Business as usual for PSG in Rennes?

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty ImagesEzequiel Lavezzi has been playing better for PSG, but keeping him and Lucas Moura happy will be a tough job for Laurent Blanc.

Paris Saint-Germain travel to Brittany to face Stade Rennais on Saturday and the defending champions are back to relative full strength after resting a number of stars for Tuesday’s Champions League match with Benfica.

Laurent Blanc took the chance to give the likes of the imperious Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Alex a breather while a youthful squad visited Portugal in the hope that it would keep the team fresh ahead a crucial three-game run. First up in that treble, two in Ligue 1 and one Coupe de la Ligue clash, are an unpredictable Rennes side who now coached by Philippe Montanier.

-Zanetti would welcome Lavezzi at Inter

Marco Verratti and Gregory van der Wiel also did not play in Lisbon, but through suspension, while Blanc heavily rotated the side that destroyed FC Sochaux-Montbeliard 5-0 at the Parc des Princes last week. Le President’s men were at full-strength against Les Lionceaux, although it is debatable whether or not Blanc fielded his actual strongest XI.

After a second defeat in seven days, despite the commanding league victory in between, the team will be expected to pick up where they left off last weekend when they take to the pitch at the Stade de la Route de Lorient.

With AS Saint-Etienne looming on Wednesday in an important Coupe de la Ligue clash, there might be some temptation to rest Edinson Cavani for part of Saturday’s game. The Uruguayan, who scored midweek against Benfica, will be a key figure next week with Ibrahimovic suspended for the cup tie. However, Blanc’s squad rotation has started to cost PSG points and winning momentum in recent weeks and tinkering too heavily with his in-form side could see the team come undone away from home once again.

On paper, it should be a relatively straightforward encounter with the Bretons, who have won just one of their last six fixtures and lost three. Despite the appointment of Montanier, a coach who guided Real Sociedad to improbable Champions league qualification last season, the team have failed to find any real momentum. But, as with Evian, there is a danger than PSG take the game too lightly and pass up their two-point lead at the top of Le Championnat.

With the exception of Christophe Jallet, who was injured before Tuesday’s defeat in Portugal, Blanc has a full complement from which to choose. Silva, Alex, van der Wiel and Maxwell should return with the entire back four who started against Benfica all making way. Verratti and Matuidi are expected to return in midfield, while Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi will likely come in and join Cavani up top after last Saturday’s dominant showing.

The decision to rotate the team was understandable, but that is under the assumption that it will lead to two victories in the league and progress in the Coupe de la Ligue.

The players who were given time off and those who were rotated in order to give some of the fringe members a chance will now have to justify their recent rest. Blanc has shown himself willing to give squad members a chance rather than steadfastly sticking to a regular XI like predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, who saw his side prematurely crash out of both domestic competitions last year.

Now it is the players’ turn to do their part over the next three matches and remain unbeaten at Rennes and then against both Saint-Etienne and title rivals Lille OSC at home.

Once again, the position under the most scrutiny in the starting line-up will be who plays alongside Ibrahimovic and Cavani. Lavezzi featured last week and scored, putting in a much-improved performance, but it would be unfair to deem that sufficient enough to permanently dislodge Lucas Moura, who has been in better overall form and looked lively against Benfica.

Giving Lavezzi a chance to stake his claim for more regular involvement is fair and understandable, but it should not mean that Moura is being benched in order for the club to appease the Argentine and ensure that he does not look to leave come January. Doing so could have the reverse effect and bring the speculation that the Brazilian star will return home on loan in the build-up to next year’s World Cup to fruition.

Unfortunately, the game won’t pit PSG against loyal former servant Sylvain Armand, who is suspended after his red card against FC Lorient last week. The 33-year-old bid farewell to the capital after nine years this summer and admitted earlier this week that he is “gutted” to be missing the clash with his former side.

Armand or no Armand, this is a game that PSG should rightly expect to win. Given the condition of the players, there will be no excuses. The side from the capital won the same fixture 2-0 in April thanks to some individual brilliance from Jeremy Menez and a David Beckham-assisted Ibrahimovic finish. This time around, the margin should be even more convincing.

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