Thursday, 28 February 2013

PSG 2-0 Olympique Marseille: Zlatan nose best

While not quite matching Sunday's league game in terms of quality or intensity, last night's encounter between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille certainly had plenty of comedy value.

The most amusing moment was probably Joey Barton's attempt to troll Zlatan Ibrahimovic by saying, and I quote, "fucking big nose". Barton also did some gestures in case Ibra, who speaks about a million languages fluently, was in any doubt about what he meant. What a renaissance man Joey is.

As I pointed out on Twitter, Ibra has more talent in his nose than Barton has in his entire body, and the nose is probably less offensive. He proved this by scoring twice as PSG booked a Coupe-de-France quarter-final date with Evian.

“We played very well, perhaps better than we did on Sunday," said Carletto afterwards. "We controlled the match well and were very solid. We played some great football. Things are going well at the moment.

"I’m very happy for all the players because they all showed that they are in good shape, even those that haven’t played much recently.”

It's fair to say that we were a lot more dominant than in Sunday's encounter, but I would venture this had more to do with Marseille's performance dipping than ours improving. Indeed it was a match which showed up the limitations of Les Phoceens' squad compared to ours; Marseille were unchanged while PSG were able to bring in eight pairs of fresh legs, and there's no doubt this must have been a factor given OM's high-energy performance in the last match.

Chances came and went for the skipper-for-the-night, Jeremy "what attitude problem?" Menez, and Kevin Gameiro, before big Zlats gave us the lead in the 35th minute. A lovely pass over the top - some might call it Beckham-esque, but not me - from Clement Chantome released the striker, who brushed off a weak challenge from Lucas Menes and slotted the ball under Mandanda, who got a touch but couldn't stop the shot bobbling into the net.

OM's efforts on goal were mainly restricted to shots from distance, and Andre-Pierre Gignac brought a good low save from Nicolas Douchez just after the restart. Big Mac was also in the right place at the other end to block Sakho's goal-bound header on the line after a delicious corner from David Beckham.

Ahh yes, Beckham was making his full debut, and did pretty well in the deep-lying quarter-back role. It should be said he was given acres of space to operate in by the Marseille midfield, but he did what he did well, and the stats show he completed the most passes for PSG last night - 59 - with an impressive accuracy of 86 per cent.

It was DBeck's pass that released Zlatan down the right channel in the 63rd minute. The Swede left Jeremy Morel on his backside down near the touchline and was about to skip away from the defender when he was brought down by a flailing leg. A completely stupid and pointless tackle from Morel, one which was only ever going to end badly for OM. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Zlatan did the honours, sending Mandanda the wrong way.

PSG will go away to Evian in the quarter-finals, the match will be played on April 16/17. In unrelated Zlatan news, the striker has been given a two-game Champions League ban by UEFA after his sending off in Valencia. He will now miss the second leg and the first leg of the quarter-final, should PSG progress that is.

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic - His best performance since the winter break, in your face Barton.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

PSG 2-0 Marseille: As it happened

Saturday, 23 February 2013

PSG vs Marseille: Classic classique's from years gone by

"When I was young I used to watch the Classique with all my mates in the neighbourhood," said Mamadou Sakho yesterday.

"There was always a lot of chatter, a lot of bets going down… There was great tension surrounding these games and we always looked forward to them.

"It was a very special moment for me. I've always been a PSG fan, I used to go to the Parc des Princes as a kid, starting when I was seven or eight, so to be able to defend the colours of my team on the pitch is very emotional."

Sakho, who grew up in the rough-and-ready 19th arrondissement of Paris, is well placed to describe what Paris Saint-Germain vs Marseille means to the fans.

Though not a derby in the traditional sense, given that Marseille is some 800km south of Paris, the rivalry is a fierce one; the urbane citizens of the capital versus the passionate peasants from the south. In fact, perhaps Le Classique inspired Susanne Collins to write The Hunger Games series - hopefully Sunday's match won't end in death, destruction, and civil war, though sadly there is precedent for all three.

Marseille have had the better of things over the years, winning 31 of the 66 Ligue 1 clashes between the teams compared to PSG's 19. But both sides have enjoyed notable victories, and here we take a look at some of the most memorable.

