Monday, 25 November 2013

PSG Tourist has moved

Everyone needs a change of scenery once in a while, including bloggers.

As of today, the Paris Saint-Germain Tourist blog can be found at a new home, please update your bookmarks to:

Fear not, the new site will be full of the usual Jezza Menez love lame jokes about Andre Pierre-Gignac being fat made up transfer rumours stupid pictures of Zlatan high-quality and thought-provoking content about PSG and French football. See you there.

MG, 25/11/13

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Stupid PSG picture of the week: All I want for Christmas is an Ibra doll

Paris Saint-Germain resumed their role as football’s coupon-busters on Tuesday night when they only managed a 1-1 draw with Anderlecht in the Champions League.

Despite dominating possession, PSG lacked sharpness in both boxes, and Demy de Zeeuw gave the Belgian visitors a shock lead in the 50th minute. Sadly for them it only last two minutes, as Ezequiel Lavezzi and Blaise Matuidi fashioned a chance for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which he gobbled up at the second attempt after his initial effort had come back off the post.

Even though he scored the goal, his seventh in the Champions League this season, Zlats was not at his best, suggesting that he’s not fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of last Friday’s win over Lorient.

But his spirits will have been lifted by the news that he is set to become this year’s must-have Christmas toy.
Yes, forget Furbies, Tamagotchis (what do you mean you already had?) and Buzz Lightyear action figures, this year the kids will all be clamouring to get their hands on a Zlatan doll.

Measuring 35cm and coming with a price tag of €35, the dolls are available in the official clubs stores as well as online at, where you can also purchase a range of other PSG player dolls including Pastore, Cavani and Thiago Silva. I haven’t managed to get my hands on one yet, so can’t confirm whether the Pastore doll is more mobile than the real-life version.

Who wouldn't want to find one of these in their stocking?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

PSG vs Anderlecht: Blanc to bag new contact after impressive start?

Paris Saint-Germain continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 4-0 win over Lorient on Friday night.

Many Bretons have been wearing red caps recently in protest against government tax hikes, but white flags would have been more appropriate for Christian Gourcuff's team in the first half of the match at the Parc des Princes, as PSG sliced through them like a couteau through beurre.

Lucas Moura opened the scoring with an emphatic finish from Lucas Digne's left-wing cross, before Jezza Menezza doubled our advantage with his first goal of the season after great work from Marco Verratti.

Verratti was in sumptuous form once again, dictating the tempo of the match and spraying inch-perfect passes all over the pitch. In fact, so busy was the Italian that he didn't even find time to conduct his usual running battle with the match officials, weird. Anyway, Edinson Cavani, who was playing the central striker's role in Zlatan's absence through injury, headed in a third just before half-time, then added a fourth from close range in the closing stages. PSG barely got out of third gear in the second half, but by then the damage was done, and Monaco's defeat to Lille on Sunday means we now have a three-point cushion at the top of Ligue 1.

Cavani will be absent for tonight's Champions League match against Anderlecht at the Parc des Princes with a slight thigh strain, but sadly for the Belgian side it seems the ringleader of their tormentors from the first leg, Ibra, will be back after shaking off a knee problem. Elsewhere in the team, boss Laurent Blanc has some decisions to make; Thiago Silva is fit again and likely to start the match, so White must choose between Alex and Marquinhos to partner the skipper. Lucas and Menez both impressed against Lorient, but you would imagine it will be one of them, plus Lavezzi, up top with Zlatan.

PSG won 5-0 in Anderlecht a couple of weeks ago, and it's difficult to see any other outcome than a home victory tonight.

"I've heard people say, 'It's difficult to get motivated'. If we're not motivated for this match, I won't understand it at all. It's got nothing to do with the first game," said Blanc, delving into his big book of football manager clichés.

"We have to think that we have the possibility to qualify for the knockout stage of the Champions League. We suffered against Olympiakos, we did what we had to do against Benfica and Anderlecht.

"We can confirm all of that by qualifying, and that's where our motivation should lie. So it's a very important match, perhaps the most important of the group."

Life is pretty sweet for Larry at the moment, and could be set to get even sweeter when he signs a new contract. According to a report in L'Equipe today, President Nasser is considering handing Blanc an improved deal as a result of PSG's impressive start to the season. You may remember that in the summer Blanc signed a two-year contract, but one that was heavily weighted financially towards the first year. The feeling was that the club saw him as a one-season solution as they continued to chase Arsene Wenger.

It is to the former France coach's great credit that his performance so far appears to have changed QSI's minds. There's no doubt he has improved the style of play compared to last season, and in terms of results unbeaten runs in the Ligue 1 and the Champions League are not to be sniffed at. He even seems to have won round some of our sceptical fans who were put off by his previous ties to that lot from the south.

There's a long way to go in the season of course, but if Blanc does get a pay-rise, few would argue that he doesn't deserve it.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Rumour Mill: Blanc ready to go apple-bobbing for Chelsea ace?

I’m not a fan of Halloween.

Round my way it usually involves vaguely menacing groups of teenagers, who have made minimum effort with their costumes, going door-to-door demanding sweets. Rarely are they grateful, though at least last year I wasn’t threatened with a knife or a gun, so I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies.

Halloween means it’s nearly bonfire night, which means it’s nearly Christmas, which means it’s nearly time for the January transfer window. Hurrah.

Speculation has already started about who will be going where, but Laurent Blanc refused to discuss whether he will be sticking his head into the apple bobbing pool and coming up with Chelsea’s Juan Mata clutched between his teeth.

“The winter window? We'll discuss the period when the transfer window opens,” said a helpful White yesterday.

PSG were linked with Mata in the summer, and with the playmaker still reportedly unhappy at Stamford Bridge, a €35million bid could be on the cards.

A creative midfielder type, preferably left-sided, is top of the club’s shopping list according to L’Equipe, who earlier this week reported than PSG will be trick-or-treating at the doors of German clubs Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 hoping to be given a handful of Haribo and at least one of Arjen Robben, Marco Reus and Julian Draxler.

Robben appeared to pour cold water on the idea of a move to Paris in typically vague fashion.

"It's always an honour when a rich big team [like PSG] show an interest in signing you," he told Bild.

"But everybody knows that I am feeling very well at Bayern at the moment. I don't know anything about the rumour and I only want to think about playing football."

Reus, meanwhile, is also thought to be dans le viseur of Barcelona. Lucky boy.

Not much to report in terms of potential outgoings. Thiago Motta insists he has no intention of dressing up as a slutty nurse and going to a Halloween party at Juventus’s place.

“Today, I'm good here, rumours don't interest me,” said the Brazilian Italian, who obviously won’t be reading this article.

He continued: “I've heard them [the rumours]. I've been told about it, but I'm not interested because I feel good at PSG and I'm concentrating on my work.”

Javier Pastore seems to have been wearing a particularly scary Halloween costume since the summer, when he first started sporting his awful mini-Zlatan ponytail hair cut.

However, this week El Flaco has revealed a new, more conservative barnet, one which may help him land a January move to Liverpool, AC Milan, or Fenerbache.

"Football is made of high and lows,” Pastore’s agent Marcelo Simonian told Le Parisien today, as if gearing up to deliver a lecture. “He (Pastore) has had a good time here. But it’s not the time for nostalgia. We'll see what happens in the coming months.”

Monday, 28 October 2013

Saint-Etienne 2-2 PSG: Matuidi's late intervention saves heavy-legged Parisiens

Last season, Saint-Etienne came back from 2-0 down to claim a draw with Paris Saint-Germain in our match at the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard.

This year the roles were reversed, with PSG recovering from a two-goal deficit to leave ‘The Cauldron’ with a point thanks to Big Bad Blaise Matuidi’s last-gasp equaliser against his former club.

"The legs were heavy, and the heads weren't clear either,” said Laurent Blanc, who perhaps should have dispensed some alka-seltzer during his pre-match team-talk.

“I thought four days' recovery [after the Champions League game in Anderlecht] would be enough. But if PSG weren't good it's also because of Saint-Etienne.

“We'd already shown our unity and tenacity at Marseille, and we'll need to have that because not every game will be as easy as the one at Anderlecht or against Benfica. Those are qualities you need to be a great team."

PSG are now unbeaten in open play in 30 matches in all competitions, a run which stretches back to the defeat to Reims last March.

Last night was probably the first time this season where this impressive record looked seriously under threat; we enjoyed plenty of possession, but most of it was in front of the ASSE back four, and for the first hour of the match we rarely hit the kind of tempo which was going to cause Christophe Galtier’s men problems. And at the back, sloppy passing and a lack of communication characterised our play, with mistakes leading to both the Saint-Etienne goals.

Brandao had already gone close when Benjamin Corgnet netted the first goal in the 18th minute. Marquinhos completely miskicked as he attempted to clear a ball in from the right, and Romain Hamouma was able to intercept and pass to Corgnet, who smashed it into the net beyond the reach of the helpless Salvatore Sirigu. Quelle merde, 1-0.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who expected a PSG onslaught to follow this goal, but it never came. Ibra and Cavani were quiet as a pair of agoraphobic church mice, and Lavezzi ran around a lot to no great effect.

