Unbeaten run over, certain PSG players have point to prove

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Wednesday’s shock 2-0 defeat at Evian underlined one thing in particular; that there is still at least one position up for grabs in Laurent Blanc’s strongest Paris Saint-Germain starting XI. Despite the vast array of options available to the Frenchman on the left side of the attack, it appears that he is still undecided on who should be his undisputed starter.

Jeremy Menez and Lucas Moura have been unable to completely grasp their opportunities so far, while Javier Pastore is now preferred in the middle once again after Carlo Ancelotti stuck him out wide last season in order to accommodate him. Ezequiel Lavezzi, previously Blanc’s first choice, is also in the mix despite not featuring in Annecy. However, Blanc recently criticised his lack of fitness and El Pocho’s overall form this season has been a cause for concern.

The Argentine admitted as much in a frank interview with the French press at an Adidas event in the French capital on Thursday: “Could I leave Paris Saint-Germain? I don’t know, a player never quite knows about these things,” he told Le Parisien. “What I can say is that I’ll do everything to change my situation in Paris, because I haven’t given my best and I don’t want to continue like this. I love it here. But there is always a possibility in the transfer window, that is entirely normal.”

Starting with the match against struggling FC Sochaux-Montbeliard on Saturday, players such as Lavezzi will be given the chance between now and the winter break to state their case for the final spot in the starting XI. With Thiago Motta’s importance to the side underlined in his absence against Evian, despite the fact that in terms of ability he is not completely irreplaceable, Pastore may also have to accept he is vying once again for a wide role in order to be a regular starter.

Moura is perhaps best placed of the candidates given his overall form this season, but that does not excuse a weak showing against Evian. The Brazilian is also better on the right and would require Edinson Cavani to shift sides in order to get the best out of Moura. Menez has generally been good since returning from surgery over the summer, although his performance in Annecy was poor, but questions marks remain over his long-term future considering that his contract finishes next summer.

Lucas Digne staked his claims for a starting berth once again on Wednesday and his good form could have prompted a bit of tactical innovation from Blanc. However, the young Frenchman is ruled out along with teenage midfielder Adrien Rabiot and makes Blanc’s selection process a little easier. Le President could have demonstrated to his team that he can switch people around in order to accommodate those in good form by playing Maxwell wide on the left and farther forward, allowing Digne to continue his progress at left-back.

Blanc has shown himself prepared to be adventurous with his tactics so far this season and, considering the current struggles of Saturday’s visitors, Herve Renard’s Sochaux are the ideal side to experiment against. But with Digne and Rabiot both missing, it will give some of the side’s more established stars to once again reassert their claims and pretty much forces Blanc to go full strength in almost every position.

Twenty-nine points separate PSG and Les Lionceaux ahead of their Parc des Princes clash. The basement dwellers have conceded 32 goals so far this season; another blank for PSG after Wednesday’s scoreless performance against Evian and serious questions will start being asked. FCSM have only scored 13, the second-lowest total in the league, so the odds are stacked considerably in the favour of Blanc’s side.

With next week’s trip to face Benfica in the Champions League a dead rubber now that PSG have clinched Group C and a berth in the knockout round, Blanc can afford to go full strength on Saturday to ensure a return to domestic form. The loss to Evian was not the end of the world, although it does put the team’s hopes of breaking a selection of club and league records on hold. However, a second consecutive poor result would cause more than a little consternation in the French capital.

On paper and on recent form, PSG should annihilate Sochaux. With lessons learned over complacency following Wednesday’s defeat, there is likely to be less of that in the future.

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