The first one
December 12 1971: Marseille 4-2 Paris Saint-Germain
The real rivalry between PSG and OM didn't really begin until the late 1980s, but the two teams first met at the Stade Veledrome in 1971. Young upstarts PSG, in only their second season after formation, had won promotion to Ligue 1, and travelled south to take on a Marseille side which was dominating the league at the time. Bernard Bosquier and Josip Skoblar shot the home side into a 2-0 first half lead, before they helpfully handed PSG a lifeline thanks to Joseph Bonnel's own goal.

The second half saw Didier Couécou restore OM's two goal advantage, but PSG kept plugging away and were rewarded with 20 minutes remaining when Michel Prost found the net to set up a grandstand finish. However, that pesky Skoblar wasn't to be denied, and the Eagle of Dalmatians pounced for his second to secure the points.

Our biggest win
January 8 1978: Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 Marseille
Marseille bossed most of the early matches between the clubs, but a sign of PSG's rising power came in 1978 when we thrashed them at the Parc-des-Princes. There was little hint of what was come when Saar Boubacar put the visitors in front in the first half.

But PSG roared back to hit the front through Francois Brisson and Mustapha Dahleb. In the second period Francois M'Pele found the net twice, with an own goal from Marius Tresor helping PSG complete their win, the biggest in the history of the series.

Their biggest win
November 28 1986: Marseille 4-0 Paris Saint-Germain
In fairness to OM, they had a pretty good team in the 1980s, with the likes of Jean-Pierre Papin and Alain Giresse being tempted to the Veledrome by Tapie's crooked money the prospect of playing for the best-supported team in France.

This victory over PSG, inspired by two goals from Patrick Cubaynes, demonstrated that they were putting together a squad that was capable of reclaiming the Ligue 1 title for the first time since the 1970s.

The one that started it all
May 5 1989: Marseille 1-0 Paris Saint-Germain
Le Classique as we know it today wasn't really a big deal until after this match, which came at the end of the season which had seen OM and PSG go head-to-head for the Ligue 1 title. OM were by now being bank-rolled by their match-fixing, loud-mouthed, president Bernard Tapie, but with the teams tied on points at the top of the table with three fixtures remaining, the match was billed as a title decider.

Unsurprisingly it was a tense affair, but the decisive action came in the closing stages. After future Leyton Orient striker Amara Simba had missed a great chance to give PSG the lead, Marseille stormed down to the other end of the pitch, with midfielder Franck Sauzee drilling a shot into the net to give Les Phoceens the points, and set them up for their second league and cup double. We've been pissed off with them ever since.

My favourite Classique
October 26 2008: Marseille 2-4 Paris Saint-Germain
As a fairly new convert to the PSG cause, I haven't seen that many classiques, but my favourite has to be the 4-2 defeat of OM at the Veledrome in 2008/09.

We have a terrible record at their place, and with the home side having made an unbeaten start to the season, the signs looked ominous. But PSG had a handy team back then, and took the lead through Guillaume Hoarau, who headed in a Jerome Rothen corner in the 10th minute. But by half-time Marseille had turned it around, with Mamadou Niang taking advantage of a mix-up in the PSG defence to level, before Mathieu Valbeuna crashed in a close range effort.

However, PSG came out for the second half all guns blazing. Admittedly one of those guns was the usually misfiring Peguy Luyindula, but he managed to make it 2-2 with a neat finish after good work from Sessegnon and Pancrate. It got even better for Les Rouges-et-Bleu in the 76th minute, when Rothen's long-range free kick somehow squirmed through the body of Steve Mandanda and into the net. Marseille's hopes of taking anything from the game were extinguished when Hoarau headed in his second to secure a memorable victory.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Monday, 18 February 2013

Sochaux 3-2 PSG: Pegged Bak by Les Lionceaux

So apparently reports of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 title win last week were greatly exaggerated.

All and sundry were announcing we'd all-but wrapped up the Championship after taking a six-point lead into this latest round of games. It's easy to see why anyone would leap to that conclusion, but it ignores the fact that PSG are masters of snatching disaster from the jaws of triumph.

Exhibit A: 2-0 up away in the Champions League with a minute to go, and WHAM; goal conceded, best player sent off.

