Saturday, August 3, 2013

PSG vs Bordeaux

The biggest news heading into Saturday’s French Super Cup (Trophee des Champions) clash between Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Coupe de France winners Bordeaux in Gabon is the absence of Edinson Cavani and Marquinhos.

Two of PSG’s three expensive summer recruits miss out on the trip to Libreville because of the capital club’s failure to administer the correct vaccinations on time according to Le Parisien (h/t ESPN FC).

So the defending champions head into next week’s campaign opener at Montpellier with two new players still needing to be integrated into the side, having been unavailable to manager Laurent Blanc for the majority of pre-season.

Bordeaux have made very few changes to their squad. Veteran defender Jeremie Brechet arrived from Troyes (h/t and Lucas Orban joined from Club Atletico Tigre just before the team departed for Africa, as revealed by in English.

Francis Gillot’s side won the Coupe de France last season but were underwhelming in the league, scoring a measly 40 goals, the lowest total in the top half of the table.

However, Les Girondins travel to Gabon with a massively depleted side according to the official squad list (h/t ESPN FC). In particular, Cheick Diabate, who scored the winning goal in the cup final against Evian in May, misses out through injury.

PSG have only won two of the five editions of the French Super Cup since its inception in 1995 to replace the Challenge des Champions.

It is also the fifth consecutive time that the showpiece will have been held outside of France.

Given the under-strength Bordeaux side’s woes, PSG look comfortable pre-match favourites.

Here are the key battles to watch out for on Saturday.

Rapid Brazilian fullback Mariano is a marauding presence in Bordeaux’s league fixtures.

Overlapping from the right, he gets forward and provides dangerous crosses and plays a large role in their build-up play.

He faces a battle against either Javier Pastore or Ezequiel Lavezzi, likely the former given Cavani’s absence, which should see Lavezzi pushed up alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic once more.

Given Pastore’s lack of pace in comparison with Lavezzi, Mariano will be faced with the obstacle of newly called-up Brazilian Maxwell, or possibly Lucas Digne.

Either way, PSG look to have the left side covered against the threat posed by Mariano.

Verdict: Pastore/Lavezzi/Maxwell to overwhelm Bordeaux’s right flank.

The second most creative of Bordeaux's threats is captain Jaroslav Plasil.

Having contributed just two goals and three assists in 33 matches last year, the Czech Republic international is not exactly coming off the back of a glowing season.

However, the 31-year-old is still a threat, and his relatively poor form last year owes more to the team than him having a series of bad performances.

He will be up against the irrepressible Blaise Matuidi though.

The French international was a revelation in the PSG midfield last season and is looking to continue that form into this campaign.

Any potential success for Blanc against his former side will depend on how effective the 26-year-old is in breaking up their attacks.

Verdict: Matuidi to boss Plasil.

It is for that reason that I think it is fair to assume that ‘Le President’ will deploy Thiago Motta alongside Matuidi.

Favoured by Blanc throughout the pre-season, the Italian international offers a steady but destructive presence alongside the Frenchman.

Similarly Marco Verratti can also offer a tenacious approach, but the diminutive Italian has less composure than Motta and the senior Azzurri star offers a more reliable disruptive influence.

That will help nullify the threat of French-born Polish international Ludovic Obraniak who is Bordeaux’s most creative outlet.

Author of six goals and four assists in 30 games last season, Obraniak is a player that PSG will have to watch carefully.

However, given Les Girondins’ lack of first-choice players, the chances of the 28-year-old being able to do it on his own are slim.

Verdict: Motta/Verratti to silence Obraniak.

The most crucial match-up, and the one the will certainly decide the match, is that of Ibrahimovic and Lamine Sane.

Ibra was in unstoppable form last season, netting 30 league goals, but he only managed one against Bordeaux and that was the sum total of PSG’s goals scored against Gillot’s side last term.

Sane has become a regular in the Bordeaux backline and with Marc Planus and Henrique suspended, will be relied upon to keep out the likes of the Swedish talisman, Lavezzi, Pastore and Lucas Moura.

The 26-year-old performed admirably last year and, despite their woes going forward, contributed to the league’s third-safest defense.

However, that defense without some of its regular presences will be no match for Ibrahimovic. Considering that he has not found the net so far this preseason, he will be hungry to get back into the groove ahead of next week’s Ligue 1 kick-off.

Verdict: Ibrahimovic to batter Sane and Bordeaux.

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