Sunday, 30 December 2012

PSG's year in lists: 2012 edition

And so my friends, we come to the end of 2012, another year in which Paris Saint-Germain failed to win any  trophies. Or many friends.

Nevertheless, it's been an entertaining 12 months in the French capital, with the arrival of Zlatan and Thiago Silva, a reasonably successful foray into the Champions League, and more crisis' than your average war-torn middle-eastern country.

So, without further ado, here's our farewell to 2012, the PSG Tourist end-of-year list. If you have any alternative suggestions, feel free to drop me a line or a tweet.

Player of the Year - Blaise Matuidi: After steadily improving throughout the second half of last season, Mr Elastic has been in outstanding form since the new campaign got underway. He's even added goalscoring to his game, and headed the only goal in our top-of-the-table clash with Lyon earlier this month. Hurrah for big bad Blaise.

Unsung hero of the year - Salvatore Sirigu: Matuidi used to be our unsung hero, but everyone's jumped on the Blaise bandwagon in the last couple of months. So instead I'm going to nominate Sirigu, partly because his consistent excellence seems to be take for granted these days, and partly because he was shamefully robbed of the Ligue 1 keeper of the year title last season. You could count the number of costly mistakes the Italian has made in the last 12 months on the fingers of one hand. Of a snake.

Flop of the year - Gregory van der Wiel: Turns out those people who told me that the Dutch international is more interested in fashion than football these days may have been onto something. Has rarely looked comfortable since his summer move from Ajax, and certainly doesn't look significantly better than Christophe Jallet.

Match of the year - Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 Dynamo Kiev: We'd waited a long time for Champions League football to return to the Parc-des-Princes, and our first taste of the Big Cup since 2005 could hardly have been much sweeter. With Marco Verratti to the fore, PSG were in irrisistable form as they blew away an (admitedly dire) Dinamo Kiev outfit. Zlatan opened the scoring from the spot, before goals from Thiago Silva and Alex made it 3-0 in a completely one-sided first half. Shell-shocked Dinamo pulled one back late on thanks to Miguel Veloso's free kick, before Javier Pastore's deflected shot put the icing on an extremely tasty cake. Honourable mention: Lyon 4-4 Paris Saint-Germain.

Shambolic fail of the year: Auxerre 1-1 Paris Saint-GermainSo many to choose from; does one plump for the failure to beat nine-men Rennes in November, or perhaps the 0-0 snoozefest down in Corsica which we played out with Ajaccio back in September. No, instead I'm going for our draw in Auxerre last season, a inexcusable result against a team heading for relegation. Had we been a bit more ruthless against struggling sides we would have almost certainly gone on to lift the title.

Goal of the year: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Marseille. Zlatan found some space to deftly volley home following a Maxwell corner. Taikwondo-tastic.

Quote of the year: "It's as if I did not exist in the eyes of PSG. Those guys, they pissed on me from a great height. They did not stop humiliating me and going behind my back. I read that one day I laughed at Nene who was locked in the toilet after the match against Arles-Avignon . I think that was the height of their idiocy!" - Peguy Luyindula takes aim and fires at the PSG hierarchy.

Zlatan quote of the year: “It’s true that I don’t know much about the players in Ligue 1 but for sure, they know who I am.” 18 goals later, it's fairly certain everyone in Ligue 1 knows who Zlatan Ibrahimovic is.

Random shit tattoos of the year: Zlatan again, but I'm not going to tell him.

Weedy body of the year - Poor little Clement Chantome: Basically I just wanted an excuse to post this amusing picture again:

Bonne Anneé everyone!

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Rumour Mill: Everton left-back and Newcastle striker arriving in PSG's dictionary corner?

Another week, another daft story about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Having already been nominated for a prestigious literary award earlier this season, Ibra has now been immortalised in the Swedish dictionary, with the addition of the verb "zlataner", meaning to do something with force, or dominate. What next for Zlatan? At this rate I reckon he could become the first footballer to be shot into space. Or perhaps the Swedish government will build a giant monument to him at the mouth of Stockholm harbour, like the Statue of Liberty but with a bigger nose.

I'd like to see a few of PSG's out-of-favour players added to the dictionary. A "Siaka Tiene" would be an object/person with no discernible talent or use (e.g. Harry Styles is completely Tiene). If reports are to be believed, then Siaka could be on his way this January, with Toulouse reportedly leading the chase for his signature, ahead of Besiktas and some English clubs. Don't all rush at once.

To "Momo Sissoko" would be to act recklessly (e.g. My driving was Sissoko when I sped down the motorway at 150mph). Having rarely featured this season, partly due to injury, the Mali international may opt to join AC Milan or Spartak Moscow in January. "Sissoko wants to spend more time on the pitch," noted the player's agent Jose Segou. Trying to go more than five minutes without a red card would probably be a good start in that respect.

"Diego Lugano" would refer to something that still looks pretty good, even though it's clearly past it's best (e.g. Jennifer Aniston is Lugano these days). With his agent having dusted off the video tape of his pre-2010 performances and mailed it out to a load of clubs, Dishy Diego is apparently dans le viseur of a diverse range of teams, including Malaga and QPR. I won't tell them if you don't.

Finally, a "Guillaume Hoarau" would refer to an object that is chronically underused (e.g. my gym membership is Hoarau). With just six months left on his contract, Big Willy apparently fancies a move, and could become the new Niall Quinn after being linked with a move to Sunderland.

On the incoming side, RMC take the award for the most left-field rumour with their story that we might try and poach Everton left-back Leighton Baines. This is also being reported "exclusively" by The Sun, who suggest it would take £15million to prise the England international from David Moyes' cold, dead, hands.

Demba Ba has also definitely not been talking up a move to PSG.

"I watch PSG as a fan, a supporter. I have never hidden my attraction to the club and have been a supporter since I was little," he said.

"Now, they are doing important things, big projects for the future, and of course it would please me to play in the colours of a team I support."

Can you feel the but coming? Here it is:

"But as I said about Arsenal, it's something which is a long way off. For the moment, I am concentrating on what I have to do with my team - getting Newcastle out of the mess we are in."

Seems unlikely we'd be in the market for a striker, but you never know I suppose.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Have a champion Christmas

Paris Saint-Germain claimed Ligue 1's Autumn Champions crown for the second successive year thanks to Friday night's 3-0 win in Brest. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin Gameiro got the first two goals, before ex-PSG man Bernard Mendy helpfully weighed in with an own goal in the last minute.

Victories over the weekend for Lyon and Marseille mean we only lead the table on goal difference, but it's a lead nevertheless, and one can only hope we can hold onto it when the season resumes after the winter break.

In the meantime, I'd like to wish all PSG Tourist readers a very merry Christmas, and put together this little festive picture as an early gift for you all. I'm thinking of offering it to the club so that they can use it as their official Christmas card in 2013.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Brest vs PSG: [insert terrible Brest pun of your choice here]

the first picture that appeared when I typed autumn into Google
I don't really get this business of being Autumn Champions.

Call me old fashioned, but I'd prefer to be actual champions and, as any cliche-spouting football manager will confirm, no prizes are handed out in December, except meaningless ones like Sports Personality of the Year. What do you get for being autumn champions anyway? Some conkers? A bag of fallen leaves? Bottled smell of bonfire?

The French seem to think it's a big deal though. PSG were Autumn Champions last year (for the uninitiated, this title goes to the team topping Ligue 1 going into the winter break), and are likely retain their "crown" with a win in Brest tonight in what is our final game of the first half of the season.

"The coach told us to focus on the fact that the holiday is only on Friday (today) at around 11pm, and not before," said Christophe Jallet, taking off his Santa hat and frantically trying to hide a half-eaten mince pie.