Exhibit B: Away game against a side battling the drop, in a stadium where our record is awesome, and BAM, a 3-2 defeat and a performance as limp as a week-old lettuce.

"For me, the title race is not back on as we never thought it was finished just because we had a six-point lead," said Carletto, having seen both OM and OL win their matches to close the gap between us and the chasing pack to four and three points respectively.

"We deservedly lost. Sochaux played solidly, and were more aggressive than us. We had a problem with balance within the side throughout the game, and allowed them to counter-attack on numerous occasions.

"I'm not annoyed, we've won a lot of games since the start of the season."

It's good to hear the gaffer so level headed, and you have to give great credit to Sochaux, who were the better team throughout the match. Eric Hely's side have good quality players, and if they perform like that on a regular basis for the rest of the season they shouldn't have too much difficulty beating the drop.

For me Carletto got his team selection all wrong, with Clement Chantome replacing the injured Lucas on the right flank. This meant the only real pace in attack came from Lavezzi, and for the most part he was easily snuffed out by the home defence, who also denied Ibra and Pastore any space or time on the ball. Chantome didn't even offer much cover to his full-back, and we were exposed on our right every time Sebastien Roudet and Jerome Roussillon surged forward.

Debutant Giovani Sio had the ball in the net early for the pumped-up home side, only to be denied by a debatable offside call. They also had a good penalty shout turned down when the ball appeared to strike Chantome on the arm after a free kick from Ryad Boudebouz.

Sochaux's cause was helped by the fact that Salvatore Sirigu appeared to have decided to take a night off, so hired a body double to take his place between the sticks. That's the only plausible explanation for the Italian's uncharacteristically inept performance, which saw him fumble straight forward shots all over the place, as well repeatedly kicking the ball either into touch or straight to an opposition player.

The biggest surprise of the game was that PSG ended up taking the lead in the 29th minute. Pastore floated a corner in from the right and Alex climbed highest to loop a header into the top corner for his first goal of the season.

Usually once PSG get in front the outcome of the match is as predictable as your average Scooby Doo cartoon, but Les Lionceaux hit back within seven minutes. Boudebouz was the architect with superb ball played round the corner for Roudet to run onto, and he did the rest with a low finish across Sirigu into the far corner.

Boudebouz has spectacularly shit hair, but is a decent player, and was involved in the move which led to Sochaux hitting the front in the 54th minute. He found Sio, who played a one-two with Roudet before sprinting clear and driving a low finish under Sirigu for a deserved debut goal. Sirigu should have done better with the shot, but could only deflect it up and into the net via the underside of the bar.

The oustanding Sebastien Corchia then struck the inside of the post with a free kick as the home side pressed for a third, but PSG levelled matters with a scruffy goal 15 minutes from time. Again it came from a right wing corner, which was helped on by Alex and Lavezzi, allowing Mamadou Sakho to prod the ball home off the shins of Roussillon. The LFP have apparently given the goal to Sakho, which is extremely charitable of them as it looked like an OG to me. 2-2.

Those pesky lion cubs refused to go away though, and their enterprise was rewarded in the 83rd minute with the winner. Boudebouz dug out a delicious cross with his weaker right foot, and PSG's defenders stood and watched as substitute Sloan Privet nodded down for another replacement, Cedric Bakambu, to sweep the ball in from six yards.

For me it's too easy to blame the performance on a Champions League hangover, as Ancelotti did afterwards. The squad had five days to recover from their exertions in Valencia, and should have had enough in the tank to see off a team which is low in confidence, especially after taking the lead. For me it's more likely to be down to complacency, and this defeat might have come at an opportune time. If the players needed a reminder that they haven't won anything yet, that was certainly it.

Man of the Match: Mamadou Sakho - Very difficult to single anyone out after such a poor all round display, but I don't remember Big Mama doing anything wrong, and he scored. Sort-of.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Sochaux vs PSG: Dashing David's debut delayed

All the international journalists who were planning a trip to eastern France tomorrow night can put their suitcases away and try and get a refund on those EasyJet flights.

Because, when Paris Saint-Germain take to the field at the Stade Auguste Bonal tomorrow night against Sochaux, David Beckham won't be among the players.

"He [Beckham] needs to do more physical work and will be ready for next week to play Marseille no problem, whether it's in the league or in the Coupe de France," said Carlo Ancelotti, who is probably fed up to the back teeth of fielding questions about the former England captain.

