Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has been boosted ahead of Wednesday’s friendly clash with OGC Nice at Stade de la Mediterranee in Beziers thanks to the return of the French champions’ first FIFA World Cup representatives. Following the 4-2 defeat to RasenBallsport Leipzig last week, Le President will be grateful that he will have greater flexibility to try a new approach.
Per PSG.fr’s report on Monday, the Italian triumvirate of Salvatore Sirigu, Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta reported for duty at the club’s Ooredoo training centre. Despite suggestions to the contrary from RMC Sport (in French), Uruguayan Edinson Cavani is actually not expected back in the French capital until Friday.
Les Parisiens’ French contingent of Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye and Lucas Digne will also link up with their teammates on the same day, per the same PSG.fr report from Monday. The squad fly to Asia for the last leg of their pre-season preparations and the Trophee des Champions in Beijing.
With that clarified, PSG boss Blanc will be looking to slowly integrate his World Cup stars back into the team before perhaps changing the Ligue 1 titleholders’ style completely when Cavani joins the group in Asia.
Back in May, Blanc spoke with Le Parisien (h/t Ligue1.com) and suggested that he would be willing to experiment with El Matador’s role. The Frenchman could try one or two new things with the team while they are in Asia and Cavani is with the squad, but until then he has to concentrate on the players he has at his disposal.
So far this pre-season, PSG have been sticking to the 4-3-3 formation that served them so well last season. With the absence of Cavani, it is difficult to see them straying from that with no natural striker to play alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Lucas Moura’s fitness is another deciding factor.
The Brazilian picked up an injury in the 4-3 win over Hungarian side Videoton in Austria and missed the defeat in Leipzig. So far this summer, he has been a key part of Blanc’s plans and his absence could prohibit Blanc from switching to a 4-3-1-2 with the new PSG No. 7 playing just behind Ibrahimovic and academy starlet Hervin Ongenda.
Of course it is possible that Blanc plays Javier Pastore in that role. The enigmatic Argentine has been in decent shape so far in the capital club’s pre-season preparations, but that would require Blanc playing both Verratti and Motta from the start and they are perhaps not ready for that just yet.
What is more likely is that Blanc sticks with the 4-3-3 for now.
Clement Chantome and Adrien Rabiot have featured regularly so far and they could both start against Nice, with one of Verratti or Motta playing in the deep-lying midfield role. Should that happen, Pastore would be pushed forward, with one of Ongenda or the in-form Jean-Christophe Bahebeck dropping to the bench.
Considering that Bahebeck has not played much of a part for PSG since the Qatari takeover, he might not be a part of the club’s long-term thinking. Blanc needs to integrate Ongenda more this season if he wants to avoid another young talent becoming disgruntled at Parc des Princes and wanting to follow Kingsley Coman out of the exit.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if PSG go with a front three of Ongenda, Ibrahimovic and Pastore for the first 45 minutes, backed up by a midfield three of Verratti, Chantome and Rabiot.
The defence is the really problematic area for Blanc right now though.
In the absence of Brazilian pair Thiago Silva and David Luiz, PSG’s central-defensive partnership of Marquinhos and Zoumana Camara has looked shaky to say the least. That is in no small part down to the latter’s lack of football over the past two seasons, but there are few other options for Blanc to consider at this time.
The duo will likely remain in place, but the question is who will play on either side of them. Christophe Jallet has played both on the left and right side of the back four in the early pre-season matches, but his positioning depends on Gregory van der Wiel’s fitness.
So far this summer, the Dutchman has not featured once. Although he is back in training with the squad, it is unclear whether or not he is ready to play. With that in mind, it seems reasonable that Presnel Kimpembe—one of PSG’s academy youngsters that featured against Leipzig last week—keeps his place after an encouraging display in Germany.
Salvatore Sirigu should replace Nicolas Douchez in goal, even if only for one half of the match in Beziers.
Until PSG’s French contingent and Cavani link up with the squad, it is difficult to get much of a grasp on how Blanc plans to send his team out in Ligue 1 this season. The Nice match will be a good indicator as to how he plans to utilise the likes of Lucas and Pastore though.