium.
PSG opened their tour of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s home country with a 2-0 win over second division side Hammarby.
But like Barcelona at the Parc des Princes last summer, Real are the capital club’s toughest opponents and are saved until last.
If they are to stand any chance of beating Los Merengues, Blanc’s side will, of course, have to carefully prepare for Cristiano Ronaldo.
With Thiago Silva back in the fold for Les Parisens, it promises to be an exciting encounter.
The Brazilian’s colossal showing against Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals last season gave a demonstration of how one single player can almost keep an entire team out on his own.
Barcelona, being that team, made the feat all the more impressive and is surely one major reason why Real’s bitter rivals tried desperately to sign Silva earlier this summer (h/t ESPN FC).
Whether or not the Selecao captain will start, though, is a topic of debate.
The 28-year-old has only just joined up with his PSG teammates in Sweden, though, after some deserved holiday after a taxing Confederations Cup campaign.
Given that it is only a friendly, despite the prestigious opposition, playing a full 90-minute match just days after returning to the training camp is unlikely.
Instead, playing 45 minutes as Zlatan Ibrahimovic did against Hammarby on Tuesday is a more reasonable expectation.
For Laurent Blanc’s side to be able to shut down Ronaldo effectively, they will need Silva to be available and immediately at his best in Gothenburg.
Once again, the Samba star was at his peak for the majority of the Confederations Cup in his homeland, and the clash with Real is good preparation for PSG ahead of the coming season’s Champions League campaign.
Who to pair him with, however, is another question.
With no Marquinhos in Sweden, Blanc must choose between French international Mamadou Sakho and the sturdy, but cumbersome, Brazilian Alex.
In terms of the athleticism needed to combat such a talent as Ronaldo, ‘Le President’ would arguably be well-advised going for Sakho.
Heading into the coming season, the Frenchman should be starting ahead of the Brazilian, and the Real match also gives the 23-year-old a chance to rekindle a prickly relationship with Silva once again.
To expect a player as immobile and slow as Alex to compete with an all-rounder like the Portuguese is foolish and creates the potential for his potential centre-back partner to be overrun.
Instead, electing for a pacier option gives Silva the time to outthink Ronaldo and to keep his defence organised and vigilant against the former Manchester United man’s multiple threats.
Of course, it is only a friendly, so serious preparation is less of an issue as most players will only likely play for a limited time.
But if PSG are serious about making waves in the Champions League next season, learning to set their defence up to stifle a player of Ronaldo’s calibre will stand them in good stead.
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