"He'll bring us experience, quality and professionalism. Those are things we need. Our current tactical system gives us confidence and won't be changed for him. He can play central midfield or on the right."

Nice of Carlo to let us know about DBeck's possible positions, I thought he might be vying for Ibra's place up front.

The boss continued: "I'm direct with the players and don't need Beckham as a right-hand man. I need him as a player. I've got a lot of experience and I've worked with a lot of players who attracted a lot of attention when they joined the club, there's nothing special in it. It's like when Ronaldinho joined AC Milan or when Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Kaka moved. It's normal."

Nothing is normal where Beckham is concerned. Also missing for the match will be Jeremy Menez. Jezza isn't being punished for his strop after the Valencia match, but is suffering from a groin injury, meaning he won't be able to take the place of Lucas Moura, who is out with a thigh problem.

"I told Menez that his attitude is not good," said Ancelotti, a revelation which will come as a surprise to, er, no one.

"He apologized, now it's over. Competition is normal in large teams. A player may be angry against his coach, but his attitude has to remain good."

Carlo could bring Kevin Gameiro into the side in Lucas's place, or he may opt for a formation change to 4-3-3, with Clement Chantome filling the gap left by the Brazilian.

Gameiro got the only goal in this fixture last season, PSG winning 1-0. Sochaux survived the drop last year, picking up form after the appointment of Eric Hely, but this year they've seen little improvement and lie third from bottom, having slipped back into the relegation zone last week after a 0-0 draw with Troyes.

They still have some decent players though. Ryad Boudebouz is a decent midfielder, albeit one whose stock has fallen dramatically in the last 18 months, and Sebastien Corchia can provide a threat getting forward from right-back. But their goal tally of 22 is the joint second worst in Ligue 1, and the fact that top scorer Sloan Privet has just five goals tells its own story. Eduoard Butin, who returned from injury against Troyes after almost a year on the sidelines, gives them an extra option.

All the signs point to a PSG win, even without Beckham's debatable influence. Kick off in Montbéliard is at 8pm.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Stupid PSG picture of the week: Jeremy Menez rapping his way out of the Parc-des-Princes?

It's been a good week for Paris Saint-Germain, after Tuesday's 2-1 win in Valencia put us firmly in the driving seat for a place in the last eight of the Champions League.

One man who hasn't been basking in this glory is poor old Jeremy Menez, who was reportedly involved in a bust-up with Carlo Ancelotti and Leonardo after Tuesday's match over his lack of recent game-time.

Jezza's issues came to to head in the Mestalla, when Carletto sent him to warm up following Lucas Moura's first-half injury. But the manager chose to introduce Clement Chantome instead, with Menez not getting onto the pitch until the 76th minute, when he replaced Ezequiel Lavezzi.

All this his left the former Monaco man reportedly considering his future at the Parc-des-Princes. Regular readers will be aware that I love Jezza a little bit more than is healthy am a big Menez fan, so I hope he doesn't decide to flounce off to pastures new.

However, if he does go, perhaps he'll chose to pursue a career in music. A big fan of rap music, his "L" sign celebration is apparently a tribute to a childhood friend, French rapper Leck. A correspondent on Twitter, Paul Rouget, also informs me he got a mention on the sleeve notes of an album by another French musician, Booba.

So it's probably no surprise to see him hanging out with another noted chanteur, Kaaris. I would suggest that Westside pose could do with a bit of work before he enters any ghettos. Fo sho my nizzle.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Valencia vs PSG: Parisiens to reign in Spain or feel some Champions League pain?

Tonight's the night we've all been waiting for, one of the highlights of the year, the big one.

Yes it's Shrove Tuesday, an opportunity to gorge yourself on yummy pancakes sprinkled with sugar and drizzled with lemon juice. In fact just writing it down is making me hungry.

Paris Saint-Germain also have their biggest game of the season to date this evening, the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Valencia. Whether they manage to batter the opposition or end up feeling flat as a pancake remains to be seen as, on paper, the sides appear to be quite evenly matched.

"I don't think we're the favourites because this round is totally open," said Carletto, who probably likes his mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes on his pancakes.