"[Brest] is a very dangerous team because they are very good at home. They need points and us? We want to be Autumn Champions."

"On a psychological level, I think we need a vacation," added Carletto. "Players need to recover a bit. Afterwards, physically, we will be at the best time of the season."

Brest's league form has sagged (sorry) after a good start, and they currently lie 13th. Despite this, their home record is decent, and they've only lost twice in eight matches. If they do beat PSG it will be their first victory against us since 1985.

Missing for Les Rouges-et-Bleu will be Alex, Bodmer, and Nene, but everyone else is fit and the starting line-up will probably be unchanged.

Yesterday's Champions League last-16 draw pitted us against Valencia. The first leg will take place in Spain on February 12, with the return match at the Parc scheduled for March 6. Woof.

"Valencia is a good team with great individuals," said Ancelotti. "We have time to observe them, and they have a tough schedule in January including Madrid and Barcelona. At this time, they have problems, like all teams can have. One might think that this is a good draw, but we must be ready. "

Certainly should be an occasion to look forward to in 2013.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Nene and Luyindula in the departure lounge, Zlatan in the dock

A wild Luyindula, pictured in it's natural habitat - the bench
 Christmas is just around the corner, and people everywhere are hitting the shops to pick up those last minute gifts for their nearest and dearest.

The world of football is no exception, with plans being made in earnest for the opening of the January transfer window.

Over in the United States, New York Red Bulls will be unwrapping a slightly soiled Peguy Luyindula, after the striker's Paris Saint-Germain contract was cancelled, allowing him to join the MLS side. You may remember that Peg-Leg was frozen out at the Parc-des-Princes after a conflict with former boss Antoine Kombouare, but after threatening to take the club to court was awarded a new contract in the summer.

But having seen just 12 minutes of action this season, he's decided to start afresh across the Atlantic, where he will  link up with his old pal Thierry Henry and another Ligue 1 luminary, Juninho. I just hope the Americans aren't expecting Peguy to be as good as Henry, or they could be in for a nasty surprise; make sure you keep the receipt Red Bulls, although I doubt PSG will be offering any refunds.

If being given a Luyindula is the equivalent of finding a second hand pair of socks under the tree, then receiving a Nene would be like unwrapping a brand new Versace jacket. Confirming the worst kept secret in Paris, the Brazilian announced on Wednesday that he would be off in January.

It had already been revealed that Nene would not be joining the rest of the squad for their winter jaunt to the Middle East, and in a post on his official website yesterday, the former Monaco man confirmed that we've probably seen him in a PSG shirt for the last time.

"I love the city, the PSG and their fans, who always treated me with great respect," he said. "Personally and through social networks, I have received numerous messages from fans asking me to stay. It's a tough decision, but I think it is time to follow a new path in my career."

Nene also seems to think that PSG will just let him go for free, adding: "I believe we will reach a consensus and [I'll] be released from the remaining contract." If this is the case then I hope we'll stipulate that he can't join another Ligue 1 club - a move to Turkey, or back to Brazil, seems more likely, but it would be annoying if he pitched up at Lyon or Lille.

I wrote a long post earlier in the season about why we should let Nene go, but now it's actually happening I feel a bit sad. He's been a brilliant servant of PSG in the last couple of seasons, and his goal record of 48 in 112 games is particularly impressive for someone who isn't an out-and-out striker. Good luck wherever you end up Mr Nene.

Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given an unwelcome gift this week, when French football's governing body, The Ligue de Football Professionnel, announced he would have to attend a disciplinary hearing to answer allegations that he deliberately stamped on Dejan Lovren in Sunday's match between PSG and Lyon.

I said on Twitter at the time that I felt this wasn't an intentional act on Zlatan's part - it looked a lot worse when put into slow-motion than at full speed. I suspect this hearing is only happening a) because he's Zlatan, and b) because Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has been carping on about it, but nevertheless, the Swede could be looking at a three-match ban. A date for the hearing has yet to be set.

Monday, 17 December 2012

PSG 1-0 Lyon: Blaise-ing a trail to the top of the Ligue

Big Bad Blaise is coming to get you

Blaise Matuidi's first half header was enough to send Paris Saint-Germain back to the top of Ligue 1 after a hard-fought victory over Lyon.

It was a match that put the crap in scrappy, with neither side at their flowing best. But PSG's extra star quality told in the end, and victory in our last game before the winter break - against Breast on Friday - is likely to see us crowned autumn champions for a second successive year. I wonder if they'll give us an actual trophy this time?

"We lost at Nice, and since then, a lot of things have changed," noted Carletto afterwards. "We've now got a solid team that can do things this season.

"Football is sometimes weird: who'd have thought PSG could change attitude in 15 days? The players have worked well and deserve to be top of the table. It's important to be there, but the most important thing is to finish out in front."

Indeed, solid is probably the best word to describe last night's performance. It was a win built on granite foundations, with centre-backs Thiago Silva and Mamadou Sakho in outstanding form, and Matuidi dashing around in midfield like a man possessed.

Elsewhere in the team there was little to get excited about; Pastore did pretty well, and Menez and Lavezzi showed flashes of their quality, but Ibra's involvement was limited to the odd good touch and some thunderous stares at the ref/Lyon defenders/his team-mates.

The visitors, whose squad was decimated by injuries, lined up with five at the back, with Michel Bastos and Anthony Revelliere as roving wing-backs. And it worked pretty well in a first half which they probably shaded. Lisandro was inches away from opening the scoring when he raced in to meet a cross at the far post, but his volley bounced off the inside of the upright and away to safety. OL boss Remi Garde, dressed dashingly in a rollneck sweater and tight trousers, held his head on the touchline.

Up to that point PSG had rarely threatened, with visiting keeper Vercoutre only making one save of note, a parry which foiled Pastore's effort. However we always looked a threat on the counter-attack, and on the stroke of half-time we broke away with devastating effect. Silva robbed Lisandro on the edge of our box, and sent the ball out to Menez. He moved it on quickly to Zlatan, whose cross took a deflection and sat up kindly for Matuidi to power home a header. Big Blaise's joyful, arm-whirling, celebration was a sight to behold and it sent the crowd, who had been booing their team moments before, into raptures.

PSG had done well to keep Lyon at arms length for most of the first half, and it soon became apparent in the second period that the visitors were running out of gas. And as the game wore on it was Les Rouges-et-Bleu who looked the more likely scorers. Ibra was denied a tap-in by a great sliding tackle from Umtiti, Vercoutre blocked an effort from Lavezzi, and Jallet saw a swerving shot flash just past the post.

But in the end Matuidi's goal proved to be enough. It's a shame that Lyon were so depleted, as the game might have been a better spectacle had Gourcuff, Grenier, Briand et al been available. Certainly Garde didn't have many options to make changes when they were obviously required in the second half. If PSG are to go on and win the title this season, the extra squad we have when compared to OL or Marseille might be a decisive factor.

Man of the Match: Thiago Silva - Graceful, decisive defending from the skipper, on this form he and Sakho are a formidable partnership.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

PSG's December: the story so far

It's been a while since this blog was last updated.

I'd like to say this is because the large team of writers behind PSGT have been living it up in our secluded blogging bunker just off the Champs Elysees, surrounded by booze, coke, and hookers dressed in Jeremy Menez shirts, but the reality is a lot more mundane; I've been busy at work.

Anyway, enough with the excuses, here's a quick round-up of what's happened in the crazy world of PSG while we've been away.

December 1: Nice 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain

The beginning of December meant we were able to crack open this fabulous Kinder advent calendar which my mother-in-law sent over from France. Look at it! What a thing of beauty! Unfortunately PSG's performance against Claude Puel's side wasn't quite so sweet. The team struggled to get going, and inevitably fell behind in the 76th when some quite ridiculous defending from substitute Gregory van der Wiel allowed Cvitanich to twist and turn and set up Bautheac for a close range strike.

