What: French Ligue 1 who: Paris Saint-Germain vs Lille when: Sunday 18th December, 2011, at 20.00 UK Time where: Parc des Princes, Paris, France Kombouare Fights on in Choppy Waters PSG started the season in magnificent style but have fallen away a little of late and relinquished the lead in Ligue 1 to Montpellier. The Parisians were also humbled 3-0 by Marseille at the Stade Velodrome in France’s ‘Clasico’ last month, before losing 1-0 at home to lowly Nancy, their second home defeat of the season and fourth in total. For the capital club scoring goals has not been an issue, and it should not be with Javier Pastore, the player of the opening third of the campaign, and Nene and Kevin Gameiro also prolific. Gameiro has notched nine goals already, continuing his superb form from last season at Lorient, whilst Nene has seven and Pastore six. But defensively the club have not been as ruthless in keeping with boss Antoine Kombouare’s attacking mentality. Kombouare has guided his team superbly despite constant pressure on his job from above. Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez have both been heavily linked with taking his spot on the bench, and the former turned down an approach to take over. It has also been suggested Claude Makelele is being groomed to temporarily take over when Kombouare is finally fired. on the pitch though, PSG have suffered the shock this week of exiting the Europa League and find themselves in the same position at the same points as last year – second. With the experience of a failed title challenge and a bolstered squad, the Parc des Prince outfit will surely go closer and possibly lift the title. They are riding high in choppy waters however, and appear to be on a slight downward spurt at the moment. Garcia Revels in Home Comforts Conversely, Lille are on a superb run of form, and have gone 15 matches without defeat. It was at this time last season that they really pushed on and created a run of form that gave them the momentum to clinch the title. Lille exited the Champions League and Europe completely last week, but it is hard to think of a game the French champions could not have argued they deserved more from, having enjoyed much of the play against Inter and Trabzonspor both home and away. a key reason for their exit was that Rudi Garcia’s men have not been as clinical as last season on occasion, in part owing to the loss of Gervinho, while Dmitry Payet has not stamped his mark on the team as yet. Joe Cole and Eden Hazard’s presence on the pitch at the same time also tends to have the effect of making the team’s attacks more intricate and less direct. Usually superb going forward, Lille’s defence though has been excellent – the best in Ligue 1 with just 15 goals conceded – and this will be key against the talents of Gameiro, Nene and Pastore. But Lille face a tough challenge to defend their title and from no one more than PSG. last season Lille were relatively injury free and are currently near to full strength, and with Garcia’s rotation strategy (he is the only Ligue 1 coach to have used three substitutes in every match this season ) the northern France side could be fresh for this clash, unlike their opponents who were in Europa League action. Les Dogues have also been superb on the road so far this season – indeed they have yet to lose away in the league. can that continue in Paris?
Recent form Paris Saint-Germain: Paris Saint-Germain 4-2 Athletic Bilbao (14/12; Europa League) Sochaux 0-1 Paris Saint-Germain (10/12; Ligue 1) Paris Saint-Germain 3-2 Auxerre (4/12; Ligue 1) Lille: Lille 2-0 Dijon (11/12; Ligue 1) Lille 0-0 Trabzonspor (07/12; Champions League) Ajaccio 2-3 Lille (3/12; Ligue 1) Key absences Paris Saint-Germain: Blaise Matuidi; Diego Lugano; Jeremy Menez (doubt) Lille: Tulio de Melo (doubt) Players to watch Paris Saint-Germain – Kevin Gameiro. PSG’s top scorer so far this season, Gameiro has shown a sharp instinct in front of goal and helped propel the Parisians forward. Fed by the creative talents of Nene, Jeremy Menez and Pastore, Gameiro has thrived on their service this season. in a game likely to be tight in midfield, and with so many players who like to pass the ball and feed in someone else, it will come down to the battle of predators – who can get the crucial goals to win the match? Lille – Moussa Sow: Sow has not been in quite the same form as last season, when he was the top scorer in Ligue 1 with 25 goals. With just six goals so far this campaign, the striker is yet to hit the heights. he will be gone for the African Nations Cup in January and will hope to leave Lille with a few more goals before setting off for Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. against PSG, Lille will need Sow to be at his best to take the likely few chances that will arise during the game. Match Prediction PSG lost their last big game in the league, 3-0 at Marseille, and will do well to learn the lessons of that defeat. Starved of time on the ball, Pastore was poor, and with Menez and Nene failing to use the width of the pitch to stretch the play, the side were comprehensively beaten as their defenders were left exposed against rampaging full backs. With Menez possibly out for the visit of Lille, much will depend on Nene as both teams play with two strong dominant midfielders; PSG two of Mathieu Bodmer, Mohamed Sissoko and Blaise Matuidi, and Lille usually Florent Balmont and Rio Mavuba. Expect a congested middle of the pitch, and PSG’s lack of width could be crucial. But Lille are hardly flush with players who like to get wide, as the likes of Payet and Cole look to cut inside. Full backs could be crucial, but it may be hard for either side to stamp their authority. But with Hazard and Pastore on the pitch, there will be some chances. this will be a game for clinical finishers. Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 Lille.
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