Josh Mart takes the opportunity to preview PSG’s trip to southwest Sweden to face Malmö. This game is a hugely significant one for both clubs in many ways. On the football front, both teams need points to help stride towards their respective goals of Europa League qualification for hosts Malmö, and for PSG to cement their place in the knockout stages after Christmas.
Also, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to his hometown of Malmö for the first time in what is surely to be an emotional return for the city’s favourite son, who recently shone in helping Sweden defeat Scandinavian rivals Denmark in the recent Euro 2016 qualifier. Football aside though, this game is the first chance for the continent to show solidarity alongside both PSG and Parisians alike, during the first European game that PSG will play after the tragic events in Paris 10 days ago.
Since the last match that Malmö played in Europe, their domestic league has come to a conclusion and ‘The Sky Blues’ finished in a rather disappointing 5th position, 9 points behind winners Norrkoping. Malmö have played a Swedish cup game in the last few weeks in which they swept aside division two side Gotene 5-0. It will be interesting to see if the break in play has had a positive or negative effect on Malmö in their quest to keep their continental involvement going into the new year.
PSG have been in great form in Ligue 1 since their defeat at the hands of Real Madrid on the last Champions League matchday. Before the international break, Les Parisiens battered Toulouse 5-0 at the Parc des Princes and in extremely emotional and trying circumstances, PSG managed to beat Lorient 2-1 at the weekend. PSG will be eager to put pressure on Madrid at the top of the Group A table with a win here in Sweden.
Team News and Tactics:
Malmö will be without the suspended Arnason for this match up with PSG. Coach Hareide will also be without Azinovic and Molins, whilst Konaté and Djurdic are doubtful through injury.
With this in mind I expect Malmö to start in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Wiland between the posts and a likely changed back four of Tinnerholm, Bengtsson, Brorsson and Yotun. The midfield four has good balance and is likely to include Rodić, Lewicki, Adu, and Berget. Malmö’s talisman Rosenberg is set to play off Djurdic (if fit). If Djurdic is not fit to start, Mehmeti could deputise.
Laurent Blanc has a few injury concerns ahead of this one. Pastore, Aurier and Lavezzi are all ruled out through injury, whilst Marco Verratti is highly doubtful with a calf problem. David Luiz is suspended.
With this in mind I expect Laurent Blanc to opt for a 4-3-3 formation with Trapp set to remain in goal, despite his mistake against Madrid in the last match. Van der Wiel and Maxwell are likely to be the full backs with the Brazilian duo of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos at the heart of the back 4.
With Verratti likely to be missing, Blanc could opt for Rabiot to play alongside Thiago Motta and Matuidi in central midfield. This will depend on whether Blanc decides to start with Di Maria in the front 3 alongside Cavani and Ibrahimovic of course. Lucas Moura could play on the right if Di Maria is selected in the middle of the park.
Berget (Malmö)- Despite Berget getting a lot of criticism during his time in Scotland with Celtic, earlier this season he silenced his critics by scoring a brace at Celtic Park for Malmö, the away goals which gave the Swedes the platform to qualify for this year’s Champions League. Berget works tirelessly and also has an eye for goal.
Ibrahimovic (PSG)- After his heroics for Sweden over the past fortnight, and also the huge publicity of his return to boyhood club Malmö, it is impossible to look past Zlatan for this one. The people of Sweden love their most talented player for decades, and it is hard to think of a footballer on the planet who steps up so regularly to help his nation when they need him most. His talents are there for all to see, and I for one hope he thoroughly enjoys his emotional turn to Malmö.
As Laurent Blanc admits, preparation for this match has been hugely difficult and challenging for obvious reasons. PSG will wear shirts with ‘Je Suis Paris’ emblazoned on the front to show their support and solidarity with everyone that suffered in wake of the Paris attacks. The weather could influence the game with temperatures set to be close to freezing and coach Hareide jokingly wished for snow to aid his side. If the PSG players are in the right frame of mind, it is hard to back against them here.
Prediction: Malmö 0-2 PSG