Full strength PSG take aim at Anderlecht

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty ImagesA Champions League win against Anderlecht would enable PSG boss Laurent Blanc to rotate his squad for future league and cup fixtures.

Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta return to the Paris Saint-Germain squad from domestic suspension ahead of the trip to face RSC Anderlecht in the Champions League. The Italian duo's absence was notable during PSG's 4-0 demolition of SC Bastia in Ligue 1 over the weekend and both will likely step straight back into the line-up.

Teenage sensation Adrien Rabiot was excellent partnering with Blaise Matuidi in the midfield as Laurent Blanc changed formation in the victory over the Corsicans, but Le President is likely to want to field a full strength side in Brussels on Wednesday. A win against the Belgian champions and the side from the French capital will have nine points from a possible nine in Group C, putting them within reach of the knockout rounds.

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Even at this early point in the competition, being in such a comfortable position would afford Blanc the luxury of being able to heavily rotate his squad in the final three group matches. On this weekend's form, despite fielding an under-strength side, that is no bad thing. Handing Champions League games to fringe players, particularly the youngsters, could prove vital come the end of what is expected to be a trophy-laden season. But with maximum points a priority, expect the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Maxwell to also return.

Anderlecht at home in a fortnight will be one of the first opportunities for rotation that Blanc has identified in this season's competition and he will be keen to not make the same mistakes as predecessor Carlo Ancelotti. Last year, squad rotation was a problem. It was almost non-existent in Europe and a lack of opportunities caused problems within an over-inflated group.

No less than seven disgruntled first team players left the side in January. The winter break was used by PSG to offload the likes of Nene to Al-Gharafa and Guillaume Hoarau to Dalian Aerbin on permanent transfers. Four others were sent out on loan and only one, Rabiot, now remains at the club. Peguy Luyindula was also released.

David Beckham and Lucas Moura were added to what was already essentially a new team following a host of arrivals at the start of the season. This meant PSG were effectively a work in progress until the end of the campaign.

The unit is more settled now and the benefits of that serene atmosphere are clear for all to see in the way they are playing at present.

Blanc is more adept at rotating his squad than Ancelotti was and the players, with the exception of Mamadou Sakho, who has now joined Liverpool, know that they will get a chance under him. Even Jeremy Menez, who stormed out of the stadium after learning that he would not be used as a substitute against Benfica, has been shown by Blanc that he will get his chance.

However, PSG are likely to go full strength at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium on Wednesday with the 4-3-3 formation that has served them so well returning in an effort to make it three wins from three and maximum points. Doing so will allow Blanc to focus on the Ibrahimovic-Cavani partnership, given that PSG should dominate the Belgian champions even if they are not at their best.

Anderlecht are struggling domestically at present and John van den Brom's side have already lost four times in the Jupiler Pro League this season. Watching Friday's 2-0 victory over an RAEC Mons side that are rock bottom of the table with just two points from 10 games, an extremely shaky defence was exposed.

There are of course threats in Les Mauves' squad; Aleksandar Mitrovic, in particular, is a talented player and 16-year-old midfielder Youri Tielemans has been a revelation this season. However, considering the control PSG like to have on games when lined up with three men in the centre of midfield, it is impossible to see Anderlecht enjoying enough of the ball to trouble Blanc's side. Anderlecht keeping two in form world-class strikers from scoring at the other end is even more unlikely.

Assuming PSG win in Belgium, Blanc will then be able to rotate the squad in Europe as he did against Bastia in Ligue 1 last weekend. For PSG to be competitive on all fronts, this rotation of players is absolutely essential.

Last season's showings in the Coupe de la Ligue and the Coupe de France were disappointing; the team will be expected to win both this campaign. Rotating the team when possible will enable Blanc to have PSG in their best shape across all fronts, losing little quality. Crucially it will also mean that a raft of mid-season departures do not undermine him.

Before that happens though, PSG need to win their first encounter with Anderlecht in 21 years in order to not make a meal of a highly favourable group draw. Prolonging qualification by dropping points here will tax a squad that can look thin after a few suspensions and injuries, as shown by the formation change for the Bastia match.


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