Zlatan Ibrahimovic won't be the only player missing for Paris Saint-Germain when they entertain Frederic Antonetti's Rennes on Saturday. Carlo Ancelotti's men will also be missing centre-back Mamadou Sakho who has contributed magnificently to the capital club's sparkling defensive record so far in Ligue 1, but was sent off in last week's 1-1 draw in Montpellier. The man who will likely step in to replace him is Brazilian defender Alex as PSG hope to extend an impressive record of only having conceded four home goals this season, all of those coming in two separate matches.
Prior to les Rouges-et-Bleu's last match at the Parc des Princes, the side had only shipped two home goals all season in the 2-2 opener with Lorient. Saint-Etienne, of course, blew through the capital notching up a 1-2 win to double that tally. But the record is still impressive given that four of PSG's seven clean sheets this campaign have come in Paris. Les Parisiens' defence has only conceded eight goals this season, tied for best in Ligue 1 this season along with les Verts, but Ancelotti's side have only conceded five of those with Sakho on the pitch while six have been scored with Alex in the backline.
Speaking ahead of the match about Sakho's suspension, Alex said, "I don't necessarily agree with Sakho's red card, the team can't understand it, and it is detrimental to us. Of course, his absence gives me another chance to play should the manager pick me. We regularly alternate and if selected, I will give everything to make sure we win."
From those comments, it would appear that the Brazilian and Sakho are rivals for the place at the back but that is not the case. Despite Thiago Silva's quotes earlier in the season that he preferred playing alongside his compatriot who is more "experienced," Alex doesn't see the competition as unhealthy and accepts that he will not always be selected ahead of the young French international.
"Sakho and I get on well together. Obviously everyone wants to play as often as possible, but rotation is an important part of our game."
"Thiago Silva? For me, he is the best defender in the world. He has great experience, clearly brings more to the team and hopefully he can continue his good form and help the club to progress."
Alex has contributed mainly on the Champions League stage so far this year, netting twice against Dynamo Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb, but feels that the team's improved defence is the main reason that they have been able to build on last season's foundations and have been difficult to beat so far this year. Despite the disappointment of the two recent results, the Brazilian is confident that it is only a matter of time before the attacking unit begins to function more coherently.
"Last year we lacked balance, especially in the defence. Since the beginning of this season, we have grown in confidence day after day. We are still improving though, and thanks to the attacking reinforcements made in the summer, our goals are bigger. We want as much success as possible and that will only come with time."
With Ancelotti having addressed last season's main problem area, the capital club are now fine-tuning their attacking lineup. With star man Ibrahimovic missing, it lends a chance for the likes of Kevin Gameiro and Guillaume Hoarau -- the latter who started the Montpellier clash but was substituted out to make way for a defensive formation after Sakho's 10th minute red card -- to impress and prove that PSG are more than just a one man show. But while Ancelotti's men continue to keep the defence tight, their attacking deficiencies are less important and they will remain hard to beat. Saturday's opponents, Rennes, come into the game in good form having won five of their last six matches and are the league's in-form side. A tough text for PSG no doubt, but one they really need to come through if they are going to start getting the critics off their backs.