Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc returns to his old stomping ground of Girondins de Bordeaux today as the reigning Ligue 1 title holders look for a pre-Champions League boost.
The French capital club travel to Greece to face Olympiakos in Europe on Tuesday next week, but the clash with Bordeaux is the first of a hectic run of seven games in 23 days which will also see them face Monaco, Benfica and Olympique de Marseille.
PSG are yet to lose this season, but draws in their opening two Ligue 1 games were followed by not entirely convincing wins against promoted duo Nantes and En Avant de Guingamp just before the international break.
However, they have already had the measure of Bordeaux, beating the French Cup holders 2-1 in the Champions Trophy at the beginning of last month.
“Bordeaux are one of these teams who are capable of defending well and punishing you on the break,” PSG’s Christophe Jallet said this week.
“We saw that in the Champions Trophy before we turned the game around late on. We know what to expect and what we need to do better against them this time around,” he said.
It will be a special occasion for Blanc, whose three years in charge at the Stade Chaban-Delmas were highly successful, with Bordeaux winning the title, the League Cup and the Champions Trophy in 2009 before reaching the last eight of the Champions League a year later.
Now in the away dugout, he must improve PSG’s rather poor record in the Gironde, where they have won just seven times in 39 previous visits. Today, Blanc will again be without Jeremy Menez, who is suffering from kidney stones, and must decide whether his returning international stars, such as Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, France’s Blaise Matuidi, Brazil’s Thiago Silva and Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani, are in condition to play.
“Zlatan came back very, very tired after playing in Kazakhstan on an artificial surface,” PSG assistant coach Jean-Louis Gasset said in a radio interview, indicating that Ibrahimovic may not feature this weekend.
France’s other representatives in the Champions League group stage are Marseille, who travel to bottom club Toulouse tomorrow.
Before hosting Arsenal in Europe on Wednesday next week, OM will be looking to get back to winning ways domestically after a 2-1 home loss to Monaco in their last outing.
Since that game, coach Elie Baup has seen France under-20 World Cup-winning duo Florian Thauvin and Mario Lemina arrive from LOSC Lille Metropole and Lorient respectively, and it is possible that they could make their debuts for the club.
The early pacesetters are Claudio Ranieri’s Monaco, who have no European commitments to worry about and who entertain Lorient at the Stade Louis II on Sunday before travelling to face PSG.
The principality club should be able to call on Radamel Falcao, who suffered an ankle injury in the win at Marseille, but played in Colombia’s 2-0 defeat in Uruguay in World Cup qualifying in midweek, while France midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia could make his debut after his recent arrival from Sevilla.
Meanwhile, Olympique Lyonnais entertain Stade Rennais at the Stade de Gerland aiming to halt an alarming run of four successive defeats in all competitions.
However, OL fans will be hoping Bafetimbi Gomis features for the first time this season after returning to training following a summer-long dispute with the club.
“I am like a new signing, perhaps by default,” Gomis said last week. “I will try to integrate myself as quickly as possible into my new team. I am just pleased to be back on the pitch.”
Among the other games, Saint-Etienne travel to Valenciennes without injured Brazilian striker Brandao, while OGC Nice coach Claude Puel will take his current side to face his old club Lille.