Paris Saint-Germain welcome SC Bastia to Parc des Princes on Saturday for the French champions’ first home game of the Ligue 1 season. After their opening 2-2 draw at Stade de Reims last week, PSG are looking for three points to get their campaign well and truly underway.
Any early-season rustiness exhibited in last Friday’s opening draw will have been well shaken off in the 2-1 friendly win over SSC Napoli on Monday, which saw Les Parisiens lift the Acqua Lete Cup. Now, Laurent Blanc’s men need to pick up as many points as possible early on to put themselves in a strong position for when the UEFA Champions League group stages get underway.
First on Le President’s list of decisions to make is whether he hands a first competitive start to new signing David Luiz. The Brazilian international made his PSG debut in Naples earlier in the week and enjoyed a relatively solid first performance, but Thiago Silva’s hamstring injury—suffered in the same game—puts added emphasis on Luiz’s inclusion from the start.
Blanc took responsibility for the 29-year-old's injury in his pre-match press conference, as reported by PSG.fr.
"Thiago Silva didn't come back too soon. We are all talking about this injury, and if you have to find a guilty party, then that's me," said Blanc. "I take full responsibility for this injury. Last season we did the same thing with him and it wasn't a problem for anyone."
Le Parisien say it is possible that David Luiz does not make his competitive PSG debut vs. Bastia tomorrow. Has a minor calf problem.— FFW (@FrenchFtWeekly) August 15, 2014
However, according to Le Parisien (h/t French Football Weekly’s tweet), the 27-year-old is now a doubt for the clash with Bastia after picking up a minor calf problem following the Napoli match. It could be that the French capital outfit is made to wait to see its new No. 32 in action in front of his latest audience.
If the Selecao star is not fit enough to start, then that means Blanc will have little choice but to field veteran defender Zoumana Camara alongside Marquinhos. The partnership has seen plenty of game time already this summer, but it did not look like a solid pairing, and that will be a concern for PSG ahead of the clash with the Corsicans.
Once Blanc has made a decision on his central defensive duo, his next choice will be whether to tinker with his formation in order to incorporate unsettled striker Edinson Cavani into the play more.
Both a 4-3-1-2 and a 4-4-2 diamond shape would work, allowing Blanc to play with both El Matador and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in central striking positions. They would also allow the likes of Javier Pastore to continue to thrive—seeing him move to a more advanced position behind the front two—which is his natural role.
However, Le Parisien report (h/t Robin Bairner of Goal’s tweet) that Cavani is an injury doubt for the Bastia match, so Blanc could equally stick with a 4-3-3 formation.
A lot still hinges on the Uruguayan’s fitness, so Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura could yet feature if the PSG No. 9 is not passed fit. However, one of those two will miss out if Cavani can play.
Blaise Matuidi is likely to return to the midfield. After missing PSG’s pre-season tour of Asia, the French international featured against Napoli for the first time since the FIFA World Cup and will almost certainly walk straight back into the team. However, his return complicates Pastore’s involvement and makes the change in style more likely.
Matuidi will slot back into Blanc’s favoured midfield three alongside Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti, meaning that Pastore will need to be deployed further forward. Depending on whether Cavani plays, the Argentine could help form a Christmas Tree formation with two attacking midfielders behind Ibrahimovic and the regular midfield three to back that pair up.
Elsewhere, in defence, Blanc is faced with a choice between Gregory van der Wiel and Serge Aurier at right-back. The Ivorian impressed on his first full start for PSG against Napoli, but the Dutchman has been working his way back to full fitness this summer and is still considered first choice.
Another potential headache for the PSG tactician is deciding whether to start Brazilian left-back Maxwell over Lucas Digne. The South American returned to action in the Napoli clash, but his young protege has been in good form so far this summer, and the time has come for Digne to usurp Maxwell now that he is a full French international.
Provided Luiz and Cavani are fit to play, PSG will likely go with a 4-3-1-2, allowing Blanc to stick with his favoured three-man midfield unit and preserving Pastore in his preferred role while he is in good form. Should Cavani not start the game, Blanc will almost certainly stick with the tried and tested 4-3-3 that has served the French champions well since he arrived.