Indeed, Sainte could have added to their lead when Fabien Lemoine’s dipping effort beat Sirigu but came back off the cross bar.

PSG started the second half with more vigour, with Ibra driving a low free kick through the wall and just wide, and then winning a header from a Maxwell cross to find Thiago Motta, only for the midfielder to get his feet in a muddle as he was about to shoot.

And then we pressed the self-destruct button again. Sirigu's punch of Yohan Mollo’s cross was a weak one, but Marquinhos should still have had ample time to clear the danger. Sadly the young Brazilian could only kick the ball into the back of Motta, and it rebounded to Hamouma, who had the simple task of lifting the a shot into the unguarded goal, with Sirigu still out of position. Doubler merde, 2-0.

At this point PSG’s unbeaten record looked about as secure as a young tree wobbling about in the face of Storm St Jude, but they were handed a lifeline in the 59th minute when Lemoine was dismissed. Having been shown a yellow card in the first half for a cynical pull back of Lavezzi, Lemoine went in for a clumsy tackle on the same player and picked up a second booking. The midfielder stayed down following the challenge having sustained a cut to the head, but even the blood pouring from his skull could not save him from an early bath.

Blanc threw on Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez, and Jezza’s direct running certainly gave us an added dimension. Crucially, we pulled one back within three minutes of the red card; a well-worked short corner routine saw Verratti find Maxwell, who got to the byline and delivered a low cross which was touched home by Cavani at the near post. 2-1.

Keeper Stephane Ruffier saved from Moura, while a goal-bound effort from Ibra was deflected wide, but PSG appeared to have run out of time when Matuidi intervened: four minutes of stoppage time had elapsed when the midfielder hoisted a ball into the box which went through Zlatan, Cavani and Ruffier and somehow found its way into the net. It initially looked as though El Matador had got a crucial touch, but replays showed it was Matuidi’s goal, 2-2.

All in all not PSG’s finest hour, but at least we got the point which keeps us ahead of Monaco on goal difference. Now our poor, weary, players have a Champions League-free week to rest their tired little legs before Friday’s meeting with Lorient at the Parc des Princes. Everybody say ahhhhh.

Man of the Match: Blaise Matuidi - Kept going for 90 minutes and was rewarded with the equaliser.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Anderlecht vs PSG: Blanc vows not to take Champions League opponents lightly

I've been to Belgium once in my life, on a school trip when we visited the battlefields at Ypres.

While we were of course reverent of the great sacrifices made by the soldiers in the trenches during World War One, like most groups of kids on a school trip we were more interested in buying large quantities of sweets and locking Steve Gignac (name changed for legal reasons) in the coach toilet.

Paris Saint-Germain are in Belgium today, but coach Larry White insists there will be no such larking about ahead of tonight's Champions League match with Anderlecht.

"There is always the risk that you might underestimate your opponents when you come off the back of a good match in your championship and you have won your first games in the Champions League," said Blanc.

"That can lead to complacency. But if I see that my players are too relaxed at the start of the match, I will try to make sure that doesn't last long. I have warned the players that every team wants to beat PSG. No match will be easy."

Be that as it may, some matches are easier than others, and PSG go into tonight’s clash with the Belgian champions as overwhelming favourites. I won’t profess to be a Belgian football expert, but I can read a league table, and it tells me that Anderlecht are fifth in the JPL standings, six points behind table-topping Standard Liege.

Having lost top scorer Brzi Mbokani to Dynamo Kyiv in the summer, John van der Brom’s side rely on Argentine striker Matias Suarez for goals, supported by promising midfielder Massimo Bruno and American Sacha Kljestan. In defence they may field Paris-born Fabrice N’Sakala, latterly of Troyes.

“We will play against a star team,” said Van der Brom. “That is an honour, but also a challenge for a young team like ours to try to achieve something. That is nice.”

Hope the Anderlecht players don’t get their autograph books out half-way through the match.

Van der Brom continued: “Before a match I always say you have to try to win, but in this case that obviously is not easy. This is a really tough task for us. On the other side, there is always a chance; if PSG think too lightly about it, and we have a super day, then we could spring a surprise, and that is what you hope for as a coach.”

Hoping to stop Anderlecht enjoying a super evening will be Ezequiel Lavezzi, who is set to start up front alongside Zlavani. PSG are without the injured Jallet and Pastore, but Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti are likely to return to midfield after serving domestic suspensions at the weekend.

Thiago Silva is back in training following his thigh injury, but not yet fit to return, so Marquinhos and Alex will continue in central defence.

Kick off at the Constant Vanden stadium is at 7.45pm.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Development of Verratti and Rabiot key to PSG's future prospects

Much has made of the fact that Paris Saint-Germain started with a camion-load of young players in Saturday's 4-0 win over Bastia.

A cynic might say that coach Laurent Blanc's decision to play Digne, Ongenda, Rabiot et al was born out of a need to keep our big players fresh for tomorrow's Champions League match with Anderlecht, rather than a deep-rooted commitment to youth development, but nevertheless it's always nice to see young tyros charging around the pitch tearing shit up.

PSG's youthfulness would have been even greater if Marco Verratti had been available. The 19-year-old missed the game due to suspension, though he was at the Parc des Princes on Saturday to pick up his September player-of-the-month award.

The award reflects the flying start to the season made by the Italian playmaker. I've written about the importance of an in-form Verratti to the team before, and he's been instrumental in many of our best performances so far this term.

But there are two challenges facing the Verratti, and Blanc, if he is to make the transition from promising youngster to elite player; consistency and discipline.

Verratti started last season in sparkling form too, but he struggled to maintain his level of performances, and spent the second half of the campaign in and out of the team. Carlo Ancelotti usually opted for a midfield pair of Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta in his favoured 4-2-2-2 formation, and when Verratti did play, we didn't often see the best of him. Now he has a year of top-flight experience under his belt, and needs to show his best form on a more regular basis. Blanc's 4-3-3 system should help in that respect; we have more possession now which means there's less emphasis on Verratti to press and make tackles, and he should have more time to get on the ball and display his passing ability.

Discipline is the other problem. Verratti's yellow card habit stems back to his time at Pescara, and with one suspension already under his belt this season, you can be certain he'll be sidelined again before 2013/14 is out. We don't have another player like Verratti in the squad, so his regular absences are bad news for the team, especially if they coincide with bigger games where his creativity can be the difference.

"Verratti and Motta are in the habit of picking up yellow cards. I hope they lose that habit," said Blanc in his press conference on Friday. Larry was being flippant I'm sure, but I think it's down to Le President to try and help his players show a bit more discipline. Certainly Verratti is still young enough to change his ways if he puts his mind to it, though it may be too late to the teach the old Motta dog new tricks.

At least when Verratti and Motta are out, Blanc can call on the prodigiously talented Adrien Rabiot, 18, who seems to be happy with his lot at PSG after making noises about wanting to leave at the end of last season.

"In terms of playing time, a first step has been taken. I play more regularly. I am no longer the little kid who starts," he told Le Parisien.

"My loan at Toulouse did me a lot of good. I played 13 Ligue 1 matches. This experience gave me personal landmarks and I showed others what I can do, including my team-mates at PSG.

"In early August, Laurent Blanc took me aside to tell me that he was counting on me and that he was opposed to the idea of me leaving on loan."

We've yet to see Verratti and Rabiot play together regularly, but the pair can be the future of PSG's midfield, a potentially exciting combination of French elegance and Italian passion. Blanc's task is to help both continue their development so that we see them gracing the pitch at the Parc des Princes for years to come.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

PSG 4-0 Bastia: Andy Murray mesmerised by Ibra as Paris claim straight sets win

If Andy Murray says it kids, it must be true. Has the Wimbledon champion been outed as a secret Ligue 1 connoisseur? I'll be keeping an eye on his Twitter feed for mentions of Lyon's poor start to the season or Herve Renard's appointment at Sochaux.

Paris Saint-Germain continued their unbeaten start to the season with a straights sets demolition of Bastia at the Parc des Princes yesterday. Our 4-0 win, coupled with Monaco's draw at Renard's aforementioned Sochaux side earlier today, means we're now have a two-point lead at the top of the table. If we can keep this kind of form going there's no reason a second successive Grand Slam Ligue 1 title should be beyond our reach.

"When you see the names of the two scorers for them you can see what a gulf there is between our two sides," said dejected Bastia coach Frederic Hantz, having seen his side smashed by PSG aces Zlatan and Edinson Cavani, both of whom scored twice.

"We're disappointed by the margin even if financial logic would suggest we should have lost 20-0 and we only conceded four, so that's not so bad after all."

Of course football isn't quite as easy as that, but to be fair to Hantz there aren't many teams in world football, let alone Ligue 1, who would be able to withdraw a player of Ibra's talent at half-time and replace him with another world-class centre-forward.

Cavani started on the bench as Laurent Blanc, with an eye on Tuesday's Champions League game in Anderlecht, named a much-changed line-up.

