Paris Saint-Germain play their first home game since Laurent Blanc replaced Carlo Ancelotti as coach of the Ligue 1 champions when they entertain AC Ajaccio at the Parc des Princes tomorrow, with memories of last season’s struggles against the Corsicans still fresh.
The capital club were held to goalless draws in both meetings with Ajaccio last season, but those results did not prevent them from comfortably winning the Ligue 1 crown in May.
Former France coach Blanc has been at the helm for six weeks and he oversaw the Champions Trophy win against Girondins de Bordeaux in his first competitive game at the helm, before a 1-1 draw against Montpellier Herault in last weekend’s Ligue 1 opener.
In both games, PSG have had to come from behind, with Brazilian fullback Maxwell earning them a draw at the Stade de la Mosson after they had trailed at the interval against opponents who pressed and harried tirelessly.
With Corsican sides renowned for their aggression, and Ajaccio coach Fabrizio Ravanelli determined to make his team difficult to beat, PSG could face a frustrating evening.
However, Blanc will hope that 64 million euro (US$85 million) record signing Edinson Cavani can have an impact on his home debut after almost scoring as a substitute at Montpellier.
“Certainly, but the question is will he start,” Blanc said when asked if the Uruguay international and former SSC Napoli striker, who started pre-season training late, would feature against Ajaccio. “That is a decision we will take. He is a little bit behind with his preparation and has had some fitness problems.”
Ajaccio lost 1-0 to AS Saint-Etienne last weekend, but Ravanelli will relish the occasion in the capital having already experienced the heat of the Parc des Princes during his days as a Olympique de Marseille player.
In November 1997, the Italian striker played a central part in a controversial victory at the ground for PSG’s bitter rivals, diving to win a penalty that was converted by none other than Laurent Blanc.
“It is a great thing to return to Paris, especially as a coach. It is a real pleasure,” Ravanelli said. “We know we will be playing against an extraordinary team with extraordinary means, but even if we lose we will come out with our heads held high, because we know we can enjoy a good season.”
Earlier tomorrow, AS Monaco, tipped as PSG’s most likely title challengers, will look to build on their opening-day win at Girondins de Bordeaux when they welcome Montpellier Herault to the Stade Louis II.
Claudio Ranieri’s side, a mixture of expensive summer acquisitions and exciting young talent, won 2-0 in Bordeaux, with Radamel Falcao netting a debut goal after his 60 million euro move from Atletico Madrid and in midweek they won an appeal against a three-point deduction handed down as a punishment for trouble at the end of a game last season, so confidence will be high at the principality club.
Confidence is also high in Marseille after OM cruised to an opening-day win at En Avant de Guingamp.
They play host to Evian Thonon Gaillard today, although recent signing Saber Khalifa is unlikely to make his debut against his former club as he builds up his fitness.
After thumping OGC Nice 4-0 last weekend, Olympique Lyonnais were due to travel to Sochaux-Montbeliard yesterday, the match being brought forward to help Remi Garde’s side prepare for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff, first leg against Real Sociedad.
“Sochaux are a team that like to play football and don’t worry about their opponents. That’s the club’s culture,” Garde said. “We are expecting a tough game. We need to confirm our good form, and try and cause them as many problems as possible.”
In the pick of the other matches, OGC Nice face Stade Rennais at the Stade Municipal du Ray, although the match will be played behind closed doors as a punishment for fan misbehavior last season.