Ibra powered a free kick through to equaliser in the 82nd minute, but PSG's joy was short-lived, and Eysseric snuck in ahead of Maxwell and Alex to snatch a winner four minutes later.

The aftermath of the match was what I imagine it will be like come the END OF THE WORLD, with most experts agreeing PSG's season was doomed. Various reports also stated that Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Harry Redknapp, Barry Fry, and Sven were all being lined up as possible replacements for the beleaguered Carletto. Leonardo's position - schmoozing with rich people and buying players from Serie A - is/was also said to be under threat.

December 4: Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Porto

Carletto promised big changes, and what we got were, er, well, changes. Mainly a subtle formation shift from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1, with one of the holding midfielders sacrificed in favour of an attacking line of Lavezzi, Menez, and Pastore behind Zlatan.

It worked pretty well, and PSG hit the front when skipper Thiago Silva leapt like the proverbial salmon to head home a hanging free kick from Maxwell. Sadly the lead was short-lived, as our defence parted like the proverbial Red Sea to allow Martinez to slide in an equaliser moments later.

A draw would have been enough to see Porto top the group, and to their cost they sat back in the second period, and PSG took advantage thanks to some horrendous goalkeeping from Helton, who dropped a proverbial clanger by allowing Lavezzi's tame shot to sneak under him and into the net. So PSG progressed as group winners, and will be one of the top seeds in the last-16 draw. The Champions League world is our proverbial oyster.

December 8: Paris Saint-Germain 4-0 Evian TG

Evian caused a few teams problems this season, but their attacking threat has been watered down (sorry) this season, and PSG took full advantage.

However, the visitors did a good job of bottling up Les Rouges-et-Bleu's attacking quarter until the 29th minute, when Ibra slid the ball home following good work from Pastore and Jallet. Lavezzi rifled home a second, his first in Ligue 1, three minutes later, but anyone who thought the flood-gates were going open was sadly mistaken.

In fact PSG were far from their best, but two goals in the last ten minutes gave the scoreline some perhaps undeserved gloss. First a nice pass from Pastore allowed Thiago Motta to tap in, then Menez laid the ball up on a plate for substitute Kevin Gameiro to smash home.

December 11: Valenciennes 0-4 Paris Saint-Germain

We've now scored four goals in a game on six separate occasions this season, and this quartet capped what was perhaps our finest performance of the season to date.

Valenciennes are no mugs, and have been enjoying a great start to the season, but once Ibra had diverted Lavezzi's shot into the empty net in the 28th minute the result was never in doubt.

PSG played with a swagger befitting of the quality of our team, and Zlatan bagged a second in the 48th minute, slamming the ball into the net after home keeper Penneteau had parried a powerful effort from Pastore.

Menez then set up Ibrahimovic's hat-trick goal, leaving the Swede to tap the ball into the empty net after a good run down the left. It emerged afterwards that some of the PSG players, Sakho and Matuidi thought to be the chief culprits, have given Zlatan the nickname "Inzaghi" due to the amount of tap-ins he's scored this term. Those crazy footballers and their bantz.

Anyway, Lavezzi rounded things off, breaching the VA offside trap to slide the ball past the exposed Penneteau. With league leaders Lyon only managing a 1-1 draw with Nancy on Wednesday, it means a victory for PSG in tomorrow night's showdown with OL at the Parc-des-Princes will see us go top of the division on goal difference.


Looking back it's been a pretty weird month so far. The problem with PSG is that opinions are always polarised; when we lose it's a catastrophe, when we win we're hailed (in some quarters) as world beaters.

Football managers I've spoken to in the past always talk about the importance of keeping things on an even keel - not getting too high on victories or too down after defeats, and everyone involved at the Parc-des-Princes, and in the media, could do with bearing that in mind. Unfortunately PSG exists in a universe where there is only drama and/or crisis; it was like that before the QSI money arrived and certainly hasn't improved since.

Still, at least things are never dull, and we seem to have been building some momentum since the Porto game, so I'm feeling reasonably confident going into Sunday night's big match. Let's hope the Nice game proves to be a nadir for the season. Allez Paris.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Stupid PSG videos of the week: All I want for Christmas is... Zlatan? On a jumper?

Paris Saint-Germain exited the Coupe de la Ligue on penalties on Tuesday night, losing out 5-4 to Saint Etienne after a goalless draw at the Stade Geoffrey Guichard.

It was a close match, one which PSG probably should have won, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing a couple of chances he would usually put away in his sleep. Ibra also made himself look like a twonk with this overhead kick attempt which didn't quite match up to his effort against England a couple of weeks ago. In fact the words epic and fail come to mind:

Poor Zlatan. But he can console himself with the fact that he has been immortalised on a jumper. American artist Lisa Anne Auerbach, who is apparently famous for her jumpers, has knitted Ibra sweater for her exhibition which runs at Malmo Konsthal until January. "This sweater is a ridiculous, over the top, sports sweater for a fan. The patterns represent his tattoos," she explains in the video. It's obvious when you think about it, isn't it? I'm sure it'll be the must have item this Christmas. Click here for the video:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

St Etienne vs PSG: Pastore absent for Coupe de la Ligue showdown

If I could be any Ligue 1 manager, I reckon I'd quite like to be St Etienne's Christophe Galtier.

I don't know much about him (he's from Marseille, which is obviously a fairly big downside), but he always strikes me as a pretty cool guy, not least because he looks immaculate on the touchline. Not many people can pull off a puffa jacket in this day and age, but as you can see it looks good on him - sartorially he basically the polar opposite of Elie Baup.

Galtier is a decent football manager too, having guided ASSE to third in the Ligue 1 standings, and masterminded a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc-des-Princes earlier this month. The two sides meet again tonight at the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard, with a place in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-finals at stake, and Les Verts' boss seems quietly confident his men can pull off a surprise.

"We failed at this stage two years ago at Auxerre, but this time it is much better [because] we're at home," he said

"The excitement is there, but I hope that there will not be too much, and we will give 200 per cent in the legs and in the head.  

"If we have the good fortune to qualify, it will be an achievement. Do not be mistaken, it is the Parisians who are favourites."

When will football people learn that you can't give 200 per cent? If he's waiting for that Galtier is going to end up disappointed.

For PSG, Verratti and Alex have joined Bodmer, Motta, and Gameiro on the sidelines injured, but Jezza Menezza is back and could come straight into the starting line-up if Ancelotti decides to give one of Ibra, Lavezzi, or Nene a rest. Nicholas Douchez is set for his customary start in goal.

One man who won't be involved is Javier Pastore, who got the hook at half-time in Saturday's 4-0 win over Troyes after another anonymous 45 minutes.

"At the moment, there is a problem of confidence in him," said Carlo at his pre-match presser. "But the players, they always have confidence in him.

"Everyone needs to help to get him out of this difficult passage. He is professional, focused on his work. I'm sure he'll get out soon."

The problem is El Flaco has been stuck in the difficult passage for a while now, and shows no signs of finding the exit. Like the players, I still have confidence in him, and don't think he's been quite as bad this season as some people would like to make out.

But at the same time it's difficult to see where he fits into the team in the long-term when it's obvious that we play best with a couple of nippy players operating behind or alongside Ibrahimovic. With ongoing rumours of interest from AC Milan, we could soon be reaching a tipping point in El Flaco's career in Paris. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

PSG topple Troyes thanks to Zlatan's four-play and a tale of two left-backs

I never fail to be amused by some of the keywords which cause people to land on this blog.

