French champions Paris Saint-Germain took on fellow Ligue 1 side OGC Nice on Wednesday night as they both geared up for the start of the new season in just over two weeks' time.
PSG fly out to Asia at the end of the week for the buildup to their Trophee des Champions match against Guingamp in Beijing, so this was nothing more than a glorified training session for Laurent Blanc’s men and it is hard to see what the French boss would have taken from the game.
In a lovely evening in Beziers, at the Stade de la Mediterranee, the crowd saw PSG take a 2-0 lead in the first half through Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Marquinhos before Nice hit back late in the second half through youngster Franck Honorat, but they couldn’t find an equaliser.
The travelling squad only featured seven players that Blanc would have deemed part of the first-team squad last season. Add Clement Chantome, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and 10 youth players and you have what is mostly a skeleton squad, compared to the one that will play the majority of the new season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was again the star of the show—in Thiago Silva’s absence, the Swedish forward donned the captain’s armband for the game and it could become a regular sight for the new season.
The performances from club captain Silva left a lot to be desired during the second half of last season. Many thought it was due to the pressures of being the captain of his country ahead of the impending World Cup, and some put it purely down to poor form
As soon as the title was wrapped up, Silva was benched as Blanc tried to protect him. Ibrahimovic is the ideal choice to replace Silva, maybe not as permanent club captain, but he has been an ever-present positive influence in this PSG side and is the perfect man to lead them if Silva ever needs a rest during any of the four competitions.
He may not have got on the scoresheet against Nice, but he did set up the opening goal after just three minutes, the Swede laying the ball off to his left for Bahebeck to fire past Mouez Hassen.
Over the past two seasons, Bahebeck has spent loan spells away from the capital at Troyes and Valenciennes. Both teams were relegated with the youngster in their squad and the forward returned to the capital with a grand total of just five goals in 46 games.
His opener against Nice was his fourth in four games during the warm-up matches. It would be very easy for the player to score more goals during this preseason than he has done over the past two seasons. However, there are signs that the young forward is finally maturing.
Bahebeck was one of the stars as France reached the final of this summer’s Toulon Youth Festival, scoring an absolute stunning goal in the 5-2 final defeat to Brazil. If the two loan moves have put off future suitors, maybe Blanc has been landed with an unexpected gem.
He can play anywhere along the front line, his pace and eye for shooting from distance makes him a threat from either flank, and he can play as a centre-forward.
Poor performances may mean he has to stay in Paris this season, but it could become an advantage to the champions if he is finally about to find his feet as a Ligue 1 forward.
Another player who is going to have to find his feet quickly is new signing David Luiz. This is not just because of his horror show against Germany in the World Cup, but because of the performances of defensive duo Zoumana Camara and Marquinhos during the recent warm-up matches.
The summer has been full of rumours linking the young Brazilian with a move to Barcelona, reports Alex Fenn of Goal.com, but after Alex left for AC Milan, the 19-year-old looks set to stay at the club and has taken part in PSG’s preseason campaign but has been less than convincing.
With two weeks to go, and both David Luiz and Thiago Silva not joining the squad until after the Asia tour, there is a chance that Camara and Marquinhos will have to play some part in the season’s early games.
Against Red Bull Leipzig, they were caught short. They were relatively better against Nice, but their performances will cause concern to Blanc as PSG look to retain their title.
It could lead to a couple of experiments in the back line, and it could lead to some shaky early performances. Luckily for the Parisians, they have enough firepower upfront with Ibrahimovic and Bahebeck in form that they should still be better than the challenges Ligue 1 brings.