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.


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