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Champions League PREVIEW: PSG vs APOEL Nicosia (5/11/14)

Josh Mart takes a chance to preview Paris Saint Germain’s home tie with APOEL Nicosia, in the 2nd part of this Champions’ League group stage ‘double header’. The previous encounter between the teams two weeks ago was a tight affair, in which PSG narrowly and some would say undeservedly, beat APOEL 1-0 thanks to a late Cavani goal.

Les Parisiens have finally hit the form that they expect and crave, winning their last 4 games in all competitions, including an impressive 3-0 victory over Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes. Saturday’s 2-1 victory away at Lorient kept the pressure on leaders Marseille, who responded by narrowly beating Lens on Sunday evening. PSG will look to extend their current winning streak by beating APOEL which would also mean that they sit top of Group F regardless of whether Barcelona beat Ajax. This would give Laurent Blanc and his men a great platform to build on ahead of the trip to the Camp Nou in December.

APOEL arrive with the luxury and comfort of sitting 4 points clear at the top of the Cypriot First Division. Their good league form was enhanced by a very impressive 4-0 away victory at Ethnikos Achna on Saturday. Despite the Thrylos sitting bottom of the group, they have caused every team that they have played against, including Barcelona, problems due to their compact set up. The Cypriot club arrive in Paris with nothing to lose, as the world expects PSG to win.

Team News and Tactics

Laurent Blanc has confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not make his coveted return against APOEL, so the onus will be on Cavani to lead the line once more. Verratti will also be missing through injury but many of PSG’s previous injury concerns are available for selection.

I expect PSG to start in a 4-3-3 formation, due to the return of Lavezzi to the squad. He and Lucas are expected to flank Cavani in attack and should provide plenty of pace and trickery to worry the APOEL rear-guard. Thiago Motta will anchor the midfield, supported by Matuidi who was rested at the weekend, and one of Pastore or Cabaye, who will be desperate to start in place of Verratti. I also predict that Van der Wiel will return to the 11 after he was suspended for the Ligue 1 game at the weekend, and Maxwell is likely to start on the opposite side of the defence. It’ll be interesting to see if Marquinhos or David Luiz partner Thiago Silva at the back. Sirigu is ever-present in between the posts.

APOEL on the other hand, have many injury concerns, with Riise, Kaka and Charalambides all ruled out. Other key players such as Manduca and Tiago Gomes are doubtful too. This could all provide a headache for Donis but he still has talented players at his disposal. With this in mind, I expect APOEL to lineup in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Guilherme partnering Carlao at the heart of the defence. Antoniades could come in for Riise. Vinicius and compatriot Nuno Morais are likely to play in central midfield. Djebbour could come in to play close to target man Sheridan, who notched a brace at the weekend.

Danger Men

Lucas (PSG)- Lucas Moura has a mass of attributes and technical ability but sometimes get criticism for not being consistent enough at the top level. However, his extreme pace and trickery is likely to cause APOEL all sorts of problems at the back. Laurent Blanc will hope that he can perform well and aid PSG in their quest for victory.

Sheridan (APOEL)- Cillian Sheridan is not the sort of footballer you’d expect to find plying his trade in the Cypriot League, which is dominated by Greek and Portuguese/Brazilian exports (as well as nationals). This could be why he has gained admirers as his contrasting style causes teams problems. He is a good target man and a real aerial threat so PSG will need to be guarded.

Prediction

Despite PSG’s problems in Nicosia a few weeks back, I thoroughly expect Blanc’s men to do the business and get the necessary 3 points here. Blanc seems to have found the winning formula despite rotating his players regularly enough to keep them all happy and I expect this to continue here. Cavani will eager to enhance his reputation even more, with Ibrahimovic’s return looming over him. This should be relatively comfortable for Les Parisiens.

Prediction: PSG 2-0 APOEL

J.M.

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