PSG look to overcome November hoodoo with Nice win

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Xavier Laine/Getty ImagesPSG will have to overcome the loss of creative midfielder Marco Verratti who is sidelined with a knee injury.

Paris Saint-Germain welcome OGC Nice to the Parc des Princes on Saturday knowing that a win, depending on how title rivals AS Monaco fare against Evian Friday night, will keep them two points clear. November is a traditionally difficult month for PSG though; last week's 4-0 win over FC Lorient already has them in sight of a record points haul for the month since Qatar Sports Investments took over in 2011.

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Under Carlo Ancelotti last season, the side from the capital collected just four points from a possible 12. That difficult run included two home defeats to AS Saint-Etienne and Stade Rennais FC, as well as crashing out of the Coupe de la Ligue on penalties to Les Verts. The year before that, led by Antoine Kombouare, the team took one point from a possible nine, also losing twice -- but to AS Nancy and Olympique de Marseille.

Victory over Nice would make it six points from a possible six this time around, with a trip to face Stade de Reims still to come at the end of the month. Given the way Laurent Blanc's side have been playing of late, both games are more than winnable. The 1-1 draw at home to Anderlecht on Tuesday should serve as a small reminder though that PSG cannot take these games for granted and will have to produce another high quality performance in order to triumph. To help that, the defending champions should be able to welcome back Edinson Cavani after he missed the midweek clash with Anderlecht through injury.

Following the Uruguayan's absence against the Belgian champions and PSG's subsequent below-par performance, the French press have been debating how "indispensable" he has been for Blanc's side so far. With nine goals in eight starts, the statistics suggest that EL Matador is integral to the capital club at present, despite his and Ibrahimovic's struggles to play sufficiently well together.

Thiago Silva is once again in the squad and after playing for the final 28 minutes on Tuesday and is expected to return at the heart of the defence. The Brazilian captain replaced Marquinhos in midweek and may well partner Alex on Saturday as he continues his recovery from injury. Blanc will be desperate to give the Selecao star as much time as possible considering that he has been deemed fit enough to be called up by his country for this month's friendlies.

Marco Verratti's late withdrawal through knee trouble will be a big blow though. The Italian, who turned 21 this week, has been a vital player in Blanc's preferred three-man midfield this season and his creativity and tenacity in the middle of the park will be missed against Nice. The silver lining in Verratti's injury, if any, is that it will give a second consecutive opportunity to teenager Adrien Rabiot from the start. The 18-year-old has been impressive so far this season, growing in confidence and maturity, and this bonus game time will aid his development.

Blanc's comments regarding Jeremy Menez in his pre-match press conference suggest that the offer of a new contract is on the table. "Nothing is stopping him from signing a new deal," Le President revealed, but whether or not he plays against Nice will be a good indication as to where he features in Blanc's plans moving forward. A good performance against Lorient will have helped his cause, but Lucas Moura's more impressive display likely means that he will get the nod ahead of Menez with Cavani back in the fold.

The match will see Mathieu Bodmer make his return to the Parc des Princes, months after leaving on a free transfer. Regularly playing out of position in defence this season, his deployment is indicative of how thinly covered Claude Puel's side are in certain positions this season. Les Aiglons are also suffering from something of a goalkeeping crisis with first choice keeper David Ospina injured and back-up Joris Delle out on loan. PSG should make most of it and look to put their visitors under the sort of sustained pressure that was lacking against Anderlecht.

PSG have won four of their last 10 home meetings with Nice so it is not exactly the most comfortable fixture traditionally for the capital club. Puel's side will be keen to bounce back after two consecutive defeats after beating Marseille 1-0 at the Allianz Riviera last month, but Blanc's men should have enough to see off their Cote d'Azur opponents.

Verratti will be a miss, but Cavani's return is a big boost and the possibility of heading into the clash second in the table with Monaco in action on Friday should be motivation enough. The need to keep winning with Les Monegasques breathing down their necks should inspire PSG to shake off their tag as perennial November strugglers and head into the international break atop Ligue 1.


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