Common ones include "Lavezzi body" (you're all perverts), "Kosovare Asllani hot" (see point one) and, bizarrely, "Justin Bieber crying". The Bieber has never featured on PSGT, crying or otherwise, and never will if I have anything to do with it.

But my favourite one remains "Zlatan gets boner nose still bigger". Quite what caused someone to enter this into a search engine I have no idea - it's not question I've ever asked myself before - but I hope their curiosity was at least partially satisfied by this pictorial evidence.

Whatever the size of his manhood, Ibra's form on the pitch remains pretty sexy. He did his best to contradict those of us who insist PSG aren't a one-man team by bagging two goals and two assists in yesterday's 4-0 victory over Troyes.

It was from Ibrahimovic's cross that Maxwell opened the scoring, sliding in his second goal in three Ligue 1 games. The Swede then provided a pass for Blaise Matuidi, who enjoyed another outstanding match in midfield, to make it 2-0 with a first time finish that found the net via the inside of the post.

That scoreline was probably a fair one at that point, as Troyes gave as good as they got, and kept Salvatore Sirigu busy with a string of shots which the Italian dealt with in his usual authoritative fashion. But Ibrahimovic's late double gave the scoreline a flatteringly one-sided look.

"We are still not solid enough to be a team that plays with continuity," noted Carletto afterwards. "But the team has reacted really well this week. We have scored six goals, not conceded any, have qualified for the next stage of the Champions League and got back to winning ways in Ligue 1. That is a lot in six days."

Indeed, and there's been plenty going on off the pitch too, with PSG supposedly removing a tweet from the official club Twitter stream that suggested Ashley Cole had agreed to join us this summer. It turns out it was actually a Photoshopped fake, but nevertheless prompted stories on several supposedly reputable websites. You can always rely on PSG Tourist not to indulge in such idle speculation.

One left-back who is at the club, but possibly not for much longer, is Siaka Tiene. Poor old Tiene, who has only seen 10 minutes of action for the club this season, opened his heart to Le Parisien yesterday in a move which is likely to make him about as popular as Peguy Luyindula at the Parc-des-Princes.

"I want to play, and as it is not possible here, I'll have to go elsewhere," said the Ivory Coast international. "I'm 30 and I have eight months left on my contract in Paris, I can not stay like this.

"At the beginning [of the season], I was confident. By working hard and persevering, I was certain that I would give my chance. That's why I stayed. I do not understand why I do not play."

I think most of us who have seen Siaka in "action" probably understand why he hasn't had much of a look-in this season. He says he rejected offers from West Brom and teams in Turkey over the summer, so hopefully they'll be some interest again when the transfer window opens in January.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Dynamo Kiev 0-2 PSG: El Poccho pockets pair as PSG progress to the Champions League last-16

Crisis? What crisis.

Paris Saint-Germain booked their place in the last-16 of the Champions League with a comfortable 2-0 win over Dynamo Kiev, Ezequiel Lavezzi netting both goals.

"You would probably describe PSG as dangerous floaters in the draw" noted the commentator on my stream, seemingly without any hint of irony. In fairness, anyone who has seen us at times this season would confirm we're more than capable of serving up some right old shit.

Opponents Dynamo Kiev were pretty merde themselves, but at least gave it a better go than when we whooped them 4-1 at the Parc-des-Princes back in September. In fact they probably had the upper hand in a fairly low-key first half: Salvatore Sirigu had to be alert to save twice to deny Oleh Husyev, and on the second occasion Denys Garmash really should have netted the rebound but blazed over from close range.

At the other end Alex was guilty of a similarly terrible miss when he headed Nene's inviting cross over the bar, but PSG's superior attacking quality told just before the break. Lavezzi played a sweet little give-and-go with Ibra, and sprinted into the area before lifting a classy finish over the onrushing Koval.

Lavezzi doubled our lead just after the break after some Kiev defending of Lugano-esque ineptitude. A short backpass let in the tireless Blaise Matuidi (or, as the commentator referred to him, Matoody), who nudged the ball back for El Poccho to sweep into the empty net.

Not much happened after that, with Kiev lacking the craft to trouble Sirigu, even after the introduction of the dangerous Andriy Yarmolenko. The Italian keeper did have to make one tremendous save, adjusting brilliantly to beat away Dudu's deflected shot which appeared to be looping into the corner.

So PSG march on. Sort of. Next up we face Porto at the Parc-des-Princes on December 4 in a match which will decide who wins the group.

It's great to be in the last-16 but I don't think we should kid ourselves: Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb are both deeply average football teams, and though tonight we looked good going forward, with Lavezzi and Nene particularly impressive, there were plenty of shaky moments at the back, with Thiago Silva looking uncharacteristically uncertain.

Much greater challenges lie ahead in the knock-out stages, and a convincing performance is required in the Porto match if we are to prove we can truly live with Europe's top sides.

Man of the Match: Ezequiel Lavezzi - El Poccho opened his account for the club with a brace, and perhaps gave us a taste of what's to come now he's put his injury and suspension problems behind him.

Panic on the streets of the Paris as PSG travel to Kiev

Ever hoped that if you ignore something it will go away? For the last couple of years I've been keeping my fingers crossed that Britain's coalition government is a figment plucked from the murky depths of my imagination. Each day I wake up in the hope that the country isn't being run into the ground by a bunch of dithering, right-wing, chinless wonders, and each day I'm left disappointed.

Similarly, I've been steadfastly blocking out the events at the Parc-des-Princes on Saturday evening, but having checked it turns out Paris Saint-Germain actually did lose 2-1 to nine-man Rennes.

I've got a few things I want to say because I've read some absolute merde on Twitter and various websites about this game, and PSG's form in general. Firstly, our supposed dependence on Zlatan Ibrahimovic; it would be lunacy for me to say that Zlatan isn't a massive part of our team - he's scored most of our goals, assisted a load of others, and even when he's playing badly keeps at least a couple of defenders occupied. But to say that without him we're doomed isn't reflected in the stats; our record sans-Ibra is W1 D2 L1, which isn't brilliant but is far from disastrous, especially when you consider that in one of the drawn games, Montpellier, we played with ten men for 85 minutes and still probably should have won.

But it's obvious that any team is going to be weakened if it doesn't have one of the best players in the world in it. Then you look at the other squad members who were out; both our proper right-backs were missing, so Papus Camara was pressed into service in a position that doesn't really suit him, especially at the grand old age of 33. The midfield lacked the rested Marco Verratti, so often the conductor of PSG's orchestra this season, and the calming presence of the injured Thiago Motta, who could have stood in for his compatriot as the team's quarter-back. Having watched the game I actually thought Pastore had a decent match, but he's always going to do his work higher up the pitch than Verratti, and without someone to link play we're back to the old problem of the front four looking completely isolated from the rest of the team.

So did we miss Ibra, or did we miss Ibra and a load of other players? I'd suggest the latter, but either way we should still have been able to see off a Rennes side who played with nine men for most of the second half. That we didn't was down to that elusive footballing quality; luck. PSG had 24 shots on goal, and amassed 18 corners, and on most days more than one of those 24 would have found the net. That's not to take anything away from Rennes, who defended magnificently, but usually if the opposition keep shooting the ball will eventually find it's way through. For me the result was just a freak one, rather than an indicator of a deeper malaise.

I don't think we're in crisis (Carletto's words), but I do think the coach has work to do. Arguably PSG's form has been patchy since the 1-0 defeat to Porto at the beginning of October; mostly we've been getting through games and coming out with a positive result, but not with the kind of swagger or efficiency that we saw in September, when we won five matches in a row and looked like a proper team. This could be down to complacency, or the impact of the Champions League, or something else, but whatever the reason is we need to up our game. Ligue 1 is there for the taking this season, but at the moment we show no signs of wanting to take it.

