Friday, 8 March 2013

Praise for Blaise: magnificent Matuidi helps PSG progress in the Champions League

Paris Saint-Germain have progressed to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1994/95 after a 1-1 draw with Valencia on Wednesday.

Unsurprisingly it wasn't pretty; PSG were flatter than a bottle of Veuve Cliquot that's been left open for a couple of weeks, and fell behind early in the second half when Jonas netted from outside the box.

It was the Brazilian's sixth Champions League strike of the season, but fortunately PSG have a forward of their own who is similarly prolific in Europe. After a spirited run from substitute Kevin Gameiro, the ball broke to Ezequiel Lavezzi in the box, and he netted his fifth goal in his last four Champions League outings to send PSG through 3-2 on aggregate.

Although Lavezzi got the crucial strike, the man taking the plaudits after the game was the irrepressible Blaise Matuidi. As has often been the case this season, Matuidi was his team's outstanding player, making 19 interceptions and enjoying an impressive passing accuracy of 96 per cent. Looking beyond the bare statistics, his energetic running really drove the team forward on an evening where many of his team-mates were off colour.

"It's a great moment for us," said the man himself afterwards. "We're in the running in three competitions; there aren't many sides in Europe who are in the same situation. We'll fight to go as far as possible in each one. It's historic. Tonight we pulled off something amazing, we shouldn't be scared of saying so."

"Matuidi was fantastic. But that's no secret, he's fantastic all the time," said Carlo Ancelotti. "At the moment, he's one of the best midfielders in Europe."

Indeed, it's no surprise that Mino Raiola, irritating super-agent who looks after Zlatan, Maxwell, and a load of other top players, is said to be sniffing around trying to add Matuidi to his stable of stars.

As a long-term fan of Big Bad Blaise, I'm delighted to have witnessed the way he has progress in the last 18 months, to the point where he must be one of the first names on the team-sheet for club and country. Alongside his obvious footballing talent, he seems to be a nice chap too, as evidenced by his recent visit to home-suburb of Fontenay-sous-Bois to support a street-dance project.

"Blaise could play all positions, even in goal," recalled his first coach, Jacques Zilberschlag. "He was a winner who lived for football. When his parents went away for the weekend, he stayed at home - he did not miss a game."

Dedication's what you need if you want to make it as a pro kids. The only possible cloud on Matuidi's horizon is the number of game he has played this season. As Le Parisien notes today, he has already taken part in 45 matches this season, and is set to reach his half-century before the end of March with some important matches coming up for PSG and France, whose manager Didier Deschamps names his squad for two upcoming World Cup qualifiers later today.

"His performance against Valencia does not surprise me," said Deschamps, who was in the BeIn Sport studio as a pundit for Wednesday's match. "But I am a little worried to see him play 90 minutes every four days (...) when I saw him on the ground [injured], I had some chills."

You weren't the only one Didier. None of PSG's other midfielders have Matuidi's box-to-box attributes, apart from perhaps Clement Chantome, who is obviously not performing at anywhere near his level. We can ill-afford to lose him for an extended period of time, so let's hope Carlo is considering giving the 25-year-old a rest ahead of tomorrow's winnable-looking home game against Nancy.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Grants For Single Moms