Evian visit a tricky one for PSG

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Xavier Laine/Getty ImagesMarquinhos looks to be in line for a start on PSG's back line at Evian.

Following their thumping 4-0 victory over Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain travel to Annecy to take on Evian Thonon Gaillard FC in Ligue 1 on Wednesday. Laurent Blanc is expected to rotate his side with a number of potential injury worries, but Le President might also care to reflect on PSG's Coupe de France exit at the hands of Les Croix de Savoie last season before making too many changes.

- Report: Motta and Pastore staying at PSG

Little under eight months ago, the side from the capital travelled to the Parc des Sports for a quarterfinal match up against the eventual Coupe de France finalists. Then under Carlo Ancelotti, the side from the capital fielded a heavily rotated side and were dumped out of the competition on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal and extra time. PSG had just suffered a cruel defeat on away goals against Spanish giants Barcelona in the Champions League and been lauded for their efforts under the Italian.

The woeful performance that followed in Annecy smacked of complacency and prompted criticism of the side for not placing enough importance on the domestic cups, having exited both on penalties last year. Blanc will take a different approach to the cup competitions, given his experience of them, but he also needs to make sure that his team do not get overconfident in the league given the two sides' differing form. Pascal Dupraz's side have already shown that they are adept at bringing the defending champions down a peg or two. Memories of their most recent encounter, a fiery 1-0 victory for PSG in which four players saw red as the clash turned ugly after the full-time whistle, will also mean that there is more needle to this one than normal. Marco Verratti and David Beckham saw red in normal time, while Salvatore Sirigu and ETG's now departed striker Saber Khalifa were also dismissed on a wild night, just 11 days after their Coupe de France encounter.

Going into Wednesday's match, Blanc will be without Alex, Thiago Motta and Ezequiel Lavezzi, with the three left behind in the capital. Alex and Motta picked up knocks against Lyon and were overlooked so that they can recover before Saturday's home game against FC Sochaux-Montbeliard, but no reason has been given for Lavezzi's absence. Considering his agent's presence in Paris this week and the Argentine's current situation ahead of the World Cup -- lack of form and the rumours surrounding him -- it suggests that all is not well with El Pocho.

Lavezzi's absence will hand an opportunity to Lucas Moura or Jeremy Menez, while Alex will make way for Marquinhos. Adrien Rabiot can easily replace Motta for a match, but Blanc may keep faith in Javier Pastore instead after the Argentine put in an improved performance against Lyon. The Argentine likes facing Evian and scored in both of the encounters in Annecy last season, so Blanc may decide to avoid making unnecessary changes and bring Blaise Matuidi back into the starting XI in place of Motta.

Pastore occasionally demonstrated his excellent range of passing on Sunday and has shown a greater willingness to involve himself physically in his last few performances, resulting in a yellow card against OL. While getting more out of the 24-year-old than at any other point in the season so far, Blanc would be forgiven for starting the enigmatic playmaker in a bid to finally get him back on top form and restore some self-confidence. Otherwise, Maxwell is nursing a knock after the Lyon victory and will likely be replaced by Lucas Digne, while Christophe Jallet could return to the side in place of Gregory van der Wiel.

Ligue 1's two top goal scorers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani will continue up front and come up against the league's two most porous defences within three days of each other. Evian have shipped 27 goals this campaign, including six in their last two matches, while Sochaux, who travel to the Parc des Princes on Saturday, have conceded 30. El Matador and the talismanic Swede are flying high at present and Ibrahimovic's sublime panenka penalty against Lyon demonstrates the extent of the impressive confidence in front of goal displayed by both players this season.

On paper, it is not the most glamorous of games and certainly not the most challenging. However, that was what PSG thought travelling to the Parc des Sports earlier in the year and they came away with a demoralising penalty defeat that included misses from Ibrahimovic and captain Thiago Silva.

Assuming that they do not drop points before the end of the month, Lille OSC's trip to the French capital on December 22 is shaping up to be a massive clash. Blanc and his side cannot afford to put themselves in a weak position ahead of that showdown encounter. A win against Evian and another on Saturday against Sochaux has to be considered bread and butter as PSG seek to put considerable distance between themselves and the chasing pack.


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