Attentions turn to matters European tonight, when we go to Kiev for a crucial Champions League match. A draw would see us safely into the knock-out stages, and mean that in all likelihood a win against Porto in the final group match would be enough to see us top the group. Given that PSG are usually about as potent in Europe as the aforementioned coalition government, it's probably best not to get ahead of ourselves though.

"Some things will actually change, especially tactically," noted Ancelotti in his pre-game press conference, before locking himself in a room with a blackboard and a value pack of chalk. "Players must take responsibility and I trust them. We have achieved great things there not so long ago and there is no reason why it will not come back."

We'll see what sort of the reaction the team, which will include added Zlatan, gives come 7.45pm tonight.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

International round-up: England get Zlatan-ised, France get energised

"People will still maintain he isn't world class (...) the goal wasn't that special, I see better goals than that every week".

A couple of the quotes I woke up to on radio station talkSPORT this morning, who were discussing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's wonder-strike - his fourth goal of the game - against England. You can watch it below, I'd advise doing so again. And again. And again. It's beautiful and, contrary to Alan Brazil's opinion, I think it's unlikely you'll see any better goals this week.

Now, some might say I get what I deserve for listening to talkSPORT (for those not familiar, it's aural equivalent of listening to two half-cut pub bores discussing the Premier League 24 hours a day), but this is indicative of the dismissive attitude shown by the English towards Ibra. Come on Britain, it's about time you gave the man some r.e.s.p.e.c.t.

Elsewhere a glut of PSG players were in action as Italy hosted France, with Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti starting for the Azzuri, and Mamadou Sakho and Blaise Matuidi lining up opposite them. Jeremy Menez also joined the match late on, and was involved in the winning goal, scored by Bafe Gomis to give Les Bleus a 2-1 victory.

Thiago Silva was a starter as Brazil drew 1-1 with Colombia in New Jersey (no, me neither). Paris-bound Lucas Moura came on in the second half, and probably did a few fancy tricks.

Uruguay beat the mighty Poland, with Diego Lugano enjoying some rare pitch time as he skippered La Celeste to a 3-1. No such luck for another PSG outcast, Siaka Tiene, who was an unused sub as Cote D'Ivoire beat Austria by the same score-line.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Stupid PSG picture(s) of the week: A mincing Menez and a masked Nene

PSG Tourist has been on sabbatical for the last couple of weeks, so this is the first chance we've had to congratulate Jeremy Menez on the birth of his daughter.

You may remember that earlier this year we exclusively (exclusively in the sense that no-one else in England cared) brought you the news that Jezza and his missus, scary-looking reality TV star Emilie Nefnaf, were expecting, and little Maëlla Menez was born last Thursday. Congrats to the family, no doubt we'll see Maëlla skipping down the wing - and falling over - for PSG ladies in a few years time.

Caring for a new-born child is a tough time in anyone's life, and perhaps it was a lack of sleep that led to Jezza wearing this strange looking tracksuit as he joined up with the French squad yesterday for their match against Italy. And the less said about that pose the better:

Pic: via @GuillaumeL_ on Twitter

Meanwhile, Nene is back in training after sustaining a fractured cheekbone in a match last month. However, he will have to wear this mask for the next few games while the injury heals properly. The Brazilian joins an illustrious list of mask wearers, including Gazza, John Terry and, er, Zorro.

 Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "swashbuckling winger", I'm sure you'll agree.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

PSG 2-0 Marseille: PSG's fanni-tastic run continues (with a little help from the ref)

In the past I may have been less than complimentary about the referees in Ligue 1, but I think I've finally found one I like.

Antony Gautier, you and your bald head are welcome back at the Parc-des-Princes any time as far as I'm concerned. It was Gautier's controversial decision to dismiss Rod Fanni that set Paris Saint-Germain on the way to a comfortable victory over Marseille in last night's Coupe de la Ligue last-16 clash.

It should be be said that prior to Mssr Gautier's intervention, PSG were already well on top in the match. Carlo Ancelotti made seven changes, including first starts of the season for Guillaume Hoarau and Zoumana Camara, and saw his side begin the match with an intensity which has perhaps been lacking in recent matches.

Javier Pastore in particular appeared to be up for the coupe, winning several 50/50 tackles that you might normally expect him to duck out of. Christophe Jallet and Blaise Matuidi provided energetic support, while up front Jeremy Menez's pace caused the visiting defence problems all night.

Matthieu Bodmer should have opened the scoring when he latched onto Thiago Silva's knock down, but could only blaze the ball over the bar from six yards out. Shortly afterwards, a rare break from the visitors saw the lively Matthieu Valbeuna find space on the edge of the box and curl a shot just wide of the post.

Then, in the 28th minute, came the decisive moment. Maxwell flighted a ball over the top which caught out the OM backline, allowing Hoarau to get goal side of Fanni, who tugged him back. The contact started outside the box, and continued into it, and Mr Gautier immediately pointed to the spot, before giving the incredulous Fanni his marching orders.

On first look I thought it was a penalty, but not a red card, as Nicolas N'Koulou could conceivably have got across to cover for his colleague. On closer inspection you could probably make a case for the opposite to be true, as the offence definitely started outside the box. Either way, the cumulative decision was as bad as Jordan Ayew's haircut. Thiago Silva stepped up to take the penalty, and sent Steve Mandanda the wrong way to open the scoring.

In fairness to OM, they regrouped well and kept PSG at arm's length until half-time. But any hopes the visitors had of winning a fourth successive Coupe de la Ligue evaporated ten minutes into the second half. Pastore dinked a beautiful pass over the defence for Jezza Menezza, who controlled beautifully with the outside of his boot before producing an emphatic finish high past Mandanda.

PSG spent the rest of the match keeping the ball and giving game-time to some squad members who had been gathering dust at the back of the cupboard. Siaka Tiene and Peguy Luyindula were both introduced in the closing stages, and almost linked up for an amusing break-away goal, but Tiene was flagged offside as he was about to pull the trigger. A Tiene goal would surely have been the ultimate insult.

Benoit Cheyrou hit the post late on for Marseille, who will no doubt be feeling aggrieved this morning about the red card/penalty incident. But the fact remains that even with 11 men, their Andre-Pierre Gignac-less attack looked toothless - the dashing Valbeuna aside.

Next up in the cup for PSG are St Etienne. We will travel to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on either November 27 or 28.

Man of the Match: Javier Pastore - El Flaco produced the kind of performance we need to see from him on a more regular basis.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Who can halt the PSG express?

It's been a good week for Paris Saint-Germain.

Saturday's slightly-shaky-but-we'll-take-it-anyway 1-0 victory over Stade de Reims sent us top of the Ligue 1 table, a position in which we remain thanks to erstwhile league leaders Marseille succumbing 1-0 to Troyes on Sunday night.

Then in midweek the team managed to remove a large monkey from their collective back by claiming an away win in Europe at the 11th time of asking, Zlatan and Jezza Menezza finding the net in a 2-0 Champions League triumph over Dynamo Zagreb.

We'll talk about Europe some other time, because this weekend the focus returns to domestic matters, with an away trip to bottom-of-the-table Nancy in prospect.

By half-time in Saturday's game we'll be a quarter of the way through the 2012/13 season, and the table has settled down sufficiently for us to be able to draw some conclusions as to who is going to do what this season.

Much was made of PSG taking over the league leadership last week, with some pundits predicting that they will be occupying top spot for the rest of the season.