Ibra was stationed up-front alongside Hevin Ongenda as PSG reverted to a 4-2-2-2ish formation, and took just 10 minutes to score the goal that had Murray mesmerised. Lucas delivered the cross which was helped on by Ongenda to Zlatan, who produced an overhead backheel flick of surprising power which zipped past ex-PSG keeper Mikael Landreau. Taekwondo-tastic, 1-0.

However much a team cost to put together, there's no excuse for the kind of shoddy marking displayed by the Corsicans as Ibra added a second three minutes later. The striker was completely unmarked to meet a Lucas free kick six yards out and head home. Game over, 2-0.

Not to be outdone, Cavani added an individual wondergoal of his own in the 62nd minute, receiving a pass from the recalled Jezza Menezza, tiptoeing round a couple of defenders and Landreau before stroking the ball home from the narrowest of angles. Lovely stuff from El Matador, 3-0.

The score-line could have been worse for the visitors were it not for the heroics of the silver-haired Landreau, who stopped Lucas and Ongenda from getting on the score-sheet with excellent saves.

Cavani hit the post before he added his second a minute from time, converting a penalty after he had been brought down by that man Landreau.

"Changes had been made to the team and there were young players in there," said Blanc, for whom Adrien Rabiot also excelled in the absence of the suspended Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta.

"I think our level was very good and we scored four goals and created a lot of chances. It proves everybody is motivated and up for the season, which will be long.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Marseille 1-2 PSG: Team Paris triumph in the Turpinico

Team work, hard graft, and other such Tony Pulis-isms are not descriptors usually associated with Paris Saint-Germain.

But the team displayed plenty of grit, spirit and all that other dour-but-necessary stuff as they recovered from 1-0 down to beat Marseille 2-1 at the Velodrome last night.

We were also a player down after Thiago Motta's first half red card, and coach Laurent Blanc was understandably chuffed.

"Desire was a very important factor this evening, because, given the circumstances, we couldn't have achieved anything without it," said Blanc. "We showed incredible solidarity.

"We always believed we could win this match, even after the sending off. At half-time we all thought we could go on and win it. For the coaching staff and the players, it's immensely satisfying."

I can assure Larry and the boys that it was quite satisfying for us fans too, especially as we not only had to beat OM but also had to overcome the delightful arbitre Clement Turpin.

They say the best referees are the ones you don't notice, and by that reckoning Mssr Turpin must be really, really, bad. He'd shown 12 red cards in 12 games before last night, and ensured he would be in the headlines once more by making Thiago Motta his unlucky 13th victim.

Motta's boot was high as he challenged Mathieu Valbeuna for a loose ball in the 31st minute, though Valby's triple-roll-screaming-in-agony reaction was not particularly edifying. Probably a penalty, but quite what caused Turpin to issue the red card I have no idea. The PSG players were miffed, but Andre Ayew kept his cool to send Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way. 0-1.

Up to that point PSG had dominated possession, but the three clearest chances had fallen to the home side, with Sirigu pushing Valbeuna's free kick around the post, then making a smart double stop to foil Valby and Jordan Ayew.

Following the spot kick, Blanc made an immediate change, with Lavezzi sacrificed for Adrien Rabiot as we switched to a 4-3-2 formation. And the equaliser came on the stroke of half-time; Greg Van der Wiel floated in a cross and, as Steve Mandanda hesitated, Maxwell nipped in to flick a header over him and into the net. The teddy bear does it again, 1-1.

With a man advantage, the game seemed well set for Marseille to push on and try to get a win which would keep them firmly in the title race, but they showed a disappointing lack of attacking intent. Traditionally, French managers prefer to protect a point rather than going for a win, and it appears this is a trait which afflicts OM boss Elie Baup. It took an unconventional scooping block from Sirigu to stop a shot from the otherwise quiet Dimitri Payet, but the home side rarely threatened, and as the crowd began to get frustrated we delivered the killer blow.

The goal stemmed from a corner which wasn't dealt with properly by Mandanda. Marquinhos retrieved possession but was heading away from goal when Andre Ayew bundled him over. A stupid, unnecessary challenge, but a clear penalty which even Turpin couldn't fail to spot. With fireworks going off around him and a couple of lasers shining out from the crowd, Zlatan stepped up and sent Mandanda the wrong way. Six goals in four games against OM for the the ProblemBear, 2-1.

Marseille threw on Andre-Pierre Gignac and Florian Thauvin, but neither was able to make an impact, and the closing stages were only enlivened by the constant flow of bookings dished out by Turpin. Seven players were cautioned by Ligue 1's most card-happy official, though he bottled out of issuing a second booking to Marseille's Rod Fanni, initially pulling out his note-book when Fanni brought down Edinson Cavani, but then changing his mind when he realised who it was. Berk.

But Turpin's antics shouldn't take away from what was an outstanding team display from PSG. If Blanc still has any doubters within our fanbase, this impressive win against the old enemy should go some way to changing their minds.

Man of the Match: Blaise Matuidi - Having Big Bad Blaise in the side compensated for playing with ten men for so long. The midfielder put in a typically all-action display, and showed the much-hyped Giannelli Imbula exactly what he should be aspiring to.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

PSG 3-0 Benfica: Zlatan's birthday party begins in style

Today is Zlatan Ibrahimovic's birthday. Many happy returns to the big fella, who has just turned 32.

Quite what sort of gift you would buy for a man who already has everything is open to debate, but Ibra gave Paris Saint-Germain fans an early present of his own by scoring twice as PSG cruised past Benfica 3-0 at the Parc des Princes last night. And they say he's a selfish man, pah!

With six points and seven goals already on the board from their first two games, PSG have started their Champions League campaign in impressive fashion. Coach Laurent Blanc was a happy man afterwards.

"The scoreline is perfect," said a jubilant White. "When you look at a game, you always have room for improvement, but I enjoyed it because we controlled the game and that is a key to our style. Tonight we got it right from first to last minute.

"The biggest players are always raring to go in the Champions League. Ibrahimovic is somebody who has never won it. I think that he, as well as the whole team, is hungry for it. He put in a very, very good display."

PSG lined up in their now usual 4-3-3 formation, but with Ibra stationed on the right of the front three and Edinson Cavani taking the role of the central attacker. And it was noticeable that a lot more of our play came down the right side of the pitch, whereas usually Maxwell and Lavezzi on the left provide the greater attacking theat.

While this new arrangement worked out well for Zlatan and Gregory Van der Wiel - who was heavily involved throughout - it wasn't so good for Cavani, who was peripheral and spurned a couple of good chances in the second half. Lavezzi, too, was reasonably quiet, though contributed a few darting runs. Still, after such a good overall showing one would imagine we'll line up the same way for Sunday's derby against Marseille.

Ibra opened the scoring in the fifth minute after great play from Marco Verratti, another of PSG's top performers on the night. MV's flicked pass round the corner was perfect for the onrushing Van der Wiel, who drove a low centre across the six-yard box which was gobbled up by Zlatan at the far post. First blood to the ProblemBear, 1-0.

It should be said that this Benfica side is obviously not up to the standard of previous vintages, but they're no mugs either, and it wasn't until PSG's second goal in the 25th minute that things started to feel comfortable. And what a goal it was: Ibra retrieved a deep corner and back-heeled the ball into the path of Verratti. His first time pass was controlled by Blaise Matuidi, who burst to the byline and pulled a cross back for the predatory Marquinhos to slot in his second goal in two Champions League outings. The Brazilian had never scored a senior goal before this season, but now has three in four starts. 2-0.

The situation got even better for PSG five minutes later as Zlatan climbed highest to head in a Thiago Motta corner. The goal was his 33rd Champions League strike in 97 appearances, but first with his head since 2007. 3-0.

With such a comfortable lead, the second half was always going to be a bit more low key, but PSG continued to control the game and carve out chances. Zlatan should have completed his hat-trick when Benfica keeper Artur parried substitute Lucas Moura's shot into his path. But with the whole goal to aim at Ibra struck his first-time shot over the bar.

But all-in-all it was a very satisfying evening's work. The only fly in our ointment was Jezza Menezza, who stormed off the bench and back into the changing rooms when he found out he wouldn't be coming on in the second half. Poor Jezza.

"He was certainly disappointed because he thought he would come on," said Blanc, who played down the incident. "I make the choices, that's it."

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic - The only people who had a problem with the ProblemBear last night were the Benfica defenders. In your face Hoeness.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

PSG vs Benfica: Champions League clash marks 100 days of Blanc

Today marks Laurent Blanc’s 100th in charge of Paris Saint-Germain.

Given the absolutely shambles that surrounded Carlo Ancelotti leaving and the search for his replacement, Blanc can feel pretty happy with his work to date.

The team is unbeaten in 10 games despite the change of manager and our selection problems at centre-back. And after initial concerns that some of the big name players wouldn’t comply with a coach who lacks Ancelotti’s profile, the likes of Thiago Silva and Zlatan are still around and have signed new deals.

What’s more, we’ve seen signs that the team is starting to play in the style of Blanc’s Bordeaux and France sides: “Laurent Blanc has another method and another system,” said goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. “Before, we were looking to move forward quickly. Now, we try to have a long ball possession to find spaces with three attackers.”

“For now the lights are all green,” notes today’s Parisien. “But he [Blanc] knows better than anyone the fragility of his position at PSG.”

