Paris Saint-Germain face Girondins de Bordeaux on Friday, kicking off Ligue 1’s fifth week of action following a draining international fortnight.
Among other positional headaches for the defending champions’ coach Laurent Blanc, is to decide who plays up front at the Stade Chaban Delmas with a massive 15-day period on the horizon.
PSG take on Les Girondins, Blanc’s former side, for the second time already this season after they met in the curtain-raising Trophee des Champions earlier this summer. The side from the capital won that clash, but they were by no means convincing.
This time around, Le President has Edinson Cavani at his disposal as well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic who had to lead the line alone when the sides last met in Gabon. The dilemma for Blanc is that, with both travelling back from international duty in Uruguay and Kazakhstan respectively, one may have to miss out.
Cavani could be absent once more against Bordeaux given that he has had the furthest distance to travel, although Astana to France is no short trip. Both were in goal-scoring form this week for their countries, but the time difference between Europe and South America could prove a more difficult obstacle for El Matador to overcome given that he only arrived back in Europe on Thursday.
PSG’s Champions League campaign is due to start next week with the opening Group C clash against Olympiacos Piraeus in Greece. The mammoth first meeting between France’s two financial heavyweights follows when AS Monaco visit Paris next weekend, so Blanc will surely look to rotate his weary squad in Bordeaux ahead of those two games.
That could mean that Cavani finds himself benched in order to be ready for the start of the European campaign, with Hervin Ongenda potentially taking his place as Ezequiel Lavezzi has also travelled back from South America.
Jeremy Menez’s is certain to be absent once again with a kidney problem so Ibrahimovic, despite his globetrotting over the past two weeks, will likely start the game.
However, Blanc will be keen to utilise both of his star strikers, given how difficult Francis Gillot’s side were to breakdown in last month’s meeting in Libreville. Les Girondins will no doubt look to set up the same way that they did last time out should PSG play with Ibrahimovic as the sole focal point of the attack again.
Being able to play Cavani and the Swede together though would give PSGl some valuable unpredictability.
Despite their woes in front of goal, Bordeaux are a very tough side to break down. With one of Le Championnat’s best goalkeepers in Cedric Carrasso, backed up by a solid defence and pace on either side, Blanc’s former team are able to soak up large amounts of pressure.
You only have to look back at their previous meeting that PSG won 2-1 to be reminded of how resolute their back line can be.
Ongenda and defender Alex scored late goals in Africa to secure some early season silverware for Blanc’s current side, but that was largely down to the fact that Bordeaux had started to lose concentration by then.
Friday will likely be a similar story except that, should Cavani and Ibrahimovic start, they will need to stay focused for the full 90 minutes. The likes of Lamine Sane and Marc Planus will need to be at their very best in order to preserve a clean sheet.
Knowing when to step up to catch one or both of the prolific pair offside will be crucial given how many times PSG have look to play the ball in behind the defence.
En Avant Guingamp frustrated PSG two weeks ago and Bordeaux will have taken note of the Bretons’ and AC Ajaccio’s successful methods of stifling the French champions. Those tactics have involved a heavily defensive formation, including a flooded midfield and single-man strike force, perfect for Les Girondins who have precious few attacking threats to pose.
The continued absence of Gregory Sertic is a blow though.
Brazilian full back Mariano will be of particular importance on the right, with his ability to bomb up and down the flank and provide cover at the back while also offering a hand in the build-up play. His potential match-up against Blaise Matuidi and Lucas Digne—one exhausted from international duty and the other making his first appearance for the club—could be a key battle that the hosts must win in order to take something from the game.
Last season, Ibrahimovic was the difference thanks to a well-taken goal. This time around, he likely won’t have the service of Lucas Moura to provide him with the key chance, so it will be up to him or Cavani to take the chances they create together.
Bordeaux will have noted that despite some signs that this will prove to be a fruitful relationship in the long-term, right now the pair are far from on the same wavelength. Should both play, Gillot’s men will be looking to increase their frustration.