PSG prepare for 1,000th Parc des Princes match

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesPSG will take to the Parc des Princes pitch for the 1,000th time when they face Bastia this weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain will welcome SC Bastia to the Parc des Princes on Saturday after a two-week break from domestic action. Last time out Laurent Blanc's side produced a heroic effort to beat hated rivals Olympique de Marseille 2-1 at the Stade Velodrome to secure Le Classique's bragging rights.

This weekend's match is an important one but for different reasons. PSG take on their Corsican visitors in what will be their 1,000th game at their Parc des Princes home since they moved into the stadium in 1973, three years after the club was formed. In that time, the capital club have created plenty of special memories and the fans have been treated to some exceptional talents.

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Looking back with some personal nostalgia, two of club legend Pauleta's goals immediately stand out for me.

The first is this sublime effort from a ridiculously tight angle against fierce rivals Marseille and Fabien Barthez back in 2004. The second, a piece of the highest quality attacking play, came against (you guessed it) OM again just seven months after the first goal. Charles-Edouard Coridon's sensational scorpion kick in the Champions League that season also ranks up there for me, though the list could go on and on given the volume of quality goals.

But Saturday could also have more of a strange rather than celebratory feel to it considering that so many of Blanc's star players will either be suspended or injured. Any potential festivities will have a more low-key feel to them without the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Salvatore Sirigu, Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta and Gregory van der Wiel being involved.

Ibrahimovic is rated as uncertain for the clash after he picked up a knock while on international duty with Sweden; Sirigu suffered a minor injury upon returning to PSG training on Thursday. Verratti and Motta are suspended, while van der Wiel had to withdraw from the latest Netherlands squad with a knee injury. Silva has stepped up his recovery from a thigh injury, but is not thought to be in contention for the game.

With so many absentees, Blanc has a decision to make over whether the team stick with the 4-3-3 formation that has served them well so far this season.

Le President will have been loath to move away from the tactic that his side have adapted so well to over the past few months. But Javier Pastore being ruled out of contention through injury late on has made it almost impossible not to now.

Verratti and Motta being suspended means that Blaise Matuidi, Adrien Rabiot and Pastore would have had to occupy the three central roles. Nobody else, except for possibly Maxwell who has filled in there on occasions, can play there. So there is a necessity to change things up and go with a new shape.

Ibrahimovic's potential absence will allow Blanc to move summer record signing Edinson Cavani into his preferred central role, possibly also giving Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez a chance on either side. Ezequiel Lavezzi was in goal-scoring form for Argentina over the international break, netting a double against Peru. But his travel exertions may mean that Blanc chooses to conserve his energy for the trip to face Anderlecht next Wednesday instead.

Sirigu's absence will mean a rare chance for Nicolas Douchez to impress in goal, while Christophe Jallet is another player who will be looking to profit from an injury to one of his teammates. Should van der Wiel be forced to miss out with his knee injury, the Frenchman will be given a chance to reclaim the starting place that he lost at the beginning of the season after some poor performances.

Although it is unlikely that Jallet will regain that spot over the long term, it does give Blanc an opportunity to rotate his squad. Maxwell played in both of Brazil's matches while on international duty, so he could be rested in order to give Lucas Digne some valuable game time. The central defensive partnership of Alex and Marquinhos is unlikely to be broken up though.

The most pressing issue for Blanc is whether or not he and the team can cope without Verratti, Motta and Pastore.

If they can by playing someone out of position, then PSG will stick with the 4-3-3 that has made them so formidable under the French coach. If not, he will need to make some alterations. Given the struggles that the defending champions endured at the start of the season when trying to find their best formation, this could make the Bastia clash a tricky one.

Since Blanc's arrival, the standard of performance has been raised so high that even an ordinary showing from the team means they are extremely difficult to beat because of their impressive ball retention. If they are able to keep intact the three-man midfield that is so vital to controlling possession, then it is difficult to see them losing to a Corsican side that has never beaten PSG in the French capital in any competition.

If it is not broken, then normally you should not fix it. But although the formation is not broken in this instance, the suspensions and potential absences through injury make it difficult to continue in the same style.

Blanc will not want to allow Bastia to be the party poopers on Saturday, immediately undoing the hard work that the team put in to pull level at the top of Ligue 1 with Monaco before the international break.


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