Obviously the quality of PSG's expensively-assembled squad means that the landscape is very different now than it has been in previous years, but it should be noted that none of the last five Ligue 1 champions have been top at the quarter-season mark; you have to go back to 2006/07, when eventual title winners Lyon began their campaign with a run of eight wins and a draw.

The stats also tell us that if you're not in the top six by now then you're not going to feature in the title race. In each of the last five years the eventual top two have already established themselves among the leading teams. So sorry to disappoint you Lille and Montpellier fans, but your title chances have already gone the same way as James Blunt's musical career; MHSC supporters probably didn't need me to tell them that though.

Bordeaux's lack of goals would also appear to rule them out of the reckoning, as, according to recent history, any wannabe champions should by now have found the net 12 times or more. Francois Gillot's side have a fine defence, the second best in the division so far, but unless they can make the jump from being a reactive to a pro-active team, it seems unlikely they'll figure in the shake-up.

That leaves us with the top five. It would take a brave man to suggest that either Toulouse or Valenciennes can make a sustained run at the Champions League spots, but victory for the latter in their big derby match with LOSC on Saturday would certainly go some way towards establishing their credentials as surprise contenders for a European place.

So it could be down to the current top-three to contest top spot. On the face of it, the squads of both OL (lack of experience) and OM (lack of depth) have deficiencies which should stop them keeping pace with PSG over the course of a whole season but, as Montpellier showed last year, it can be done. We may have a better of idea of the relative strengths of the challengers after Sunday night's meeting between Marseille and Lyon at the Velodrome.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Rumour Mill: Chelsea defender reports resurface as Carlo courts Roma midfielder

De Rossi does his famous "levitating football" party trick

The absence of club football over the last couple of weeks has left unimaginative journalists and bloggers with a lot of time on their hands and a lot of space to fill.

This usually results in Paris Saint-Germain being linked with at least one disgruntled player from either AC Milan or Chelsea. A lot of the rules from PSG window bingo can be applied in international breaks too, cards and markers at the ready.

The wearyingly predictable story this week concerned a possible January swoop of the FA's favourite left-back, Chelsea's soon-to-be-out-of-contract Ashley Cole: "Paris Saint-Germain will attempt to see off competition from both Manchester clubs and Real Madrid by offering Ashley Cole a £150,000-a-week three-year deal worth £23million", reported the Daily Mail. As ever where the Mail is concerned, there are no quotes or any kind of evidence to back this story up.

Although Ancelotti has gone on record with his admiration for Cole, Leonardo has swooped in to pour a big bucket of cold water on the idea that we might take the 31-year-old off the Blues' hands: "Besides Lucas, nothing is done and there are no discussions with any player, either for January or next season," he told Le Parisien. So that should keep the papers quiet, at least for a couple of weeks.

Perhaps more interesting is our interest in AS Roma's Daniele De Rossi. The midfielder has fallen out with his gaffer, the mercurial Zdenek Zemen, and is reportedly interesting PSG and Manchester City.

"I think De Rossi and is a great player, I was surprised by the fact that he did not play, but I think it was only a temporary decision," Carletto told Radio Montecarlo, before raising a seductive eye-brow in the 29-year-old's direction.

"He's a great midfielder, it is normal to be approached by PSG as we are one of the few clubs that can spend big money in the market, but the market is closed. At least he can talk [to PSG] in January." 

President Nasser added: “It’s true, we like De Rossi. He is certainly a great player, but we don’t negotiate through the media."

Perish the thought, it's not like we did that with Beckham. Or Pato. And Nasser definitely didn't express any interest in Ronaldo last month, oh no. A fee of around €25million would probably be required were we to follow up our interest in January.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Le Fabuleux Destin d'Clément Chantôme

Five Paris Saint-Germain players are currently with the France squad preparing for matches against Japan and Spain.

The inclusion of Christophe Jallet, Mamadou Sakho, Blaise Matuidi, Jeremy Menez and Clément Chantôme means PSG are the single team which currently provides the most players for Les Bleus, one in the eye for the doom-mongers who claimed the QSI’s take-over of the club would see home-grown players sidelined in favour of foreign talent.

All five have been regulars in Carlo Ancelotti’s starting line-up this season, and it is the presence of Chantôme, who received his first call-up when he was drafted in as a late replacement for the injured Lassana Diarra, that is most pleasing from my perspective.

Like most PSG fans, I love a bit of Chantôme (in a totally non-gay sense, obviously), and was sad to see his progress stall last year due to a combination of injuries and the new arrivals.

This year it’s been a completely different story, and the 25-year-old already has five league starts under his belt, having formed a formidable midfield triumvirate with Matuidi and Marco Verratti.

"For your first time with the national team, it's always better to be surrounded by guys who you see daily. I also knew several players from the Under-21 team, so I didn't feel lost when I arrived," said Chantôme, who is apparently enjoying his time with the national team.

"I've only had two training sessions, and only one really with the squad. It's difficult to judge and compare with PSG, but I would say it's more or less the same. Ninety per cent of the squad at PSG are internationals, and it's about the same standard at training."

"It's a nice reward for me to have been called up. I'm here now to show my quality, and hopefully get some minutes on the pitch.”

Fingers crossed on that front. He’ll be among the substitutes for tonight’s game against Japan.
It could have been a very different story, as we were told on several occasions in the summer that CC was close to leaving the Parc-des-Princes. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas conducted a very public – and slightly pathetic – courtship of the midfielder, but PSG decided not to sell and the player wasn’t about to force the issue.

"I had a difficult choice to make,” he said. “There was a club which really wanted me. I had a discussion with Carlo Ancelotti, who told me that he was really counting on me. I think that he's shown that since the start of the season."

Ancelotti has always stressed the need for a core of French players in the side, in the same way his Milan and Chelsea teams were built on Italian and English foundations respectively, and I think he deserves credit for managing to keep Chantôme on-side.

At 25, Clement should be coming into the prime of footballing life, and appears to be ready to make good on the promise he has showed since making his debut as a 19-year-old. Let’s hope he continues to get a chance to do just that at the Parc-des-Princes, and that he can fulfil his fabulous (footballing) destiny with PSG.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Marseille 2-2 PSG, or Gignac 2-2 Zlatan

There's something very wrong about mentioning Andre-Pierre Gignac in the same breath as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; It's akin to compiling a list of the world's greatest rockbands and naming S Club Seven alongside The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Clash.

But S Club, I mean Gignac, joined the much-vaunted trio by netting twice last night as Paris Saint-Germain fought out at 2-2 draw with Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.

It was a particularly unimpressive display from PSG, which brought to mind our lifeless, sleep-walking performance in this fixture last season, which saw OM triumph 3-0. What's changed? Well quite simply we have better players; Zlatan produced two moments of absolute quality to put us in front against the run of play, and at the back Thiago Silva and Alex did a reasonable job of keeping the home side at arm's length.

Apart from this, the same old problem which has dogged PSG for the last year remains, namely that when we're playing badly there doesn't seem to be any connection between the different departments of the team. Verratti and Pastore both carry out an important roles in this respect; they are the ones we rely to link things up, but neither was really at the races last night, and as a result we struggled to retain the ball or get any tempo into our play.

Marseille on the other hand looked really fired up for the match, and when the league leaders hit the front in the 18th minute. Ayew's ball found Gignac in the right channel, and he bamboozled Christophe Jallet before firing in a low shot which went through the PSG skipper's legs and low past the unsighted Salvatore Sirigu. I spend a lot of time mocking Gignac, but fair play to him, that was a decent goal. 1-0.

Back came PSG, and we were level in four minutes thanks to Ibra. Maxwell swung in a corner from the left, and Zlatan got ahead of Nicolas Nkolou to flick in an awesome volley with the outside of his big left boot. Taekwondo-tastic, 1-1.

