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Champions League PREVIEW: PSG vs Ajax (25/11/14)

Josh Mart previews PSG’s final home game of the Champions’ League group phase, as they welcome Ajax to the Parc des Princes. PSG managed to maintain their advantage at the top of Group F by narrowly beating APOEL last time out whereas Ajax were defeated by Barcelona at the Camp Nou. PSG will know the importance of taking maximum points here, as it will mean that they are in control of whether they finish first or second, when they travel to the Camp Nou in a couple of weeks’ time.

PSG have finally reached the level which they expect and demand in the French capital, with wins in their last 7 games in all competitions. Les Parisiens are also yet to lose a game this season which combined with welcoming back key players, and finally stringing together a run of form expected of a title winning side, is looking more and more positive for Laurent Blanc and his men. Metz were defeated in PSG’s last match on Friday night, in a fantastic match which ended 3-2 to PSG. Blanc will be extremely pleased with his side’s recent form but will be eager to win here, as the difference between finishing 1st and 2nd in your group can be crucial.

Ajax have also seemed to have put early season inconsistency behind them now, with 5 wins out of 7 in all competitions (the only defeats were in the Champions League to Barcelona), Ajax are back challenging at the top of the Eredivisie. Heerenveen were the latest victims of Ajax’s upsurge in form, as the northern club were beaten 4-1 at the Amsterdam Arena at the weekend. Franck de Boer’s men cannot qualify for the knockout phases now, as PSG and Barca are too far ahead, but im sure he will be keen to get into and challenge in the Europa League by finishing ahead of APOEL in the group. It may well go down to the wire though, with just a point between them.

Team News and Tactics

Despite the return of star players such as Ibrahimovic and David Luiz in recent weeks, Laurent Blanc will still be without some key individuals for this one. Thiago Motta and Thiago Silva are both missing through injury, and Marco Verratti is rested after a groin injury.

With this in mind, I expect PSG to lineup in a 4-3-3 formation with Sirigu in goal and David Luiz and Marquinhos to play in front of him. Aurier and Van der Wiel will challenge each other for the right back berth, as will Maxwell and Digne on the opposite side of the pitch. Due to key absentees in midfield, Pastore could drop back to form part of the three, probably alongside Matuidi and Rabiot, who will be keen to impress due to limited appearances so far this season. Cavani could start on the left or right of the front three, depending on whether Blanc opts for out and out wingers or the Uruguayans superior goalscoring ability to accompany Ibrahimovic up top. Blanc could also decide to change to more of a 4-4-2 formation due to the lack of options in central midfield.

Ajax are also likely to start with their traditional flowing 4-3-3 formation with Veltman and Moisander expected to start at the heart of defence, with van Rhijn and Boilesen at full backs. Zimling or Viergiever could come into central midfield for more defence stability, probably at the expense of attacking minded Serero. Klaasen and Andersen are likely to provide the creativity from the midfield three, although de Boer could choose to play Schone there. Sigthorsson may return in place of Milik spearheading the attack and Kishna and Schone should support from the flanks.

Danger Men:

Pastore (PSG)- Javier Pastore has never really lived up to his huge price tag since arriving in Paris during the first wave of big money transfers a few years back. However, the high transfer fee is not the players fault and Pastore has so much to offer, as he proved v Chelsea last season. He seems to glide effortlessly across the pitch and has a great eye for a pass. If selected expect him to cause Ajax problems.

El Ghazi (Ajax)- The young winger has really exploded onto the scene this season, and being at such a good, traditional club like Ajax, he is likely to progress further in the upcoming months. El Ghazi possesses lots of pace and a wide array of tricks so the PSG defence will have to be wary.

Prediction

Despite having already sealed qualification from the group stage, don’t expect PSG to step of the gas here against Ajax. As we know, the PSG hierarchy dream of the club winning Europe’s elite competition and cementing their place amongst the elect of European football. Ajax will also be keen to compete as they have a decent chance of going far in the Europa League if they can secure a 3rd place group stage finish, so they won’t be rolling over for Les Parisiens. Despite this though, PSG should have too much for Ajax and given they have home advantage, the safe money should be on PSG.

Prediction: PSG 2-0 Ajax

J.Ma

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