"Valencia are playing well again – they have well-organised and talented players. It's going to be an open game, a good show. I don't think it'll be a physical match but a tactical one.

"Both teams are compact. I think it's true PSG are good on the counterattack but our objective is to play football, not just counterattack. This is a great test for us to play here."

Not surprisingly, the rested Ibrahimovic, Matuidi and new dad Mamadou Sakho are likely to be restored to the PSG starting line-up for the match at the Mestella. I'd have thought the only question for Carletto is whether to start Lucas or Menez behind Zlatan - Jezza has more experience and scored on Friday night, so may get the nod.

As L'Equipe points out today, Valencia, who are fifth in La Liga, have experience and quality running through the spine of their team, from former Lille defender Adil Rami, to enigmatic Argentinean midfielder Ever Banega and goal machine Robert Soldado, who returns from suspension tonight and will be looking to add to his 17 goals this season. Missing will be a familiar face to Ligue 1 fans, ex-Lyon full-back Aly Cissokho, who is injured.

"It's always a good time to play a match like this – we're doing well right now," said Los Che coach Ernesto Valverde.

We're high on confidence and this match offers us opportunities that we must make the most of. They have great strikers and attack with full force. Having possession doesn't mean constant danger; if we do that, it doesn't mean we will have PSG under control."

Indeed, our counter-attacking skills will probably be quite handy on a night where we're likely to come under quite a lot of pressure. Despite topping our group we shouldn't forget that our away form in Europe is usually pretty rancid: in the game that probably offers the best comparison to tonight's, away to Porto, we took an absolute pounding and were lucky to get away with a 1-0 defeat.

I'd be content with a similar result tonight, though an away goal would be rather nice too. Allez Paris!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Six-y time for PSG as Ligue 1 rivals falter

As weekends go, the one just past couldn't have been much better for those of a Parisien persuasion.

Paris Saint-Germain won again, 3-1 on Friday night against Bastia. The biggest surprise of the match was that Salvatore Sirigu finally conceded a goal, some 947 minutes after he last picked the ball out of his own net. The Italian probably won't want to see Wahbi Khazri's 40-yard free kick again, positioned as he was a little too far out of his goal, giving the Moroccan the space to bend a terrific shot in at the near post.

By that stage though, PSG's much changed line-up was already two goals to the good. The first half was a frustrating one, with Les Rouge-et-Bleu dominating possession but unable to find a way through. The closest they came was an effort from Kevin Gameiro which rebounded away off the post.

Jeremy Menez, another player back in the starting XI after a spell on the bench, was at the heart of most of PSG's good work, so it was fitting that he got the opening goal in the second period, firing in a shot from outside the box which squirmed under the body of visiting stopper Mickael Landreau.

Zlatan was then summoned from the bench, and got his customary goal from the penalty spot after Lucas Moura had been tripped. Replays showed that the offence occurred outside the box, but Ibra didn't mind and casually slotted his 21st goal of the season into the corner. The goal means the Swede has already equaled the total achieved by last year's golden boot winners, Nene and Olivier Giroud. With 14 games to go one suspects he has a good chance of surpassing their tallies.

Then came Khazri's goal, and a few nervous moments at the back, before another substitute, Ezequiel Lavezzi, put the result beyond doubt after Landreau had parried a cross from Clement Chantome into his path. The former PSG stopper's goalkeeping was as dodgy as the strange pajama bottoms he was wearing.

The win looks all the more valuable given that nine-man Marseille only managed a draw with Evian, and last night second place Lyon were soundly beaten 3-1 by Lille. Because of this our six point lead over OL remains intact, with OM a further two points behind. Woof.

Attentions now turn to matters Champions League, and the squad have flown out to Spain ahead of tomorrow night's clash with Valencia. PSG will be without their injured Thiagos, Silva and Motta, but are otherwise at full strength.

David Beckham won't be there of course, having spent the weekend in the States supporting Victoria at New York Fashion week. Glad to see he's taking his efforts to get match fit seriously. Details of his salary package emerged yesterday, with the former England skipper said to be taking home a not-insignificant €31,000 per month.

You'll remember that Becks announced that he would be paying for free when he was unveiled a couple of weeks ago, but the French players union put a spanner in those particular works by announcing that he would have to be paid at least the minimum footballer's wage, some €2,200 per month.