Indeed, it remains to be seen whether Blanc will be able to retain control of the team when we hit a poor patch of form. And the issue of effectively integrating Edinson Cavani into the team doesn’t look likely to go away any time soon, though as Cavani now has five goals in nine games one might suggest he’s already bedded in pretty well.

Our unbeaten run will come under stern inspection tonight in a Champions League match against an experienced Benfica side, albeit one that is struggling in its domestic competition and currently sits sixth in Portugal’s top flight.

Zlatan the Problembear is expecting a difficult encounter: “It's a very good test, against a good side with lots of experience in European competition,” he said.

“We are playing at home after winning our first game. It won't be easy on Wednesday against a top level opponent with great players. This is the Champions League and we want to get in a good position for the rest of the competition."

Benfica’s Messianic-sounding boss Jorge Jesus is unsurprisingly wary about the threat posed by Zlatan, Cavani et al.

"Both (Cavani or Ibrahimovic) are great," said Jesus. "I am not PSG manager but I think that great players can always play together.

"So if this is what you are questioning that is my answer: They are both great players."

It's lucky he showed a bit more insight when he was founding one of the world's great religions.

The teams last met at the Parc in March 2011, a Europa League match which ended in a 1-1 draw. Benfica progressed 3-2 on aggregate, having won the first leg in Portugal 2-1.

That night away fans made up at least half the crowd, and the city’s sizable Portuguese population will be out in force again tonight. I was going to make a joke about skiving concierges here, but realised it sounded a bit racist, so we’ll move on.

"We know we will be welcomed by the Portuguese community in France, and that is very important,” said Jesus.

"We hope they can create an amazing atmosphere for our players. We will feel as if we were in Portugal.”

PSG could be without Big Bad Blaise Matuidi, who picked up an ankle injury in training yesterday after a heavy tackle from Adrien Rabiot. The cunning Rabiot stands by to start if BBB doesn’t make it.

Barring any late problems, Alex should be back to partner Marquinhos in defence, while Cavani and Lavezzi are likely to return at the expense of Jezza Menez and Lucas.

Kick-off at the Parc des Princes is at 7.45pm GMT.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

PSG terminate Toulouse as Hoeness bears all about Zlatan

Paris Saint-Germain won again at the weekend, beating Toulouse 2-0 at the Parc des Princes.

As against Valenciennes on Wednesday, Laurent Blanc's men were decidedly below par, but took the lead in the first half. Marquinhos connected with a Thiago Motta free kick, and though his initial effort was blocked by the keeper, the ball rebounded off a purple-shirted man back into the Brazilian's path, and he scrambled in his first Ligue 1 goal.

PSG dominated possession, but at 1-0 you're always vulnerable to a goal against the run of play, and it wasn't until substitute Edinson Cavani slotted home a late penalty that Blanc could breathe easy. With Monaco only drawing against Reims, we're now level with Catherine Deneuve's men at the top of the table, though we trail the new-boys on goal difference.

"Compared to our win in Valenciennes, this one was much better," said Blanc, suggesting that those glasses he wears may have an invisible rose tint.

"It was a deserved win. That's six points from two matches, and 18 points from eight. Still, we can do better in terms of our cutting edge; I've been surprised at the number of chances we've been creating, especially at home, but we're not putting enough of them away. If we can lift our conversion rate, we'll see some spectacular games."

We all like a bit of spectacularness, and Wednesday's Champions League game against Benfica would be a nice time to see some. More on that tomorrow.

Cavani had been left on the bench for the match, meaning the debate about whether he can play in the same team as Zlatan Ibrahimovic continues. One man who is convinced that Zlatan is the problem - and indeed is at the root of all evil in the world - is Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness.

Responding to Ibra's continued criticism of current Bayern boss Pep Guardiola, Hoeness told Bild: "We have a completely different opinion than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. We are very satisfied with Pep Guardiola.

"Ibrahimovic is a bitter prima donna if you ask me. He has never really gotten over his Barcelona exit. No team has ever been happy with him. He's a problem-bear."

I was particularly unhappy when we won the league last season, damn you Zlatan and your knack of winning trophies. You'll notice, too, that Hoeness did not criticise Ibra's record of paying tax - must be nice up there on the moral high ground, ahem.

And what is a Problem-Bear anyway? I assume it must be a German saying. Fresh on the back of the revelation that Maxwell is a teddy-bear, we seem to have a very bear-heavy squad; rumours that the home changing room at the Parc is being turned into a Den have yet to be confirmed.

Uli should be careful he doesn't run into a Problem-bear when he's out walking in the woods. He might end up getting Taekwondoed:

We'll see if Zlatan has anything to say in response when he and Blanc give a pre-Champions League press conference later today.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Valenciennes 0-1 PSG: Cavani's impeccable timing saves sluggish Paris

Paris Saint-Germain’s commercial department have been busy recently securing a range of new sponsorship deals.

Not content with having signed up Qatari telecoms firm Ooredoo (yes, they’re really called Ooredoo) and Nivea for Men in recent weeks, the club has now added Hublot as, wait for it, Official Timekeeper and Official Watch of PSG. What an honour for them.

“Paris is the European capital for good taste, elegance and luxury,” said Hublot’s CEO Jean-Claude Biver.

“Paris is the world tourism capital. And thanks to Paris Saint-Germain, Paris is the capital of European football. Hublot could afford to not be associated with this club and it is a privilege for Hublot to keep time for the future glorious hours of Paris Saint-Germain!"

Whether this sponsorship deal had anything to do with President Nasser buying a job lot of Hublots to give to the players is not mentioned in the press release.

Hopefully none of the Swiss firm’s representatives were watching yesterday’s match against Valenciennes, as it had little to do with elegance or luxury. Good taste was also in short supply due to Christophe Jallet’s continuing insistence of wearing his socks pulled up over his knees.

But PSG got the job done, winning 1-0 courtesy of Edinson Cavani’s goal on the stroke of half-time. Zlatan was the provider, poking the ball through for El Matador, who produced a super finish, holding off a defender whipping the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net.

It was “A PSG without ideas” noted France Football, and indeed the team struggled to create opportunities. Javier Pastore shot over when well placed in the first minute, and Ibra had a couple of half chances near the end which he couldn’t take, but other than that our attacking cupboard was distinctly bare.

Valenciennes saw a lot of the ball, but as often happens to teams at the bottom of the league table, weren’t able to do much with it. Their best chances came in the second half, with the excellent Marco Verratti heading a Lindsay Rose effort off the line, and substitute Anthony Le Tallec somehow failing to connect with a Dossevi cross late on.

So much for Laurent Blanc to ponder then, particularly the performance of the recalled Pastore, who failed to impress in a central role: "In an 'easy' away game, the playmaker was mired in bad choices and failed actions" was the damning verdict in Le Parisien this morning. Ho hum.

But we're in the middle of a difficult run of games, and the boss was happy to take the points and move on to Saturday's home fixture with Toulouse.

"It was painful at times, both on the pitch and off, because we had some problems with injuries,” said Blanc, who lost Alex at half-time to injury. “It was a difficult match in every sense, but the essential thing was to get the three points because we will have a lot of games like this over the course of the campaign.

“We knew this would be a difficult match. We started well but didn't get the goal, and you need to score when you are on top in football.

“This was one of these games where nothing went right for us but we still fought to come away with the essential thing, the result. The Monaco match cost us a lot of energy and we only had three days to recover."

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Valenciennes vs PSG: Ibra and his new deal dream of goals at the Stade de Hainaut

Paris Saint-Germain travel to Valenciennes tonight boosted by the news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a one-year contract extension.

"I don't see a more ambitious club in Europe than Paris Saint-Germain,” said Zlatan, who is now contracted at the Parc des Princes until 2016. “My wish is that Paris Saint-Germain is my last big Club. This Club is like me: the dream is never big enough."

What a load of bollocks, if those words actually flowed from Zlatan’s lovely mouth in that order I’ll eat my shoes. I hate all the marketing rubbish that surrounds the club these days, it’s not like Ibra doesn’t provide good quotes without some press office flunky putting words into his mouth. And check out the photo of the Swede putting pen-to-paper, what’s that jumper all about? Hopefully now he has a new contract he’ll be able to afford some decent clothes.

Anyway, Zlatan will be eyeing more goals tonight when he and PSG return to Valenciennes, a ground where he scored a hat-trick last season in a 4-0 victory.

PSG will fancy their chances against a VA who are second from bottom of the Ligue 1 table with just one win to their name in six matches so far this season. On Sunday they were handed a 4-0 tonking by Nice, who celebrated the opening of their new stadium with a stylish victory. If things weren’t bad enough for boss Daniel Sanchez, he has now received the dreaded vote of confidence from club president Jean-Raymond Legrand.

“He [Sanchez] is not threatened,” said Mssr. Legrand. “I've had calls [about possible replacements], but I am not thinking about a successor. I want to continue with him.”

Expect Sanchez to receive Le P45 next week then. For the moment, Legrand has bigger questions on his mind, notably whether Zlatan will say hello to him at the match. Last season, Ibra was captured on camera snubbing the VA president, something he hopes won’t happen again.

