Into the fire for David Luiz vs. Bastia?
Following Thiago Silva's injury in the 2-1 victory over Napoli in a poorly timed friendly clash on Monday, Paris Saint-Germain announced on Wednesday that the captain will be out for the next few weeks with a hamstring problem. New signing David Luiz made his debut at Stadio San Paolo in that match and will now almost certainly start for the French champions when they face Bastia at Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 on Saturday.
Considering how the new arrival fared the last time he was deprived of Silva's company -- Brazil's 7-1 capitulation to Germany in the FIFA World Cup semifinals -- the former Chelsea man will be under pressure as he makes his competitive debut.
"We've all had time to digest what happened, and we've gone through some very sad times. But football gives you an opportunity to respond straight away. That's what's so powerful about this sport," Luiz told to beIN Sports France recently. "The strong ones are those who can survive, and that applies to any aspect of life -- those who have character, a will to learn and to do better next time."
Considering that emotion got the better of Luiz in Belo Horizonte, rebuilding his reputation -- and his character -- will not be an easy exercise for PSG's new arrival. However, the presence of a large Brazilian contingent will aid the frizzy-haired star as he adapts.
Luiz and Silva renewed their defensive partnership in Naples for the first time since they were torn apart by the Netherlands in the World Cup third-place play-off back in July. However, it lasted for only 13 minutes as Silva pulled up after attempting a meaningless, back-heeled pass and was replaced by young compatriot Marquinhos. It is the 20-year-old who will now likely be Luiz's central defensive partner against the Corsicans on Saturday and, as Silva returns to full fitness over the coming weeks, the pair will be coach Laurent Blanc's first-choice combination.
The young protégé is talented and an excellent stand-in for the PSG captain, but there are doubts over whether he will provide the same serene presence that Luiz needs on the evidence of his abysmal display in the semifinal mauling. This will immediately place the 27-year-old under intense scrutiny, with many believing that PSG have paid over the odds for the Brazilian and that their new No. 32 is the cause of their troubles with UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) sanctions this summer.
It is vital that Luiz makes a strong, convincing start to life in Paris in order for the duration of Silva's hamstring problem to not turn into an extension of the purgatory endured by the former Benfica star after the Germany debacle this summer.
"Personally, I've learnt a lot from the experience, I've taken it all in," insisted Luiz. "I always like to self-analyse my performances -- the positive things I need to keep doing and the negative aspects I need to improve."
On the face of it, Luiz and Marquinhos is a partnership that can work. Although both are ball-playing defenders -- Luiz arguably even a better defensive midfielder -- Marquinhos has shown glimpses of his ability to read the game and organise the defensive unit. The Selecao star is tipped as the heir to Silva's throne in future, and those are two of the skills that have set the player known as O Monstro (the monster) apart and created the widely held idea that he is the game's best current defender.
Providing the same qualities that Silva does to get the best out of Luiz and ensure that he does not fall apart will be the biggest test of Marquinhos' PSG career so far.
Although there is a slim possibility that Blanc sees Luiz as a possible midfield option in the future, the likelihood is that le President will deploy him exclusively as a central defender. The Frenchman is almost certainly banking on the rapport between his new signing and Silva to provide PSG with greater defensive stability coming into this season. Because of the latter's recent injury proneness though, this is not necessarily something that can be guaranteed. Therefore, it is perhaps an advantage in a way because Luiz will need to start getting accustomed to playing without Silva early in his PSG career, instead of being shocked by it later on.
Easing into life in Paris is no longer possible because of Silva's injury, so Luiz must quickly show exactly why PSG were prepared to shell out such a large sum of money for his services earlier this summer. Although the pressure will not be as intense as it was for Brazil at the World Cup, he will still be expected to naturally assume the role of the more experienced of the two central defenders and play a part in organising the backline.
Luiz needs to shake off any apprehension and embrace this fresh start. If he does not, then his reputation will quickly sink further than it already has.