Whilst there has been a large amount of experimentation with regards to squad selection from Carlo Ancelotti this season, there has remained one constant in the Paris Saint-Germain team: Blaise Matuidi. The combative midfielder started the season on the substitutes' bench for the opening clash with Lorient and now, ten games into the campaign and three matches into the capital club's first Champions League foray in eight years, Matuidi is one of the first names on the Italian's teamsheets and an established French international.
Since his cameo performance in the season curtain raiser at the Parc des Princes where PSG fought back from 0-2 down against Ligue 1's surprise package of the season so far, Matuidi has underpinned les Rouges-et-Bleu's solid, if unspectacular, early season form. The 25-year old is a vital part of Ancelotti's engine room and one third of an impressive midfield unit that boasts Italian wonderkid Marco Verratti and until recent injury, club youth academy graduate Clement Chantome. On Saturday Matuidi comes up against former club Saint-Etienne who are also flying this season and currently sit fifth in the table, thanks largely to the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the good form of Romain Hamouma and Renaud Cohade.
Last summer les Verts knew that they were in possession of a supremely talented player and were loath to strengthen their Ligue 1 rivals from the capital, but a combination of Qatar Sports Investments' new money and Matuidi's desire to play for his childhood club saw the deal eventually go through. Now PSG are reaping the rewards of that significant investment, around €8 million in a deal that was put in place prior to the arrival of QSI, and Matuidi is developing into one of Europe's most formidable deep-lying midfielders.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's match with his former employers he said: "Yes, this weekend will be special because we play in the league. It won't be an easy game though. Saint-Etienne are full of confidence but I'm happy about that because I spent some happy times there. I'm a PSG player now though and we want to win."
Formerly of Troyes, Matuidi rose to prominence with les Verts by putting in some all-action performances and forming part of a Stephanois outfit that was pushing for European qualification boasting the likes of promising youngsters Dimitri Payet (who almost joined PSG), Emmanuel Riviere, Bakary Sako and Loic Perrin. The team eventually finished 10th and was stripped of its talent with only Perrin remaining now, largely thanks to long-term injury problems. Matuidi's form though was enough to convince the PSG hierarchy of Robin Leproux and Antoine Kombouare to secure a deal for the youngster, but no sooner had he arrived in the capital and the club had been taken over.
Matuidi immediately faced heavy competition for a starting place following the arrivals of Momo Sissoko and Javier Pastore as well as already established midfielders in Mathieu Bodmer and Chantome. However, after a difficult first season the former ASSE man found his place in Ancelotti's side after Kombouare's departure and a strong finish to 2011-12 that saw les Parisiens finish second in Ligue 1, was enough to earn him a call-up to Laurent Blanc's France squad for Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. Although the Euros proved a disaster once again for les Bleus, Matuidi has emerged as one of the key members of Didier Deschamps' new-look France squad and was vital in France's recent 1-1 draw with World and European champions Spain in Madrid.
Speaking of his early season form he said: "Yes it has been a very good season for me so far. It is also due to being surrounded by great players, that helps a lot. As long as it continues, I'm happy. This season, we know there will be difficult times. But I will give my maximum each time I play."
Matuidi has come into his own this season, becoming one of the team's most instrumental players because of his tireless work ethic, fantastic passing ability and determination to get stuck in and drive his team to victory. Not only does he win the ball and distribute it, but he also has started to push into attack more often this season, even managing to score in the victory over Bastia in week six.
In the recent win over Nancy, Matuidi won 10 tackles with a pass completion rating of 87% and at times was driving the team forward in a match where, on occasion, they lacked impetus. The former Saint-Etienne man it seems holds the key to Ancelotti's side as he gets the best out of Verratti, but more interestingly now acts as second deep-lying playmaker given his added attacking responsibilities this season. Matuidi often roams into space on the left that is available because of a narrow PSG formation as well as moving forward to join in the attacks, and it is this versatility that has won him his place in this PSG team.
With Matuidi on form and a much-changed PSG side having beaten bitter-rivals Marseille in the Coupe de la Ligue midweek, expect the hosts to be at full strength as they welcome one of their traditional rivals to the capital. With ASSE starting the season so well, this game is an acid test of the progress Ancelotti's side have made since the start of the season. Matuidi you can be sure, will once again be at the forefront of the PSG cause.