As well as his salary, the club will also to cover accommodation and security costs, according to a report in Le Parisien. "The club will provide two bodyguards whose mission is valued at €20,000", notes the journal. Sounds like nice work if you can get it.

Friday, 8 February 2013

PSG vs Bastia: All change for clash with Corsicans

Like the contents of Findus lasagna, the composition of the Paris Saint-Germain team to take on Bastia tonight may be somewhat unexpected.

With the Champions League clash with Valencia just five days away, Carlo Ancelotti is pondering changes, despite the fact that a win at the Parc des Princes would take us six points clear at the top ahead of the other fixtures this weekend.

"There is no risk that our heads are in Valencia," said Carlo in his pre-match press conference.

"Everyone knows that it is important to win against Bastia. You have to take points, it is a very important moment. It would take us six points ahead, which would be good preparation for Valencia. The team is ready and confident."

Nevertheless, reports today suggest some of the squad's prime beef (Ibrahimovic, Lucas, Matuidi) could be rested and be replaced by the PSG equivalent of horse meat (Gameiro, Menez, Chantome). One player who definitely won't feature is Mamadou Sakho, who is being wrapped up in cotton wool ahead of the Valencia match, with Thiago Silva not due back from injury for another 10-15 days. Alex is back in the training though, and is poised to form the world's slowest centre-back partnership with Sylvain Armand. Thiago Motta is suspended and injured, but could return for the trip to the Mestalla.

Even with changes, PSG should still have enough to see off a Bastia side without a win in three games. The Corsicans have never won in Paris, but they do have players who could cause our defence problems. There's certainly plenty of creativity in their midfield, with Wahbi Khazri, Lille-bound Florian Thauvin and Jerome Rothen all capable of creating or scoring the odd but.

Paris-born Rothen spent six years at the Parc des Princes, though his last 12 months with the club saw him fall out with the board of directors and be sent on loan to Turkey (Ankaragücü) and Scotland (Rangers). Poor chap. His last appearance at the Parc des Princes, in May 2009, saw him booed off by PSG's fans, but nevertheless he is looking forward to making his return.

"My last game at the Parc, when I was booed, left a big scar," he said. I assume - and hope - he's speaking metaphorically.

"But it was a misunderstanding fueled by the directors of the time. PSG has now shifted into another dimension and, as a Parisien, it's nice. It makes me happy to return to play at Parc des Princes in front of my family and friends who will be in the stands." 

On his own side's chances in the match, Rothen is less cheery: "When you saw them play in Toulouse [PSG won 4-0], you would say that it will be very difficult.

"But we also have weapons, players in our squad capable of achieving great feats in a game. Logically, Paris must prevail, we have maybe a five per cent chance to get three points but we will still try to do so." 

Kick-off tonight is at 7.30pm English time.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

International round-up: Sakho quote nonsense, Verratti goal glee, Ibra on buff Becks

No one likes losing to Germany, least of all France, who are about as keen on Deutschland as the average Tory MP is on gay marriage.

But lose they did last night at the Stade de France, as the Germans recovered from falling behind to Mathieu Valbeuna's goal to go on and claim a 2-1 win in Les Bleus' latest international friendly.

Mamadou Sakho played the full 90 minutes for Didier Deschamps' side, with Blaise Matuidi starting in midfield before being replaced at half-time by Toulouse's Etienne Capoue. Jeremy Menez also made it onto the pitch briefly as an 86th minute substitute.

Speaking of Sakho, you may have seen some pieces in the English media yesterday about him possibly wanting to leave PSG. Sky Sports were running a story with the following quotes:

"I will do everything to play at the 2014 World Cup, but I need to be playing week in, week out," said Sakho. "I cannot accept playing just a few minutes this season and next because this is a decisive moment in my career.

"At the end of the season I will sit down with my agent and club officials and clear up the situation.

"If I have to leave PSG to keep my place in the France national team, then I have no choice but to leave."

So far, so bad. But if you look at the actual quote he gave to Le Parisien, the story becomes somewhat less alarming. It starts with "this situation MAY arise in the summer, and if it did I would have to speak to my bosses."

Then he ends with: "I promise you that I'm now thinking about that for now. I'm thinking only about becoming a champion with Paris."