Two minutes later the game was turned on it's head. PSG won a free kick a good 30 yards from goal, and up stepped Ibrahimovic to curl a shot over the wall and low into the corner. Steeve Mandanda in the OM goal might feel he should've done a bit better, but it was a pinpoint from Zlatan, 1-2.

Alas, Marseille restored parity seven minutes later as the game continued to swing from end-to-end. It was another left-wing corner which produced their second, with Gignac finding space to nod past Sirigu and into the bottom corner, 2-2.

Pastore then missed a great chance to put us back in front, guiding the ball wide of the post from Jeremy Menez's cut-back. El Flaco must've known then that his number was up, and indeed he was replaced at half-time by Kevin Gameiro, with Jezza dropping into a deeper role behind the strikers.

Gameiro almost made an immediate impact, getting in behind the defence onto Menez's through ball but flashing a shot into the side-netting. Ibrahimovic volleyed a half-chance over the bar, but other than that there was very little in the way of goal-mouth action as the second half petered out to an anti-climatic finish.

It didn't help that PSG ended the game with six defenders on the pitch, Jallet and Maxwell taking wide midfield positions to protect substitutes Gregory van der Wiel and Sylvain Armand. You can't blame Ancelotti for being happy with a draw, and indeed I'd have taken a point if offered before the match. But we need to be careful that the malaise which affected us at the start of the season doesn't creep back into our play - perhaps the international break has come at just the right time in that respect.

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Two world class goals from the big man.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

OM vs PSG: Some reading material ahead of Le Classique

Olympique de Marseille versus Paris Saint-Germain is always a big match, but with the sides sitting first and second in the Ligue 1 table respectively, tonight's encounter is larger than Nicola Zigic standing on Peter Crouch's shoulders.

Plenty has already been written about tonight's match, so instead of adding more verbage to the mix, here's a selection of the best Classique interviews and previews the interweb has to offer.

For live updates on the game tonight, don't forget to follow PSG Tourist on Twitter.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Porto 1-0 PSG: Varela and Co. derail the PSG express

When it comes to European away matches, Paris Saint-Germain are about as reliable as the bidding process for the West Coast mainline rail franchise.

Last night's 1-0 defeat in Portugal certainly derailed any thoughts that we'll just steam through the group as winners, and it will be up to the team to get back on track in their next match, away to Zagreb on October 24. Choo choo.

If ever a scoreline didn't tell the whole story, it was the outcome of the match at the Estadio do Dragao. PSG were battered from start to finish, and only survived 82 minutes without conceding a goal thanks to a combination of brilliant goalkeeping from Salvatore Sirigu and poor finishing of Emile Heskey proportions from the hosts.

Carlo made several changes again, and though it's easy to be wise after the event I think he got the line-up wrong. My main bone of contention was his decision to start Nene ahead of Pastore. While I can see the logic behind it - we were always going to be counter-attacking and Nene's pace and dribbling ability are often helpful in those situations - we lacked someone to link up play. Verratti and the other midfielders had their hands full on defensive duty, and as a result the front three looked a bit isolated.

Porto's Silvestre Varela, who enjoyed an outstanding match, set the tone for the game by roasting Greg van der Wiel twice in the opening five minutes. The Dutchman endured a torrid time until the point he was replaced by Christophe Jallet, who fared little better. It was a bad night for full-backs all round, as Maxwell was often found wanting against James Rodriguez, and had to be bailed out by Mamadou Sakho and Thiago Silva on a number of occasions.

Rodriguez headed at Sirigu in the second minute, then fired wide when he really should have hit the target in the fourth. Jackson Martinez headed over from close range, and Sirigu had to be alert to make a flying save from Joao Moutinho's free kick.

PSG had a couple of chances of their own, and both fell to birthday-boy Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His 12th minute header from Nene's flighted cross went wide of the post, and then, after being released by Jezza Menezza, he went for a spectacular flick which was palmed over the bar by the back-peddling goalkeeper Helton. Not a good start to the big Swede's fourth decade on this earth.

The Porto onslaught continued after the break, with Sakho sliding in brilliantly to foil Varela, before the same player burst clear of the back-line only to be denied by Sirigu.

Ezequiel Lavezzi joined the action as a substitute in the 76th minute, but only lasted seven minutes before being withdrawn with a thigh injury. The Argentinean threw his toys out of the pram big-style on his way off the pitch, booting a massive box of ice in frustration.

His frustrations won't have been helped when Porto scored a minute later. Moutinho's cross was flicked on by Martinez to Rodriguez, who guided a delicious curling volley beyond the reach of Sirigu to settle matters.

PSG can have no complaints about the result, but probably shouldn't get too down-hearted. Getting anything in Porto was always going to be difficult, and there were some positive performances to reflect on, from the centre-backs, Blaise Matuidi, and the ever-impressive Sirigu. Attentions will now turn to Sunday's big match in Marseille. Woof.

Man of the Match: Salvatore Sirigu - Did his best to keep Porto at bay, but could do nothing about Rodriguez's winner.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

PSG 2-0 Sochaux: Gameiro goals scupper Sochaux

"Perhaps some of the players were already thinking about the next games," remarked Carlo Ancelotti in the aftermath of Paris Saint-Germain's 2-0 win over Sochaux yesterday.

It certainly appeared that way every time the camera cut to the bench. Mssrs Nene, Armand, and Sakho were sitting there, ashen-faced, looking like couldn't be more bored. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of Mario Balotelli's book and take their iPads with them next time.

Kevin Gameiro spends most of his time on the sidelines these days, but grabbed a rare first team chance with both hands, scoring twice to give PSG another routine victory, their fifth win in a row.

Carletto's men weren't particularly impressive in seeing off struggling Sochaux, who fashioned a few half-chances of their own but rarely looked like matching their hosts. I enjoyed this analogy from's Robin Bairner on Twitter:
Sochaux competing well & have out-shot PSG 7-4, but it's like a dad having a play fight with his kid. There's only going to be one winner.
Indeed, it seemed that way from the moment Super Kev opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Javier Pastore was the provider, playing an inch-perfect pass over the visiting defence for Gameiro to run onto, and he did the rest with a low finish. Vintage Gameiro, 1-0.

Matuidi should've made it two shortly afterwards when Ibra's cross found him at the far post, but he could only guide his low shot across the goal and the wrong side of the post. But it was Sochaux who were making most of the running, with Seb Corchia and Roy Contout linking up well on the right, while centre-forward Cedric Bakambu appears to be a decent replacement for the departed Maiga.

Bakambu forced a decent parry from Sirigu with a powerful effort, before Thierry Doubai passed up a great chance to equalise, getting free to meet an inswinging corner from the right, but planting his header wide of the goal from eight yards.

He'd live to regret that miss as Gameiro bagged his second in the 32nd minute. Ibrahimovic worked the ball wide to Maxwell, who delivered an early cross which Gameiro, sliding in, did well to guide past Simon Pouplin in the visiting goal. Take a moment to say Pouplin out loud, it's a funny word. 2-0.

The second half was something of a non-event, though Christophe Jallet, Ibra, and Guillaume Hoarau all missed presentable chances to increase PSG's lead. Ibra and Gameiro also attempted overhead kicks, neither of which troubled the goalkeeper.

"Kevin Gameiro worked very well and had a fantastic match," said Carletto afterwards. "It shows that he hasn't lost any confidence and he deserved to score his goals tonight. 

"We were, however, not brilliant in the second half. That wasn't good. It's true Sochaux came at us and attacked us but we need to play with more rhythm."

PSG will need to play a lot better in the next two matches, away to Porto and Marseille respectively. But in truth they did what they needed to do to beat mediocre opposition with minimal fuss, and that's all you can ask for really.

