Paris Saint-Germain will travel to Annecy on Friday to face Evian Thonon Gaillard in Ligue 1, looking to build on their first win of the league season against SC Bastia last week. The French champions beat the Corsicans 2-0 in Paris and are already within touching distance of top spot in le Championnat.
As for Evian, the Savoyard side have endured a dreadful season and have shipped a staggering nine goals in two games, thanks to two heavy defeats. Pascal Dupraz’s men beat PSG 2-0 last season at Parc des Sports, but Laurent Blanc’s side won their last meeting with a narrow 1-0 victory at Parc des Princes back in April.
Despite a number of injury concerns though, the capital club will arrive in south-eastern France as favourites to win the encounter.
The top absence on the day will be that of PSG’s main man, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has returned to Sweden for further treatment on the mysterious injury that he picked up early on in the 2-0 win over Bastia.
Zlatan will be a major miss, but his unavailability hands strike-partner Edinson Cavani the chance to impress in his absence. The Uruguayan scored his first goal of the season against Bastia and now needs to seize the opportunity he has been handed to prove that he is immovable from a central-striking berth.
It is unclear, for now, just how long Ibrahimovic will be out for, so it is important that Cavani adds to his goal against Bastia on Friday. The injury to the Swede demonstrates exactly why les Parisiens cannot afford to let el Matador leave, but the 27-year-old needs to start reminding PSG why they chose him to be Zlatan’s ultimate replacement.
Another injury concern will be Thiago Motta, who was head-butted by Bastia’s Brandao after last weekend’s game and suffered a fractured nose.
The Italian international returned to training on Tuesday, without the aid of a facemask, suggesting that he could be fit to play relatively soon. However, Motta could still miss the Evian game as it may have come to soon for a return to full match duty.
His potential absence should prove no problem for Blanc though, with Blaise Matuidi ready to return to the starting XI and Javier Pastore in brilliant early-season form in the three-man midfield unit. Yohan Cabaye could also step in, having played the deep-lying role for France. And Marco Verratti is also capable of filling in there.
Gregory van der Wiel is another who could miss the clash in Annecy, with the Dutch international having suffered a fractured vertebra in the win over Bastia last week. The 26-year-old clashed with Brandao during the game, coming off worse and having to be substituted at half-time.
The injury will come as a blow to Van der Wiel, who has started the season well, considering his injury struggles since the start of this year. New arrival Serge Aurier will slot straight into the PSG starting XI in his place though and stake his claims for a place in Blanc’s plans as his first-choice option.
Van der Wiel has been pre-selected for the Netherlands’ upcoming internationals by new coach Guus Hiddink, but it will depend on how quickly the PSG man can recover from this injury. Aurier will hope to receive an extended run of starting opportunities.
Elsewhere, Marquinhos will continue to deputise for the injured Thiago Silva. The 20-year-old will have the opportunity to continue to work on his understanding with new teammate David Luiz in central defence, before both link up with Dunga’s Brazil squad for the Selecao’s next set of games.
Staying in defence, goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu will continue, while left-back Lucas Digne has enjoyed an excellent start to the season and should once again feature ahead of Maxwell.
In the midfield, Blanc will likely stick with his favoured 4-3-3 formation as his injured stars continue to recover. Matuidi will almost certainly return to the side, possibly in place of Motta or Verratti considering Pastore’s excellent form from his current position.
Up top, alongside Cavani, it is likely to be Ezequiel Lavezzi on one side and Lucas Moura on the other.
There is a chance that Blanc goes with Pastore as one of the front three, but the enigmatic Argentine has shown in the past that he is not very effective when played out wide. El Flaco is more likely to continue in the midfield three, at least until PSG are back to full strength.
Overall, it should not matter which PSG side Blanc names. All combinations should be capable of beating a poor Evian outfit and securing another three-point haul. The game could even provide le President with the chance to give some valuable Ligue 1 experience to the likes of Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Hervin Ongenda.