So there you go, player gives reasonable answer to question shock, hold the front page.

Elsewhere Marco Verratti took time out from his quest to break the world record for dissent-related yellow cards to score in injury time and earn Italy a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands. It was the teenager's first goal for his country, bravo Marco. Salvatore Sirigu was an unused substitute as usual, he and the other goalkeepers were probably sat on the bench sticking pins in their Buffon voodoo dolls.

Over in Sweden Ibra was strolling about as his side lost 3-2 to Argentina. Ezequiel Lavezzi popped up as a substitute for the Albiceleste, but Javier Pastore was left out of the squad once more. Zlatan's best contribution of the week was this quote on the arrival of David Beckham: "We are already a strong team, but now we are stylish too," he noted.
I don't know whether Becks was at Wembley last night, but if he was he would've seen Lucas Moura make a lively contribution as a second half substitute for Brazil, as they went down 2-1 to World Champions-elect England. Roy Hodgson's side are so good that they let aging Ligue 1 reject Fred score against them.

Finally, at the Africa Cup of Nations, Momo Sissoko's Mali bowed out in the semi-finals, going down 4-1 to Nigeria. Momo, who will now be heading for Fiorentina where he is on loan, even got involved in one of the Nigeria goals, deflecting Emmanuel Emmineke's shot past his own goalkeeper.

Nigeria had eliminated Ivory Coast - and Siaka Tiene - at the quarter final stage. It's not all bad news for Siaka though; bizarrely he's been added to our Champions League squad for the knock-out stages. Someone at the Parc-des-Princes must have been feeling charitable.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Stupid PSG picture of the week: Lucas goes to Disneyland

Lucas Moura has made quite an impression since arriving in Paris. The Brazilian's silky dribbling skills have already earned him plenty of plaudits, and he notched up two assists in Friday's 4-0 win in Toulouse.

So the 19-year-old has more than earned a treat, and yesterday he ventured into the suburbs to visit Disneyland Paris. This article suggests Lucas is an adrenaline junkie who goes on the big rides like Space Mountain and the Mine Train, but then you wouldn't really confess to having a penchant for the Tea Cups, would you?

Anyway, here he is with someone in a Mini Mouse costume. I wondered what Siaka Tiene was up to these days;

Pic -

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Toulouse 0-4 PSG: Parisiens cruise as TFC snooze

Four has very much been the magic number for Paris Saint-Germain this season, so much so that I've used up my stock of quartet-related headline puns.

PSG have hit four goals in eight different league and cup games this season, the latest coming on Friday as we took a three-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 with victory in Toulouse. Lyon's surprise defeat at struggling Ajaccio today means that we also have an 13 goal advantage over Remi Garde's men in the goal difference stakes.

The victory in Toulouse was so comfortable it could have been on sale in the luxury section at DFS. We received a helping hand from the home side, who defended abysmally at times in the first half, not least when Ezequiel Lavezzi sprung a raggedy offside trap to reach Zlatan's lofted pass. Lavezzi's far post cross found Javier Pastore, who hit his half-volley down into the ground and saw it bounce up past goalkeeper Ahamada and a defender on the line before finding the back of the net.

Pastore got a deserved recall to the starting line-up after an impressive showing as a substitute against Lille. And he was in good form on Friday night, though it should be noted that he usually thrives in the kind of games where he's given acres of space to work his magic.

Toulouse had a few shots from distance, but nothing that looked likely to trouble the seemingly unbeatable Salvatore Sirigu, and Pastore and Lucas had gone close by the time Ibra took his tally for the season to 20 to make it 2-0. Lucas provided the ammunition with a delightful cross, and the Swede was unchallenged as he nodded past Ahamada. Remarkably Zlatan has scored in every away game he's played this season in Ligue 1, and he's eight goals ahead of his nearest rival in the 'race' for the golden boot.

It went from bad to worse for the home side when Chiek M'Bengue was shown a red-card three minutes before half-time. Having been harshly booked for a foul on Lucas near half-way, M'Bengue made a rash lunge on the Brazilian down by the corner flag to earn a second booking.

Having done his work for the night, referee Chapron went off with an injury at half-time, and his replacement Sebastien Desiage turned down a couple of half-hearted Toulouse penalty appeals in the opening minutes of the second period.