"This time, I'll say hello to the players on arrival,” said Legrand. “And I hope he will not forget to greet me.”

If he’s lucky perhaps Zlatan will sign an autograph too. Legrand didn’t have a good time of it with PSG last season, as apparently President Nasser Al-Khelaifi wasn’t around to make nice with him in the return match at the Parc either.

"He [Al-Khelaifi] phoned me to apologize, and he wanted to do it in French,” he said. “Then he invited me, along with other presidents, to go see games tennis at Roland Garros in his box. "

That’s a good move from Nasser, free tennis tickets is a sure-fire way to win over the hearts and minds of a load of old French blokes.

The PSG team will be without Thiago Silva, who is out for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury. Quelle merde. The returning Alex probably won’t be risked, with bigger games to come in the next ten days, so Marquinhos will continue alongside Zoumana Camara at centre-back. Jeremy Menez and Christophe Jallet could start as Laurent Blanc considers rotating his squad.

Valenciennes will be with PSG loane Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, who is ineligible for the match against his parent club.

Kick-off at the Stade de Hainaut is at the unhelpful time of 6pm GMT.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cashico Conclusions: What did we learn from PSG 1-1 Monaco?

Sunday night's show-down at the Parc des Princes ended with honours even, as Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco played out a 1-1 draw.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic emphatically opened the scoring early on from close-range after a delicious cross from Maxwell. Ibra referred to Maxwell as a teddy-bear a few weeks back, and the pair certainly enjoyed a long and loving cuddle following the goal.

Alas, the lead didn't last long, with Falcao bundling in an equaliser from Joao Moutinho's cross. Merde. PSG had chances to regain the lead, notably through Ibra twice, then late on via Edinson Cavani, but couldn't find the winning goal their performance probably merited.

So a point a piece, and the status quo remains at the top of Ligue 1. But what did we learn from the game? Here are some points to consider, in a format not in any way ripped from the Guardian.

1) Selling Sakho was a bad idea. We didn't so much learn this as have it reiterated to us in the strongest possible terms. "I'm very proud to come here tonight," said Mamadou Sakho, as he bid the Parc des Princes a tearful farewell on the pitch before the match. "I remember when I was young, I was up there, there in the stands and watched PSG play. I have now turned a page, but my story with PSG isn't over yet."

With the new Liverpool defender watching from the stands, PSG lost Thiago Silva early on to a thigh strain, which is set to keep him out for three weeks. If only we had had a young, athletic, commanding centre-back to bring off the bench in his place. Instead on came dear old Papus Camara, who was promptly beaten to the ball by Falcao for the equaliser.

2) Blanc isn't scared to tell the players what he thinks. Laurent Blanc wasn't everybody's first choice to take over from Carlo Ancelotti. In fact, it's doubtful if he was anyone's first choice, including the club's. But he seems to have his feet under PSG's expensive table now, and was forthright in his assessment of his side's display on Sunday.
"Without taking anything away from Monaco, who played very well, but given the number of scoring opportunities we had tonight, I think we probably deserved to win," he said. "We could have been a little more decisive in front of goal. To score only one goal with all of those chances, it isn't a great ratio." 
It would have been easy for the boss to pussy-foot around the chances spurned by his costly strike-duo of Ibrahimovic and Cavani, so well done to him for saying what everyone watching could see.

3) PSG need magic Marco. PSG created an abundance of chances in the match, with playmaker Marco Verratti at the heart of most of their best work going forward. When on form like this, the pugnacious Italian makes PSG tick, and provides creativity in midfield that his colleagues don't possess. When Verratti is quiet, or is focussing his energies on moaning at the officials, we can look pedestrian in the centre of the park, and Blanc's challenge will be to get the teenager performing on a consistent basis and take some pressure off the man-mountain that is Blaise Matuidi.

4) Monaco's defensive dallies. Given that they have an almost completely new team, Monaco have started the season very well. Certainly in the other matches I've seen they've been playing better football than PSG were in the early stages of their "project" (sorry). 
But if they are going to challenge for the title they need to tighten up at the back. Their full-backs were exposed too often, with no support from rampaging wingers Ocampos and Ferriera-Carrasco. And at centre-back, Eric Abidal and Ricardo Carvalho, though undoubtedly classy, looked painfully slow and liable to be caught out by a quick through ball or pass over the top. With games coming thick and fast, Ranieri will need to make sure he manages their ageing legs or they will end up costing him goals.

5) The Chapron Effect. After a cracking first half the game fizzled out after the break. This was in part due to Monaco shutting up shop and settling for a point, but it wasn't helped by the constant blasts on the whistle from referee Tony Chapron. "Monaco seem to be getting all the 50/50 decisions", noted BT Sport co-commentator Stuart Robson, seeing what seasoned PSG supporters will recognise as The Chapron Effect. Leaving aside any bias he may or may not have against us (I'm sure in his head he thinks he's being completely fair) Chapron is a consistently poor referee, and I wish the FFF would stop selecting him for big games.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

PSG vs Monaco: Countdown to Le Cashico

Friday, 20 September 2013

Starting to get worried about Zlatan? Don't

In their only hit of note, terrible pop band The Hoosiers were Worried About Ray.

As far as I know, most Paris Saint-Germain fans don’t share the group’s concerns about anyone called Ray – except Domenech perhaps – but some are starting to get worried about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Last season Ibra’s goal output was consistently impressive, starting with a double on debut against Lorient and ending the season with an impressive total of 30 goals in 33 matches, making him the first player to score 30 Ligue 1 goals since Jean-Pierre Papin in 1989.

So far this term he hasn’t hit those heights, with one goal– a last minute strike against Guingamp – to show for his efforts in our opening five league games.

Throw in his penalty miss against Olympiacos, and the presence of New Big Name on the Block Edinson Cavani, and you can see why there has been some speculation about Ibra’s happiness levels.

The man himself says he’s not bothered about a lack of goals, and I for one am not going to argue with him.

"People are demanding," he said in a recent interview. "They always expect more of me.

"For an attacker, it is always important to score. But I do not want to be reduced to that. I try to play the game and help the team. I hope to deliver more assists.

"It's important for a team that the responsibility for scoring goals is shared. At PSG, we can always score a lot."

I think there’s a lot of truth in what he says. People always look for drama where Ibra is concerned, but in this instance I really don’t think there is anything to worry about.

Firstly, because the team is better off than it was last year. We have 11 points compared to last season’s nine, and eight goals  as opposed to last season’s six, five of which came from Zlatan. This is one of those cases where PSG – and Ibra – can’t win; at this time last year people were calling us a one-man-team, and now we’re patently not a one-man-team people are worried that the one man isn’t scoring enough.

It's not that he isn't getting into good positions either: WhoScored statistics show he's having 5.6 shots-per-game so far in 2013/14, compared to last year's 4.6. Alright so they're not going in, but I'd be more worried if he wasn't getting the chances.

Even leaving statistics aside, I know there’s not too much to worry about where Zlatan is concerned because I’ve seen him with my own eyes. In most games this season he’s still been our chief creative force – witness the sublime pass for Blaise Matuidi’s goal against Bordeaux, or the ball that put Maxwell in the clear to set up Cavani’s opener in Greece on Tuesday. If PSG put together a good move going forward, it’s a safe bet Ibra is involved.

The only elephant in the room is his relationship with Cavani; Is there space for both of them in the team? So far the evidence is inconclusive, with some great moments of interplay interspersed with times where they appear to be on completely different wave-lengths. But it’s still early days, and Cavani is not up to full speed yet, so they deserve a bit more time before sentencing is carried out on their relationship.

Manager Laurent Blanc has also played down his star man’s travails in front of goal: "I don't worry about Ibra,” he said at his press conference earlier today. “He is making assists and will find success [in front of goal]"

What can’t be denied is that Zlatan proved himself last season to be the man for the big occasion, getting the goals in the matches that mattered. I’m sure no-one would be surprised if he played a decisive role in Sunday’s Cashico with Monaco. If you ask me the only people who should be worried about Zlatan are the ASM defence.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Olympiacos 1-4 PSG: Greeks cornered by Motta and Co

Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice?

Last season, Paris Saint-Germain began their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 win that featured a debut goal from a Brazilian centre-back. Fast forward 12 months and the same thing has happened again.

This year the opponents were Olympiacos, not Dynamo Kiev, and the debutant was Marquinhos not Thiago Silva, but the result and score-line remained happily unchanged. The only difference from last term is that this time we were away from home, making the win arguably more impressive.

That said, the team’s performance did not quite match the swashbuckling destruction of Kiev, but boss Laurent Blanc was still a happy man afterwards.

"It was a match of two halves,” he said. “We made too many mistakes in the first half, mostly because Olympiacos put a lot of intensity and pressure into their game in the early stages. In the second half, we found a certain balance and, as a team, we were a lot better. The Greek side also tired after a very energetic opening period."

Indeed, it was hard to see PSG taking anything from the game after an opening 30 minutes completely dominated by the home side. Vladimir Weiss gave us warning of what was to come inside the first minute when he smashed a powerful shot against the crossbar, and soon afterwards David Fuster picked up a half clear corner and struck a low shot which rebounded out off the inside of the post.

