Josh Mart takes the opportunity to preview Paris Saint Germain’s final Champions League match of 2016 at home against Bulgarian sides Ludogorets Razgrad.
The French Champions managed to secure a hugely important 2-2 away at Arsenal last time around, a result means that PSG have all but secured top spot in Group A, unless they fail to match the Gunners result here of course.
The performance of the team at the Emirates was had its positives and negatives, although Unai Emery will be delighted and somewhat relieved to see his side sit at the top of the table ahead of the final matchday.
Ludogorets still have hope of making it into 3rd place, which means a shot at the Europa League in the New Year. They simply need to match Swiss side Basel’s result against Arsenal, no matter the final score, as the Bulgarians have the better head to head ratio which would see them finish in third position.
PSG’s domestic form has been troubling to say the least for coach Unai Emery. Despite four of their last five matches in Ligue 1, Les Parisiens sit in 3rd place in the standings as we head towards France’s winter break.
The good run of form of late as abruptly halted by a resounding 3-0 defeat at Montpellier in the south of France on Saturday. PSG are 4 points behind surprise package Nice, and have thrown in shock results such as the one against Montpellier far to regularly this season.
Ludogorets have been in superb form of late in the Bulgarian First League and they currently sit six points clear of second placed Levski Sofia and with a game in hand. Last Wednesday’s 2-1 win against the aforementioned Levski was Ludogorets’ twelfth win in a row in the league competition, so their confidence will be extremely high right now.
Team News and Tactics
Unai Emery has a few selection headaches ahead of this match at the Parc des Princes. The match against Arsenal was a costly one for Marco Verratti, he scored a very unfortunate own goal and got himself suspended for this final match up so PSG will be without him. Elsewhere, Javier Pastore and Adrien Rabiot are missing through injury.
With this in mind, I expect PSG to lineup in their usual 4-3-3 formation with Areola between the posts, Aurier who missed the Arsenal trip through visa issues is expected to regain his place at right back. Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Maxwell are expected to make up the rest of the back four.
With Verratti missing, I would imagine Matuidi will drop back into midfield alongside Thiago Motta and probably Krychowiak, although Emery could opt to play the more attacking Hatem Ben Arfa instead with Di Maria dropping into midfield.
The front three will of course be spearheaded by Edinson Cavani and he is likely to be supported by Lucas and Di Maria. Unai Emery could decide to play a couple of youngsters like Nkunku or Kimpembe, but with the win still needed, I think we will see them from the bench if at all.
Ludogorets have just the one major injury concern; Vitinha will miss out through a knee injury here.
With this in mind I expect coach Dermendzhiev to set his side out in a quite narrow 4-2-3-1 formation with Stoyanov in goals. Protecting him will likely be Palomino and Moti at the heart of the defence, with Cichinho and Natanael the full backs. Dyakov and Andrianantenaina are set to start in front of the back.
The talented front 4 for Ludogorets is why they have caused teams problems in the past and I think Dermendzhiev will opt to play Misidjan, Cafu and Wanderson are likely to start behind Keseru in attack, although Lukoki or Marcelinho could replace one of the advanced 3 midfielders if necessary.
Lucas Moura (PSG) – In a side which can occasionally lack pace and directness in attack, Lucas Moura provides it in abundance. He is very skilful and can also provide assists for his team mates.
His headed goal at the Emirates a few weeks ago was a surprise, but he undoubtedly has the talent and desire to notch against the Bulgarians here tonight.
Misidjan (Ludogorets) – Virgil Misidjan or ‘Vura’, as he likes to be known, was once labelled a potential top talent when he broke through the ranks of local club Willem II in Holland in 2012 but his move to Ludogorets was considered by most a bad choice for a promising young winger.
However, Misidjan has performed well over the 3 years or so that he has played in Razgrad, and he has the pace and trickery to cause PSG problems at the Parc des Princes.
Tonight’s match is one that PSG should win and I think they will. The Bulgarians caused both PSG and Arsenal some problems on home soil, but I think the trip to Paris will be one step too far for Ludogorets. The home side need the three points to make top spot theirs and I expect them to be comfortable winners here.
Prediction: PSG 3-0 Ludogorets