Much-changed PSG show strength in depth

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Thiago Silva scored from the spot for PSGGettyImagesThiago Silva scored from the spot for PSG

Paris Saint-Germain cruised past bitter rivals Marseille on Wednesday to move into the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue, but arguably the most satisfaction was not from getting one over on les Phoceens, but the illustration of the formidable strength in depth Carlo Ancelotti has at his disposal. Pre-match at the Parc des Princes it had been expected that the Italian would make changes to his squad but the omission of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a game of this magnitude was a surprise, though not a total shock given his need to rest after a phenomenal start to the campaign.

Amongst those coming in were Nicolas Douchez in goal, Zoumana Camara in defence, Momo Sissoko and Mathieu Bodmer in the midfield with a rare start up front for Guillaume Hoarau. Despite an abundance of changes in the PSG ranks, Marseille named a relatively strong side, fielding attacking quartet Loic Remy, Andre Ayew, Mathieu Valbuena and Morgan Amalfitano. The ease with which PSG's relatively untested lineup dealt with their opposition though speaks volumes about the potential of this squad.

- PSG knock out holders Marseille

The turning point of the match was the decision from referee Antony Gautier to send off defender Rod Fanni for his foul on Hoarau which gave Thiago Silva the chance to net from the penalty spot inside half an hour, but really PSG showed a clinical edge that Marseille couldn't, despite the absence of star man Ibrahimovic. The result, given the changes, is encouraging and also quashes claims PSG are a one-man team, dependent on 'Ibra'.

This game, whilst lacking the influence of the towering Swede, was a more workmanlike and united effort from the capital club and was particularly rewarding for Ancelotti given the way attackers Hoarau and Menez played, along with their link-up with Javier Pastore just behind. It was Menez who scored the second goal after some great play from the Argentine to set him up and the 2-0 scoreline didn't at all flatter the hosts, who were dominant in the display.

The victory ends Marseille's four-year unbeaten run in the Coupe de la Ligue, a trophy which OM have seemingly made their own over a recent years. A defeat to Sochaux back in 2008 was the last time the club had tasted defeat in the competition before Wednesday, in a run that spanned 12 matches and three titles. PSG have now laid down a marker with the result, despite the absence of les Phoceens' top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac, because of the ease in which they dealt with their opponents.

The opening 'clasico' in the league was a tense, fraught affair and Marseille demonstrated the same fight and tenacity again but instead of falling behind and then letting their lead slip this time, Ancelotti's men targeted OM's weak backline and shifted gears in attack at the right times throughout the night. Blaise Matuidi was once again outstanding in the midfield, marshalling the likes of Sissoko and Bodmer, who last year were seen as his seniors. Menez too was instrumental in attack, capping a good spell for the French international after his impressive showing in Zagreb last week. There were even cameo appearances for youngster Adrien Rabiot and rarely-used duo Peguy Luyindula and Siaka Tiene, the former putting in his most impressive performance of the season to date.

The defence didn't miss Mamadou Sakho either as Camara played a full 90 alongside Silva in the absence of Alex, who is out injured. The backline looking composed and disciplined despite the changes - something that was lacking last season. Christophe Jallet added more balance to the defence playing instead of Gregory Van der Wiel who has often been caught out of position and exposed for his lack of defensive ability since arriving from Ajax in the summer. Perhaps something for the Italian to consider ahead of Saturday's clash with Saint-Etienne.

Overall, a highly satisfactory result for Ancelotti whose squad have shown themselves capable of rising to the task and beating their main league rivals when under-strength. Progress in the league, Champions League and cup prior to Christmas and then the start of the Coupe de France in January was vital, but the squad have demonstrated that the Italian has a pool of considerable talent that can step in at any time to get the result without losing any quality.

This Saturday's Ligue 1 opponents Saint-Etienne await les Rouges-et-Bleus in the quarter-finals in a difficult but winnable match at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard. This weekend's league encounter should provide good preparation for Ancelotti's men who will travel to Loire at the end of November, sandwiched between league clashes with Troyes and Nice.

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