But then on 19 minutes we took the lead with a goal that couldn’t have been more against the run of play if we had been playing against a team called Athletico Run-of-Play. Matuidi seized possession and found Zlatan, who played an inch-perfect through ball for Maxwell, who had gone on a maraud and found himself inside the opposition penalty area. The Brazilian calmly scooped the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper to present Edinson Cavani with a simple finish. Matadors don’t miss open goals, 0-1.

Olympiacos soon resumed their dominance, with the tricky Weiss proving to be their chief threat. It was no surprise when he notched the equaliser, hurdling a Maxwell challenge before nut-megging Marquinhos, beating the exposed Thiago Silva and shooting past Sirigu. Golazo. 1-1.

The match calmed down a bit as half-time approached, and after the break things changed dramatically. PSG controlled the tempo as Olympiacos seemed to run out of steam, and Weiss became a peripheral figure. Helpfully, the home side also completely forgot how to defend corners.

Cavani had gone close with a low shot before we regained the lead in the 68th minute. Substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner found Thiago Motta, who had got away from his marker Samaris to head unchallenged past Roberto Jimenez. Five minutes later, the exact same thing occurred; Lavezzi corner, Motta header, boom. 3-1 and game over.

"I wasn't expecting the goals,” said non-psychic Olympiacos boss Michel. “If you watched them, you might rush to blame Samaris, but I won't. He had a great match in the first half and the way the game unfolded was very cruel on the lad. I'm to blame for the goals because I told the players who to mark.”

Marquinhos, who grew into the game after a shaky first half, added a fourth just before the end, the defender again finding space in the box from a corner to flick his header into the net. He looked pleased. In between times Zlatan had seen his penalty saved by Jiminez, who also managed to blocked the Swede’s attempt to force in the rebound. He did not look pleased.

While the score-line flattered PSG, we definitely deserved the points, and it’s good to get this season’s campaign off to a convincing start. On a night where the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United won big, Blanc’s men have put a marker down that they mean business too.

Man of the Match: Thiago Motta – Two goals and an assist for the Brazilian Italian, who also helped PSG dominate possession for much of the game.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Olympiacos vs PSG: Parisiens seek to use the force as Champions League returns

Tonight is the start of Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League episode two: The Empire Strikes back.
One might argue we never really had an Empire in the first place, so it will be difficult to strike back, but what is true is that the squad assembled by the Emperor (President Nasser) and his evil side-kick Darth Vader (Leonardo) is currently in a galaxy far, far, away (Greece) preparing to taking on Olympiacos.

So far during his reign Laurent Blanc has often resembled one of those startled officers who has to hastily take command of the Death Star after Vader has bumped off his predecessor. But Friday night's match against former club Bordeaux saw PSG put in an impressive display, and the ex-France coach will be hoping for a repeat of that showing in the Karaiskakis Stadium.

"If we can win and play like we did against Bordeaux we will be very happy," said Blanc. "It also depends on our opponents. I know this stadium well after having come here as coach of Bordeaux and as a player with Manchester United. 

"The atmosphere will be electric, but we know it, but we are ready. We will try and control the possession and be more dangerous than our opponents."

I assume he means controlling the possession through our silky midfield skills, and not using any Jedi mind tricks. Perhaps I'm stretching this analogy a little bit too far.

Anyway, the boss continued: "Alex is injured and we have two players that can replace him. I have made my decision, but I will keep it to myself. 

"We will keep the same formation as against Bordeaux, even though I may change certain players. The aim is to play as well as possible to get a positive result and make a good start to this competition. It's a great challenge. 

"To go a long way in the Champions League, you have to take it step by step and the first step is the group stage. There are some great challenges coming up for Paris Saint-Germain."

Indeed, Blanc could opt for youth (Marquinhos) or experience (Zoumana Camara) to replace Alex, who picked up a thigh strain in training on Saturday. I reckon he'll give Marquinhos his debut. Edinson Cavani should return in place of Hervin Ongenda, and I'd expect the experience of Maxwell to give him the edge over Lucas Digne at left-back.

What do we know about Olympiacos? The Greek Super League champions are bossed by Real Madrid legend Michel, and their squad contains a curious mixture of nationalities that probably sums up top-level European football in 2012: Among Costa Ricans, Croatians, and, er, Roy Carroll, there are several familiar faces to Ligue 1 fans, including former Rennes defender Gaitan Bong, ex-Auxerre and Monaco man Delvin N'Dinga, and Sambou Yatabare, latterly of Bastia. Fans of old-school Championship Manager will also be pleased to note the presence of Javier Saviola on their roster - is there still time for him to become the best striker in the world before he retires? Probably not.

Last time Blanc was in Piraeus, he steered his Bordeaux side to a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Olimpiacos in February 2010. If he harnesses the power of our attacking force correctly, there's no reason history can't repeat itself.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bordeaux 0-2 PSG: Lucas gives Blanc Mour-a to smile about

So according to reports this weekend Gareth Bale turned down a switch to Paris Saint-Germain, while Cristiano Ronaldo was never really interested in the first place. Quelle surprise.

While I'm sure Laurent Blanc would be happy to have either or both of the Real Madrid posers wingers in his squad, he already has a wide-man of his own to be proud of after Lucas Moura played a starring role in PSG's 2-0 win at Bordeaux on Friday.

"Football is sometimes strange," said Blanc after our victory at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, which came courtesy of goals from Moura and big bad Blaise Matuidi. "Our job is to prepare the match all week, elaborate how we'll play, strategies to beat our opponents. This one we didn't prepare at all, absolutely not, we got some players back from international duty only last night. What I'm telling you is that a coach serves no purpose whatsoever."

Epic bantz from Blanc there, I'm sure all the listening journos were in stitches. To be fair the coach had good reason to smile after seeing his team put in what was their best performance of the season. 

It's also ironic he should come out with such a statement - even in jest - after a match in which we truly saw Blanc's PSG for the first time. By that I mean PSG looked like a team that was comfortable, purposeful and cohesive in possession. Carlo Ancelotti did a lot of good work during his time at the Parc des Princes, but his team was never one that could control games, relying instead on counter-attacks or moments of individual brilliance to get the job done.

For Blanc's PSG it's still early days, but the signs in the Bordeaux match were certainly very positive. The 4-3-3 formation undoubtedly helps us look a bit more fluid; often when we play 4-4-2 it feels like there are six defenders who operate on a completely separate pitch to the four attackers, with the two in midfield fighting a losing battle to win the ball and quickly turn it over. It also can't be a coincidence that our most impressive display to date came without the injured Javier Pastore to disrupt the balance of the side.

Bordeaux also helped by being fairly dreadful, and the result never looked in doubt once Matuidi had charged onto Zlatan's exquisite through ball to open the scoring in the 40th minute. Cedric Carrasso in the home goal did well to take some of the pace off of Blaise's initial shot, but the France midfielder reacted quickly to chase in and poke the ball over the line.

The second half was completely one-way traffic, with Moura, who was dashing around like a greyhound on acid, to the fore. The Brazilian scored his first PSG goal when he collected another pinpoint pass, this time from Verratti, to beat Carrasso at his near post. Further goals would have followed were it not for the brilliance of Carrasso, who twice saved well from Zlatan and prevented Lucas Digne from notching a debut goal.

"The team is starting to understand what we can do, and adhere to what we're proposing," added Blanc. "This evening's match, without preparation, is proof of that. 

"Bordeaux struggled in attack, but we have been very good in keeping possession. We've been working on that since 1 July, we really emphasise it and it's in this match that you could see it best."

Long may it continue. Certainly a possession-based game will serve PSG well if they are to make progress in this season's Champions League. Our European campaign begins on Tuesday in Greece, where we will face Olympiakos,

Man of the Match: Lucas Moura - Could Friday's match be the night where he came of age in a PSG shirt? Here's hoping.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bordeaux vs PSG: Wedding bells for Leo as Blanc returns to old flame

Choosing who to invite to your wedding is not an easy business.

With limited space available, much of which is taken up by people who get invites by default (parents, siblings, pervy old uncles you only see once a decade), work colleagues can be a problematic area; who do you actually like enough to share your big day with? Will Miss Y the saleswoman get offended if she doesn’t get an invitation but her mate, Miss X the receptionist, does? It’s a complete minefield.

Former Paris Saint-Germain director of football Leonardo recently celebrated his marriage to Italian TV presenter Anna Billo. You may remember that Leo proposed to his long-term partner live on television earlier this year, a romantic move which didn’t seem to please the fragrant Miss Billo at the time. However, she must have relented in private, as the pair tied the knot last Saturday.

Presumably Leo and Anna spent some time putting their guestlist together, and it turns out poor old Carlo Ancelotti wasn’t on it. Given that the pair weren’t getting on so well last season, this probably isn’t a surprise, but it is a fairly public snub given that PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and general manager Jean-Claude Blanc were present for the ceremony. More fool Leonardo I say, I reckon Ancelotti would be a brilliant wedding guest; he’d just be chilling at the bar, grinning, smoking cigars and making the other guests happy. And he’d be good for a decent pressie.

