Stick Or Twist: Ancelotti's dilemma for Marseille cup clash

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

MArseille v PSG
PA PhotosPSG and Marseille's Ligue 1 clash earlier this month finished 2-2 at the Stade Velodrome

Paris Saint-Germain gear up for their second clash of the season with bitter rivals Marseille on Wednesday, with Carlo Ancelotti able to approach the match with a degree of satisfaction following his injury-hit side's ability to come through last week's tough tests in Zagreb and Nancy. The team have illustrated their strength in depth to the Italian and while they still displayed a slight dependence on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to win them games, other players have come to the fore.

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The absence of Marco Verratti in Croatia gave Mathieu Bodmer a chance to return to the PSG first team but the midfield remained strong despite Bodmer's lack of match fitness thanks to the outstanding form of Blaise Matuidi. The French international was prominent against Nancy as well, starting alongside Verratti and Javier Pastore before the Italian was replaced by Bodmer at half-time and Kevin Gameiro made way for Adrien Rabiot in a tactical change from Ancelotti.

The capital club's rich personnel resources have allowed Carletto to regularly rotate his players and make a host of substitutions that give him tactical flexibility. That strength in depth causes the Italian a dilemma against Marseille. The Coupe de la Ligue is widely regarded as the domestic cup that managers use to rest a few key players but to keep the squad in top condition by utilising some of the reserve players. This isn't to say that the clubs don't take it seriously, but it is normally regarded as a tournament where squad rotation is accepted and even encouraged.

This might not be an option for Ancelotti though. PSG face big rivals Marseille and after last month's draw,Les Parisiens will be itching to make home advantage count and continue their fine form, as well as taking an important home victory for the fans. But there lies a danger for two reasons: firstly, PSG players have been regularly playing 2-3 games a week since the end of August and Ancelotti will no doubt be tempted to make a host of changes. But if the Italian makes the changes here, PSG run the risk of crashing out of the competition early on. That said, Marseille boss Elie Baup could also see the game as a valuable opportunity to rest some players - meaning Ancelotti is also in danger of over-estimating Les Phoceens and putting out a strong team to face a Marseille outfit that, once you scratch beneath the surface, has very little depth to it.

Nicolas Douchez, Nene and a number of other peripheral figures in the first team are expected to play but Ancelotti has a lot at stake if PSG were to make an early exit from the cup after making a number of changes. The fallout alone from a defeat to Marseille would be bitter enough, but considering the number of players currently thirsty for first-team football that sit on the bench, the coach will have problems come January if the club are competing on one less front.

The squad is currently perfect in terms of the strength in depth needed to face four competitions; Ligue 1, Champions League, Coupe de la Ligue and the Coupe de France. However, it is more difficult to accommodate these players and to keep them happy if the club is knocked out of one or more trophies come Christmas. For now, PSG have a three-point lead at the top of the table and are making good progress in the Champions League - facing a winnable game against Dinamo Zagreb in Paris next week. With so much to lose if this game is not taken seriously, Ancelotti must send out the strongest possible team to face OM and consider making changes for the league encounter with Saint-Etienne instead. Not that Les Verts will be any easier than Marseille, but the game against their bitter rivals certainly has higher value.

Home defeat is unacceptable then for Ancelotti, but a pleasant headache to have given the club's recent success on the pitch. The key now for Ancelotti is to prioritise Les Rouges-et-Bleu's upcoming matches to keep the fight on all fronts going as progress in all competitions now will make for a more peaceful January transfer market, keep the fans happy and more importantly, keep the players united despite their general lack of first team chances. Staying strong in all four domestic and European competitions going into Christmas will be Ancelotti's aim, and with the talent at his disposal, the capital club should be able to navigate this tricky period of the campaign.

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