Another positive is that the team got the win despite neither of their star performers this season - Ibrahimovic and Verratti - particularly impressing. Pastore really stepped up to the mark with an energetic performance, and Momo Sissoko looked good on his first start of the season. Bring it on Porto, we're ready. I hope.

Man of the Match: Kevin Gameiro - Up and running for the season with a poacher's brace.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

PSG vs Sochaux preview: Carletto to shuffle his pack?

Paris Saint-Germain welcomed their first celebrity training ground visitor of the season this week when legendary former AC Milan boss Arrigo Saachi (above) popped in to oversee a training session.

You may remember last season’s guests at the Camp-des-Loges included Paolo Maldini, Brazilian Ronaldo and Brazilian singer Michael Telo, so in terms of glamour a 66-year-old bald Italian represents a significant drop in standards. I’m sure normal service will resume shortly – Justin Bieber is doing a gig in Paris in March so expect him to drop by and give the players a rendition of Boyfriend. Remember, you heard it here first. And probably last.

Saachi was Carletto’s boss back when he was the chain-smoking heartbeat of that great AC Milan side of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The pair also worked together at World Cup ’94, where Ancelotti was one of the assistant coaches.

The veteran gaffer, who assembled one of the most formidable defences in recent football history while in charge of Milan, would no doubt approve of PSG’s parsimonious back-line. Just three goals have been conceded in our first six league games, and two of those came in the first half of the opening match against Lorient.

"We want to be competitive in every game we play. People are really watching us," said goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, who had to work hard to preserve his clean sheet against Bastia last Saturday. "When teams play against PSG, they want to do a little something extra.”

Saturday’s opponents, Sochaux, will be keen to do something a bit extra, as last year’s encounter with PSG at the Parc-des-Princes saw them on the receiving end of 6-1 drubbing. Eric Hely’s team are much-changed since then, with star names Modibo Maiga and Marvin Martin having departed in the summer for West Ham and Lille respectively. Tricky midfielder Ryad Boudebouz remains, and made a goalscoring return to the team for the midweek Coupe-de-la-Ligue win over Evian after shaking off a muscle injury.

Much like the Bastia game, it’s difficult to see this match ending in anything other than a PSG win, but it will be interesting to see what sort of team Ancelotti fields, with two higher-profile fixtures - at Porto in the Champions League and Marseille in the league - coming up in the next week.

One man who will definitely be missing is Clement Chantome, who is suspended. With Thiago Motta, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Matthieu Bodmer on the injured list, the time has come for the return of Momo Sissoko, the former Juventus red-card machine having recovered from an injury of his own. Jezza Menezza also looks set to get a rest, with Kevin Gameiro coming in up front alongside Ibrahimovic.

The defence will have to be wary of Cedric Makambu, who has scored four goals in his last two games: "We're going to play PSG now," he said. "They're one of the best teams in Europe - it'll be fun." Let's hope he and his team-mates don't have too much fun when the action gets under-way at 5.30pm tomorrow

Friday, 28 September 2012

Can Zlatan Ibrahimovic match Ligue 1's great goal getters

Rarely has a blog post gone by this season without me mentioning Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swedish striker is kind of hard to ignore. His yearly salary may be higher than the GDP of a small African country, but so far he has done about as much as he can to offer value for money for Paris Saint-Germain’s massive outlay.

Ibra’s double in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Bastia took his tally for the season to seven goals in five Ligue 1 outings, and he also got up and running in the Champions League with a penalty in the victory over Dynamo Kiev. It’s a tally which has seen him take an early lead in the race for the Ligue 1 golden boot – his nearest challenger at present is Toulouse striker Wissam Ben-Yedder with four – and begs the question how many goals he’s capable of scoring.

After all, this is a man who has consistently found the net in Italy (he got 28 goals last year, his most prolific season to date) and scored 16 in 23 league starts in Spain for Barcelona, both countries where defenders are generally superior to those found in France.

As we will see, the record in Ligue 1 is 44 goals in a season, and legendary Marseille striker Jean-Pierre Papin believes that this could be out of reach for Zlatan.

“It is impossible to say [how many goals Ibra will score],” said Papin, showing the kind of opinionated punditry which made him a natural choice for new television channel BeIn sport.

“In a season, there will inevitably be a few games without a goal, and injuries or suspensions (...) I think he will exceed my 30 goals, but the 44 of Skoblar, it will be complicated. But still, he’s a guy who impresses me.

“I do not envy him because I had other qualities than him. But he is a powerful and tough guy. And it is rare to see a player of his size have such ease in front of goal. It is this combination of power and finesse that I like.”

So who does Zlatan have to beat if he is to become a record-breaker? Papin, who hit 30 goals in the 1989/90 season, doesn’t even make the top five of Ligue 1 goal-getters:

Gunnar Anderson – 35 goals for Marseille, 1952/53 & Serge Masnaghetti – 35 goals for for Valenciennes, 1962/63: First target for Zlatan is the 35-goal barrier, which was reached by two players in the 1950s and 60s. Anderson was a Swedish striker who served OM with distinction for eight seasons, though his medal haul was restricted to a Coupe de France win in 1954. He remained in the South of France after his retirement, but died of a heart attack at the age of 41 while on his way to a match at the Stade Velodrome.

Masnaghetti was a one-club man, whose scoring record for Valenciennes was better than a goal every two games. Though 62/63 was his best season, he went on to record a seven-minute hat-trick, the fastest ever in Ligue 1 at the time, in a match against Nice in 1966.

Philippe Gondet – 36 goals for Nantes, 1965/66: “Gondet, ton but!” – literally “Gondet, your goal!” - rang out around the Stade Malakoff on 36 occasions in the 65/66 season; I’m sure it’s a lot more catchy in French than it is in English. Philippe Gondet’s performances that year drew comparisons with the great Hungarian and, er, English, forwards of the time, and earned him a spot in the France squad for the 1966 World Cup. His goals were a key factor as Nantes bagged the second of successive Championship wins, and how the Canaries, now languishing in Ligue 2, would love to unearth another striker of his quality. 

Carlos Bianchi – 37 goals for Paris Saint-Germain, 1977/78: Ibra will be looking to join an illustrious list of former PSG players who have picked up the golden boot: the mighty Pauleta won it twice in succession, while Nene shared the prize with Olivier Giroud last season. But none of them came close to matching the exploits of Carlos Bianchi, who bulged the onion bag 37 times during the 77/78 campaign. It was a typically mediocre season for Les Rouges-et-Bleu, who finished 11th in the table, but Bianchi didn’t let that stop him in his quest for goals. El Virrey (the Viceroy) had picked up the golden boot on three occasions during his time with Stade de Reims, and would do again in 78/79 for PSG with a relatively modest 27. Despite his goal-scoring exploits, Bianchi is perhaps best known for his managerial career, which saw him become the winning-est coach Argentinean football has ever seen. Don’t say too much about his one season in charge of Paris FC though.

Josip Skoblar – 44 goals for Marseille, 1970/71: Known as the Dalmatian Eagle (a quite scary mixture of animals I’m sure you’ll agree) or simply Monsieur Goal, Yugoslav forward Skoblar first caught the eye at Marseille when he banged in 13 goals in 15 games while on loan from German club Hannover in 1966/67. Arriving permanently in 1969, he bagged an eye-watering 138 goals in 159 games for OM, finishing as Ligue 1’s top scorer on three occasions. The first of these, 1970/71, was his best effort, and remains the target for Zlatan to beat, and helped his side to the title. After retiring he enjoyed an eclectic managerial career taking in France, Spain, Croatia and, er, Lebanon amongst others, and according to Wikipedia he now does some scouting for Marseille.

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