Definitely not on the guest list was current PSG boss Laurent Blanc, but he’s got bigger problems to deal with ahead of tonight’s match against his former club Bordeaux.

Chief among them is a lack of players for the match at the Stade Chaban-Delmas. With Javier Pastore (thigh) and Jeremy Menez (kidney) sidelined, and Ezequiel Lavezzi absent from the squad for reasons unknown – presumably tiredness after his international trip to Argentina – Blanc has two choices; pick some of his tired international players or select a side comprised almost entirely of central midfielders.

It seems likely he’ll opt for the former, with Le Parisien speculating that we’ll stick to the 4-3-3 formation seen in matches of late. This could see Lucas up front alongside Ibra and possibly Hervin Ongenda, who is in line for a full debut if Edinson Cavani is fit enough only for the bench.

At the back Thiago Silva and Maxwell were both in action for Brazil over in the United States, so Lucas Digne and Papus Camara stand by for first starts of the season. The elusive Marquinhos is in the squad, but not yet fit enough to play 90 minutes.

“We will have to wait and see,” said Blanc of his Brazilian players. “They will have a light training session and we'll see how they pull up.

“We may wait until Friday morning, or even afternoon, after the siesta. We have prepared for every eventuality because certain players won't be in top form. However the team looks, we will be heading to Bordeaux looking for the win."

With big games against Olympiakos in the Champions League and Monaco in the league coming up, I doubt either Cavani or Silva will start, but we shall see.

We’ve already beaten Bordeaux once this season, that unmemorable 2-1 win in the Trophee des Champions back in August. Since then Blanc’s former club have picked up four points from their opening four Ligue 1 fixtures, with defeats against Monaco and St Etienne.

Since their last match, the aforementioned defeat to ASSE, the Bordeaux squad has been weakened by the departure of experienced skipper Jaroslav Plasil, who has been shipped out on loan to Italian side Catania.

"Even the two weeks that have passed since [the St Etienne match] have not erased that game from our minds," said manager Francois Gillot, proving he’s no match for Derren Brown in the mind manipulation stakes.

"When we are up against it, when we play with an element of fear, I think we are better. That's human nature. We are afraid of Paris because they are a big team."

Last season an injury-hit PSG team went to Bordeaux and ground out a 1-0 win, Zlatan scoring the only goal in what was the first match after the tragic death of fitness coach Nick Broad. A repeat score-line would be most welcome this evening.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Stupid PSG picture of the week: Get in line for a Zlatan burger

"I always knew that I would not leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer," said Zlatan Ibrahimovic at a press conference yesterday. "The club takes care of me very well."

Always good to near nice words from the Z-man, who is currently away with the Sweden national team. In any case, Ibra can't leave Paris now as he has been immortalised by one of the city's bistros. I'm not entirely sure where in the city one would find this gastronomic delight, but it comes complete with it's own hackneyed Chuck Norris reference.
Pic: @Margot_Dumont
"To share, but Chuck Norris eats a whole one". I'm sure it's more funny in French. But which other PSG players would make good fast food? Here are a few ideas;

Monday, 2 September 2013

PSG 2-0 Guingamp: King Sakho is dead, long live Prince Rabiot?

Today is a sad one for Paris Saint-Germain fans, with the news that Mamadou Sakho has completed his transfer to Liverpool.

I'm sure we'll all miss Mamad's happy smiling face and fondness of over-sized baseball caps, not to mention his usually rock-solid defending. Time pressures permitting, I'm planning a tribute piece for tomorrow's blog, so will go into more detail then.

News of Sakho's impending departure broke on Friday, and there was a certain symbolism about Adrien Rabiot getting on the scoresheet as PSG beat Guingamp 2-0 at the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon. With Sakho and Clement Chantome gone, the club needs a new home-grown hero and the precocious Rabiot could well fit the bill.

Though only 18, anyone who has seen Rabiot play will confirm that, in the immortal words of Harry Redknapp, he's going to be a top top player. He effortlessly glides around the pitch like a swan, belying his tender years, and with half a season's experience playing in the first team on loan at Toulouse under his belt, the time feels right for him to be integrated into the PSG side on a regular basis. There's a good piece about his background on In Bed With Maradona, which you can read here.

"It is true that two of the club emblems [Sakho and Chantome] are gone and it may be time for me to take over," said Rabiot afterwards. "There is also Hervin Ongenda. It's not extra pressure. But I hope there will be others behind me

"I scored for Paris and it's like a childhood dream. Tonight, something extraordinary happened. In addition, I saved the team."

I don't want to put too much pressure on young shoulders, but the teenager could also save us from having to watch too much more of Javier Pastore, who put in another insipid performance as PSG snuck past their newly-promoted opponents thanks to Rabiot and another stoppage-time strike from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Having said on Friday that he sees JP as a number 10, Laurent Blanc promptly stuck El Flaco in midfield again, and the Argentinian left the field to a chorus of boos when he was replaced by Rabiot in the 64th minute.

Overall it wasn't an amazing display from PSG, but we got the job done and I think it's important not to be too harsh on the team. They amassed nearly 70 per cent of possession, had 25 shots on goal and hit the woodwork twice through Ibra and Thiago Silva, who is making a habit of striking the frame of the goal this season.

Statistics aren't the be-all and end-all of course, and it's worrying that it took us more than 90 minutes to put a chance away. But if you're having possession and creating a lot of opportunities then it doesn't take much of an improvement to start scoring goals and winning football matches; this is still a team getting used to a new coach and integrating a new star player (Cavani), and I'm confident it won't be long before we hit our stride properly. If we weren't having the chances to miss I'd be a lot more worried.

Against Guingamp our pressure told in the 91st minute; Motta's free kick was headed goalwards by Alex, goalkeeper Samassa parried the ball out and Rabiot was on hand to shin in his first goal for the club.

Moments later Zlatan wrapped things up when he took advantage of some hesitant play from Samassa and Jérémy Sorbon to rob the defender and smash the bouncing ball into the net.

The win takes PSG up to fourth in the table going into the international break. We resume Ligue 1 duties on September 13 away at Bordeaux before table-toppers Monaco's visit to the Parc des Princes on September 22. Woof.

Friday, 30 August 2013

PSG vs EA Guingamp: Three points the bear necessity for Zlatan, Maxwell and Co

“Maxwell is the best guy in the world. I mean if you want to have a teddy bear you have Maxwell.”

As befits an author who has been nominated for Sweden’s top literary award, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a way with words.

Ibra was in particularly dazzling aural form this week, telling all about his friendship with Maxwell. The pair have played together at Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona and now PSG, and their relationship stems back to the days when Ibra was shy retiring teenager in Holland.

"I called Maxwell because Maxwell came to Ajax at the same time as me, so he picked me up at the airport and I got to know him a little bit more," explained Zlatan.

"After two weeks I called Maxwell, I said 'I have problems'. And he was like 'ok', because Maxwell is the best guy in the world. I mean if you want to have a teddy bear you have Maxwell. And I called him I said 'listen, I don't have food at home, I need help'. He said 'come to my place'.

“He put me on the floor with a mattress to sleep, and I was like sleeping in his house for two weeks, I was hanging with him, eating food and driving to training together, and then after one month the first salary came and it became easier for me."

What a heart warming tale of fraternal love. Except the teddy bear part. In fact, the thought of Maxwell as a furry little critter that Zlats cuddles when he’s feeling lonely at night makes me feel a little bit ill. And what would a Maxwell teddy bear look like anyway? Hmm.
Most observers would expect Saturday’s match against Guingamp to be something of a teddy bear’s picnic for PSG. But buoyed by their 2-0 win over Lorient last weekend, Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side will fancy their chances of causing an upset.

 "The match will be very difficult but it's easy to prepare the squad for such games as the players are exceptionally motivated,” said Gourvennec. “It's a huge challenge at the Parc des Princes against world-class players.

“That said I think Paris Saint-Germain are the team that's under the most pressure of any team in the world what with the pressure from the media and the fans."

Last Sunday’s 2-0 win over Nantes removed one burden from boss Laurent Blanc’s shoulders, but with the first win in the bag the task now is to build a run of victories.

Blanc must choose whether to stick with the 4-3-3 system he employed in the Nantes game, or return to the 4-4-2 shape that served us well last season.

“Will we see the 4-3-3 again like we did against Nantes? Why not, I rule nothing out,” said Blanc helpfully in his pre-match press conference, before enlightening us on his thoughts about Javier Pastore, who was part of the midfield three at the Stade de la Beaujoire.

“Pastore, he’s a number 10. We will not play him as a defensive midfielder.”

Given that Pastore’s place in the team seems to be nailed-on, I wonder if we’ll see him up top against Guingamp, positioned alongside Ibra behind Cavani. If so, Ezequiel Lavezzi could make way after an unimpressive showing against Nantes – winning goal aside – with Marco Verratti coming into midfield.

We have no new injury worries, and the good news is that Jeremy Menez is back in training and will be available for selection after the international break. Even if we don’t buy anyone else before the transfer window closes, having Jezza back in the squad will be like a new signing. Well, for me anyway.

