Marquinhos and Digne ready for PSG debut

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Lucas Digne should slot in at full-back for PSG.GettyImagesLucas Digne should slot in at full-back for PSG.

Two months after joining the French champions, Paris Saint-Germain fans could finally get to see summer signings Marquinhos and Lucas Digne make their first appearances for the club, against Bordeaux on Friday. Two of the capital club's three new arrivals, the Brazilian teenager and the French under-21 international have so far only been visible on the substitutes' bench, with the former struggling with injuries since arriving.

With a host of international stars, particularly the South American contingent, likely to be absent from the starting line-up to face Les Girondins, Laurent Blanc's enforced squad rotation should finally see both players given a chance. The big question is, will either player start?

A recent addition to the Brazil team at the not-so-tender age of 31, Maxwell has been on international duty in his home country and then the USA in the past fortnight, so Digne is almost certain to start. It is about time too. Despite Maxwell's unerring consistency and impressive stamina, the Selecao star was overworked last season and starting him in Bordeaux is an unnecessary risk when you have a player of Digne's quality ready to replace him.

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It will be interesting to see what the Frenchman brings to the team in Maxwell's place given that they are players with very different qualities. Although both capable of defending and attacking in equal measure, Digne is faster than the Brazilian and arguably more of a threat going forward. Particularly in the 4-3-3 formation seen at times so far this season. His ability to maraud up and down the left flank will be extremely effective and give the side some much needed width.

Marquinhos starting the match at the Stade Chaban Delmas is much less likely though.

The 19-year-old has struggled with injuries since arriving for €32 million in July and, should he not be fit enough to start alongside Alex in central defence, the first game-related questions regarding the departure of Mamadou Sakho will be asked. Although the talented teenager is thought to be fit enough to travel to Bordeaux, it is not yet clear whether he is in good enough condition to start, with assistant coach Jean-Louis Gasset suggesting that he is perhaps not.

"We shall see," Blanc's assistant told France Bleu 107.1 on Wednesday. "So far he has only played 45 minutes with the reserves."

The Brazilian's absence means that Blanc will almost certainly turn to veteran Zoumana Camara instead of risking Thiago Silva so soon after international duty. At 34-years-old, the Frenchman is one of the elder statesmen of the PSG team, but only made six league appearances last season.

Starting a player who has not featured in more than 20 league matches in a single campaign since 2009-10 in such an important game is a big risk given his lack of match sharpness. However, Blanc insisted in preseason that he only wanted four central defenders to choose from so no bleating is expected from Le President over Sakho's departure, despite it leaving him short-handed.

Jeremy Menez's return from injury will be like a new signing for PSG, but unfortunately it looks like he too will not be fit to play a part in Bordeaux. Despite having been back in training for the past few weeks, the Frenchman is suffering in hospital from a kidney problem and is certain to miss out, further limiting Blanc's options going forward.

"Menez is not ready," according to Gasset. "He had a slight problem this weekend, a complication with his kidneys. He has not trained for several days."

The 26-year-old's absence is a big blow and so too is the news that Javier Pastore will likely miss out, despite a string of poor performances so far this season. The Argentine is struggling with a foot injury and is not likely to be fit for another two weeks, increasing Blanc's woes ahead of the trip to face his former side.

With so many players potentially absent, the game has a similar feel to it as the home defeat to Rennes last season. In November, Carlo Ancelotti was faced with a number of absences and had to name an under-strength side, resulting in a 2-1 home defeat for PSG that almost proved costly for the Italian.

Although a defeat would not be fatal for the defending champions, it would put the pressure back on Blanc and his side going into next week's clash with Monaco at the Parc des Princes. Also, it would not be the first time that some of the team's players have played a league game immediately after returning from international duty.

Silva played for Brazil against Colombia in New York three days before starting in that defeat to Rennes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi were involved in PSG's 3-1 home win over Bastia in February, just 48 hours after facing each other when Sweden met Argentina. Blanc's players have certainly seen worse, but in neither November nor February did they have a game less than four days later.

Next Tuesday, PSG take on Olympiacos in Greece, so the coach must prioritise and choose which game he needs his players freshest for. The upside of this selection crisis is that talented youngsters such as Adrien Rabiot, Hervin Ongenda and Kingsley Coman could all be given priceless game time.


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