But it was at the other end where most of the action was occurring, with Zlatan and Ahamada involved in a personal duel which, to his credit, the keeper probably won. He denied Ibra with a diving save after good work from Pastore, then made an athletic parry to tip the ball over the bar after a great piece of skill from the striker saw him dig out a goal-bound lob from the edge of the box. When Zlatan finally did beat the keeper moments later, a defender cleared his shot off the line.

More goals weren't far away though, and another delicious centre from Lucas allowed Sakho to gobble up his first goal of the season at the back post. Two minutes later terrific foot work from Ibra saw him glide past three tackles before setting up substitute Gregory van der Wiel for a simple tap-in.

With PSG performing so well, the question is where does David Beckham fit in? Nobody seems to know, but what is certain is that after the game the club's great and good were queuing up to kiss Golden Balls' golden backside.

"He is humble and of good character," said Ancelotti. "As a coach, if you have 20 players like Beckham in the squad it makes the job easier."

"He's really an example," added Leonardo, looking smugger than Piers Morgan/Bono hybrid having finally got his man. "He is very strict with himself and accepts this challenge as he feels he has the ability to do things on the pitch. 

"He sees himself as a player, and is not there to laugh and take pictures but to win games and titles. He is committed to it, and is not here for any other purpose."
Well that clears that one up then, ahem. Apparently the players aren't immune to Beckham-mania either - even the mighty Zlatan seems to be under his spell; "He has a lot of experience and qualities, especially mental qualities, because it is a winner," said he Swede. "This is what we need and he will be a great help. I do not know the date of his arrival but I'm sure he will do great things in Paris."
"For younger people, it will help us to raise our level of play," said Blaise Matuidi. "He made us dream with his magic feet. I hope he will continue in Paris"

Becks and his, er, magic feet are due to start training on February 16, so we're not likely to see him in action before the end of the month.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Toulouse vs PSG: Return from Planet Beckham

After a day of Beckham-mania, PSG are back to the mundane stuff of playing football this evening, heading south for a match with Toulouse.

We've already beaten TFC twice this season, 2-0 in the league back in September and, more recently, 3-1 in the Coupe de France. But despite our recent good record against the southerners, boss Alain Casanova is looking forward to the match:

"They've brought single players for the cost of our entire budget [reportedly €38million], it makes you think," he told L'Equipe. "But at the same time I think it is an invaluable opportunity for Ligue 1 and for all of us.  

"For me this team is the caliber of Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid or Manchester United, even if it has less experience.

"PSG are a locomotive and one that is needed. This is why I do not understand people who are looking for lice in the head."

Lice in the head eh, what a charming expression. I gather he is referring to the cynics who grumble about everything PSG do, and there are plenty of those around.

Casanova continued: "We bowed [lost] at the Parc last week and on that day there was a big difference in level.  

"To beat them, we will have to be much stronger in attack and defend much better. And also hope that Paris is less fit! I have great confidence in my team, and fortunately the PSG are not unbeatable."

Toulouse had a busy transfer window, shipping out Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle) and Emmanuel Riviere (Monaco), and bolstering his attack with the arrival of Brest's promising forward Eden Ben Baset. He could play up front alongside Wissem Ben Yedder, though whether this is part of a larger project to recruit a team of players with Ben as their middle name remains unclear.

The PSG locomotive has undergone a few changes in the engine room (sorry), with Beckham's arrival precipitating the departure of three other midfielders; Adrien Rabiot has joined tonight's opponents on loan, but won't be eligible for the match. It's a probably good for the 17-year-old to go out and get games, as long as he comes back in the summer.

Momo Sissoko has buggered off on loan to Fiorentina - hopefully he won't be back - and Mathieu Bodmer made a temporary move to St Etienne moments before the transfer window slammed shut. Bodmer should be ensured of a warm welcome when he returns to his former employers, ASSE's Rhone Valley rivals Lyon.

Tonight's match will come too soon for Thiago Silva, and he and Alex will be joined on the sidelines by Thiago Motta, who is looking at two-three weeks on the sidelines after picking up an injury against Lille last time out. Marco Verratti will probably deputise. Kick off at the Stadium Municipal tonight is 7.30pm GMT. Allez Paris!

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