PSG out to improve poor history against Lorient

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty ImagesLorient has always been a difficult opponent for Blaise Matuidi and PSG, as evidenced by last season's opening day draw.

Paris Saint-Germain host FC Lorient on Friday and will be looking to get back on track after being held to a 2-2 draw by AS Saint-Etienne at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard last Sunday. Although perhaps the defending champions did not deserve all three points against Les Verts, a draw was a fair result based on the character shown by Laurent Blanc's men. However, the result did allow AS Monaco to pull level at the top of Ligue 1 once more and the pair are now only separated by goal difference.

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So, Lorient should be the perfect opponent to rebound against then, right? Wrong. In their last nine top-flight meetings at the Parc des Princes, Les Merlus have won five times, while PSG have only won twice and been held to two draws. If Saint-Etienne are an historic bete noire, then Lorient are a frustrating bogey side for the Parisians.

The Bretons are a team that relish their trips to the French capital and last season's instalment of this fixture was an entertaining affair. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, making his debut in Le Championnat, saw his team fall two goals behind in the first half. The Swede inspired a second half comeback and grabbed two as PSG salvaged a point, but the game no doubt made an impression on the talismanic striker who will miss out on Friday through injury.

Coming into this match, Christian Gourcuff's side are in poor form. FCL have lost four of their last five league matches, as well as suffering Coupe de la Ligue elimination at the hands of FC Nantes in midweek. But PSG should beware; Lorient started both of the last two seasons with an away day in the French capital. Although they drew last season, they produced an upset in 2011-2012 when they beat PSG in front of new owners Qatar Sports Investments in the opening match of the new era.

Lorient will be highly motivated coming into the game; it is as if their season starts here. PSG also have plenty to play for though. There is pressure to not slip up against another bogey side and give Monaco a golden opportunity to put themselves back in the title race driving seat. But simply avoiding defeat would also see Blanc's impressive start to life in the capital confirmed.

Win or draw, PSG will have gone a 16th successive games under Blanc without defeat. Doing so would usurp predecessor Carlo Ancelotti's longest unbeaten run in charge of the side last year, confirming PSG's improvement under Le President. The danger of complacency is still there and the defending champions will have to fight it hard, but this match should be straightforward for the capital club.

The Lorient clash presents Blanc with the perfect opportunity to experiment with his side, perhaps lightly shuffling his pack. But one enforced change that the Frenchman will have to make is playing Edinson Cavani without the injured Ibrahimovic. The Uruguayan has already proved that he can impose himself better when Ibra is not playing, but Lorient is an opportunity missed the pair to improve their understanding.

El Matador and the mercurial Swede were unable to function adequately together last time out against Saint-Etienne. But as the recent 4-0 win over Bastia showed, PSG do not need both on the field at the same time in order to win games. Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti or Thiago Motta will likely continue in the centre of midfield, but Ibrahimovic's absence will possibly resent Lucas Moura with an opportunity wide on the right, with Cavani moving into the middle.

Another intriguing decision for PSG fans will be whether or not Blanc decides to play Javier Pastore. The Argentine has been injured, according to the club, for the last few weeks and missed the Bastia, Anderlecht and Saint-Etienne games. But French media reports have suggested that El Flaco's absence was instead down to his reluctance to play in front of the fans who have resorted to jeering the 42 million euro man because of his woeful displays.

It is expected that the 24-year-old playmaker will be available for selection once again on Friday, but it is unclear where Blanc would utilise him. Out wide is one possibility, but with Moura in better form and now desperate to regain his place in the Brazil side after being left out of the Selecao's November friendlies, it is difficult to see the Argentine simply walking back into the starting XI. Matuidi, Verratti and Motta's performances in the middle mean that there is no room for him there either and Lavezzi is unlikely to be removed from his wide left role.

Regardless of whether or not Pastore plays though, it is time for PSG to put their Merlu malaise behind them and dominate Lorient as thoroughly as they have other opponents this season. The defending champions last beat FCL at home back in 2008, when a late Loris Arnaud goal sealed a 3-2 win. A victory for Blanc and his side keeps the pressure on Monaco who then travel to face Lille OSC on Sunday aiming to break down Les Dogues' watertight defence.

With two home matches coming up next week, PSG should be aiming to take full advantage home comforts domestically and in Europe ahead of the upcoming international break.


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