Yesterday’s Champions League draw saw PSG handed a favourable outcome for a second year running, as they were grouped with Benfica, Olympiakos and Anderlecht.

Obviously there are no easy games in the Champions League etc and so on, but having avoided the big-guns, no doubt the squad will be confident of their chances of progressing to the last 16.

Kick off in the Guingamp match is at 4pm GMT tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Rumour Mill: Cabaye saga rumbles on, Liverpool and Roma in Sakho chase

The current transfer window seems to be moving at the pace of a glacier; you know it’s going somewhere, but it’s impossible to see any progress and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Gareth Bale to Real Madrid? Wayne Rooney to Chelsea?Yohan Cabaye to Arsenal? These transfers have been threatening to happen for some weeks, but seem to be hovering somewhere in the distance like very expensive mirages.

Paris Saint-Germain have invested in a few expensive mirages over the last couple of years, so it’s probably not a surprise to see the club’s name linked to all and sundry as we approach September 2.

Chief among the possible inbound transfers is Newcastle midfielder Cabaye, a player Laurent Blanc has been making kissy faces at all summer long. Sadly for Blanc, he has yet to get past first base with the former Lille skipper as others in the club’s hierarchy are less keen to push ahead with the transfer.

“He is a great player and I know Laurent Blanc likes him,” said president Nasser, like an over-protective parent stepping in between two teenage lovers.

“But we have not made any offers on it at Newcastle. Anything can still happen between now and September 2 .”

Technically it’s true that anything could happen, but I doubt it will. I can’t shake the feeling that Newcastle are bigging up PSG’s interest in the player in order to extract as much money as possible from Arsenal’s war chest. We shall see.

In terms of other incomings, Le Parisien says PSG are “supervising” Ajax right-back Ricardo Van Rhijn. Supervising must mean something different in French, as I doubt we are making him his dinner and checking he turns up for training on time.

Reports in Spain yesterday had linked us with a €40million offer for Barcelona forward Pedro, but this seems to have been denied by everybody involved.

Mamadou Sakho’s future remains uncertain. The want-away defender was left out of the squad all-together for Sunday’s match at Nantes, meaning he was forced to sit in the stands wearing giant headphones and a baseball cap that obscured most of his head. Poor chap.

Anyway, Liverpool remain Sakho’s destination of choice, but Brendan Rogers and Co are not keen on meeting the €15million asking price. AC Milan could enter the race if they secure Champions League qualification against PSV Eindhoven tonight. Roma are interested too, but would like a season-long loan deal with an option to buy. It’s all very confusing.

From PSG’s point of view, the club seem to still be labouring under the misapprehension that they can convince Sakho to stay, despite the fact the player is clearly itching to get away.

"He is a child of the club, like Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, it's hard to imagine him wearing another club's jersey,” said President Nasser. "I'm a little surprised that he wants to go; I had a discussion with him and my position is very clear and he knows it. We want to keep him and will do anything to do so.”

Everything apart from pick him ahead of the clearly over-the-hill Alex that is. Don't remember Liverpool ever dropping Gerrard for Jordan Henderson.

Definitely sur le depart is Momo Sissoko. Having rejected Cardiff for financial reasons, Momo’s agent has apparently been busy convincing Everton that their midfield is lacking a lumbering liability with a knack of picking up red cards. If that fails, there is some interest from Turkish clubs to fall back on.

Mathieu Bodmer is also looking abroad for more money a new challenge after turning down domestic approaches from Bordeaux, Nice and Rennes.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Nantes 1-2 PSG: Lavezzi's precious strike gives Blanc welcome three points

It wasn't particularly pretty, but PSG's season is up and running properly after last night's 2-1 win in Nantes.

Last season it took us four matches to secure a first victory, so in that respect Laurent Blanc is making better progress than his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti.

"I hope it's the first of a long winning run otherwise I'll be packing my bags before I've had chance to redecorate my office," said Blanc afterwards.
"It was a tough result to get, but it's one that is more than precious to us. I thought we could have had an easier match. The beginning of our season has been complicated, and even getting a win has been complicated."

Things didn't look particularly complicated for about half an hour. Lining up in a new-fangled 4-3-3 formation, with Pastore dropping into central midfield alongside Motta and Matuidi, PSG dominated proceedings early on.

Though chances were at a premium, we kept the ball well, and Zlatan had an effort blocked by the body of Canaris keeper Remy Riou. The possession eventually told in the 24th minute; Pastore found Ibra, and his swift turn and inch-perfect pass set Cavani clear down the right channel. El Matador took a couple of touches before dispatching an expert low finish across Riou for his second goal in two games. 

So far so good, but the goal seemed to spur Nantes into life. Boss Michel Der Zakarian switched his side's system from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3, matching PSG man-for-man, and for a 30-minute spell either side of half-time the home side were well on top.

Salvatore Sirigu saved well from Vincent Basset and Cichero before half-time, but was powerless to stop the 53rd minute equaliser. A free kick wide on the Nantes left was whipped into the back post, and the ball bounced off the ample thigh of Alex and into the net for an own-goal.

At this point the home side looked the more likely winners, with PSG struggling to keep hold of the ball for any length of time, and Zlatan cutting an increasingly frustrated figure up front. Indeed it took a flying save from Sirigu to prevent Bedoya's looping header finding the top corner, as the fanatical, noisy, home crowd sensed an upset.

But then Nantes seemed to run out of steam, and PSG, pepped up by the introduction of Lucas and Verratti, found a second wind. The previously quiet Ezequiel Lavezzi gave notice of what was to come with a powerful run down the left, and with 17 minutes remaining El Pocho made the break-through.

A slick passing move down the left saw the ball fed inside to Ibra, who flicked a first time pass round the corner for Blaise Matuidi to run on to. His low ball across the six-yard box was missed completely by Cavani, but ran to Lucas at the back post. Though his shot was cleared off the line, Lavezzi was on hand to ram in the rebound.

Overall it's difficult to take too much from the game other than the points. The 4-3-3 set-up worked to a point, but it was worrying how easily we lost control of the game to a team newly promoted from Ligue 2. Similarly, the Zlavani partnership showed some really promising signs in the first half, but in the second period the two were on completely different wavelengths, to the extent that they got in each other's way on a couple of occasions. 

With another of the new-boys, Guingamp, next up at the Parc des Princes on Saturday, Blanc will be hoping his team can start to build some momentum and close the four point gap that already exists between ourselves and Marseille.

Man of the Match: Salvatore Sirigu - On a night where most of PSG's outfield players put in stuttering performances, Sirigu's brilliant goalkeeping kept his side in it. I really don't like his new hair cut though.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Nantes vs PSG: Can Parisiens pounce on first win of the season?

Watching Paris Saint-Germain take on Ligue 1's smaller teams often reminds me of my cat (left) when he's hunting a spider.

You know that the cat, with his massive size and speed advantage, will usually prevail. What's more, the cat is well aware of his own superiority, and is often happy to toy with his pray before administering the killer blow. But every now and again something goes wrong; Pamplemousse (yes, my cat is called Grapefruit) gets bored, or does something stupid, or the spider spots a way out and escapes to safety.

Last Sunday the Ajaccio spider's survival instincts meant it left the Parce des Princes with all it's legs intact. And a hard-earned point. Laurent Blanc will be hoping his PSG side can rediscover their killer instinct when they go in search of a first league win of the season at newly-promoted Nantes.

"I don't know this Nantes team very well. But I am expecting a very similar match to the one against Ajaccio. Their team will be giving it 200 per cent," said Thiago Motta, who obviously won't be embarking on a career as a mathematician when he retires from football.

Perhaps feeling he hadn't patronised the Les Canaris enough, Motta continued: "Perhaps they will defend a little less than Ajaccio because they are playing at home in front of their fans. We will have to be careful to avoid getting hit on the counterattack and conceding the opening goal, because when you are trailing on the scoreboard, your opponents can just sit back and wait for you to come."

Like Motta I won't pretend to have seen a massive amount of Nantes, who won promotion from Ligue 2 last season by finishing third behind Monaco and Guingamp. Back in the top flight after a four year absence, they won their first game back, 2-0 against Bastia, but were beaten last time out by Lorient. Filip Djordjevic, who scored 20 goals last season and netted against Bastia, is their main threat. Probably.

Unfortunately for Nantes, they may lose the points obtained against Bastia as they stand accused of fielding a player who was carrying a suspension. You can read a bit about this incident, and the club's resurgence under current boss Michel Der Zakarian - a former Montpellier team-mate of Blanc's - in this excellent article by Canaris fan Simon Scutt on French Football Weekly

For PSG, Blanc will not be able to call on Clement Chantome, who has joined Toulouse on loan for the season and made his debut in Friday night's 0-0 draw with Monaco. Blaise Matuidi is a doubt after picking up a cut to the head against Ajaccio, but he trained normally yesterday at Clairefontaine and a decision will be made later about whether he can start. Marco Verratti stands by to deputise. One other change could see Lucas drop to the bench, with Ezequiel Lavezzi starting on the right flank.

Kick off at the sold-out Stade de la Beaujoire is at 8pm English time.

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