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Kuper: PSG Champions League dreams

PSG Sep 15, 2014
Read

Marquinhos now indispensable at PSG

PSG Sep 9, 2014
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 Posted by Jonathan Johnson
Aug 11, 2014

Mixed feelings after PSG's Napoli win

Thiago Motta admitted Paris Saint-Germain must get better if they are to retain their Ligue 1 title, following an opening day draw against Reims.

Paris Saint-Germain immediately bounced back from their 2-2 draw away at Stade de Reims in Ligue 1 last Friday with a 2-1 win over SSC Napoli in a friendly at Stadio San Paolo in Italy on Monday.

The timing of the preseason match was odd for the French champions, considering that they have already started their campaign, but the fixture was owed to the Italian side as part of the transfer that saw Ezequiel Lavezzi move to Paris in 2012.

- Johnson: PSG out of sync in draw vs. Reims
- Holyman: Coach denies Ibrahimovic 'quotes'

The pair had planned to play the game last summer -- before the Edinson Cavani move threatened to turn PSG's visit into a hostile encounter -- but eventually cancelled it because of safety concerns.

After falling behind to Gonzalo Higuain's 51st minute opener, les Parisiens fought back and levelled through substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic before a marvellous piece of individual brilliance from Javier Pastore secured the win and the Acqua Lete Cup for Laurent Blanc's much-changed side.

However, the victory came at a cost for the French capital outfit as captain Thiago Silva exited the field injured after just 13 minutes.

Here is a look at the good and bad points from the game:

Silva Injury Blow

Despite a number of positives, the biggest talking point in the game occurred inside of the opening quarter of an hour. Attempting a backheeled pass inside his own penalty area, Silva immediately pulled up and signalled that he needed to come off.

The Brazilian international's reactions as he left the San Paolo pitch -- unable to walk unaided -- betrayed a man who knows that he faces a serious spell on the sidelines.

Certainly, the bandaging that Silva received before he returned to the dressing room indicated that the injury is to the 29-year-old's troublesome right thigh, and a similar injury kept him out for a significant period last season.

Such a problem begs the question, why did PSG allow such an ill-timed -- and ultimately meaningless -- friendly be schedule after the start of the French champions' domestic campaign?

Also, the Brazilian's fitness is now becoming a slight cause for concern with this the latest in a series of problems.

Javier Pastore is finally starting to show the same form that he displayed when he first joined PSG.

Pastore Renaissance Continues

The bad news of Silva's injury blow was tempered somewhat by the continued good form of Pastore, though. Finally, after a prolonged period of struggling, the enigmatic Argentine is starting to show the same form that he displayed when he first joined PSG.

A good preseason led to an encouraging performance in the Trophee des Champions, and that was followed by another strong showing in the draw at Reims last Friday. Despite playing only 33 minutes in Naples -- not to mention scoring a breathtaking solo effort 13 minutes from time to win the game -- Pastore once again harnessed his good, early-season form and built on it with another promising display.

Although it was a meaningless friendly and the majority of PSG's games recently have had nothing riding on them, the most important thing is that the 25-year-old is displaying consistency at the moment. This is something that has been missing from his game for the best part of his time at Parc des Princes.

If he can maintain this early-season form, then the Parisien No. 27 will be like a new signing for boss Laurent Blanc and can go from strength to strength.

Cavani Malaise Deepens

Unfortunately, Edinson Cavani's situation does not look as bright as Pastore's at present, and his problems continue to pile up after a nondescript, 45-minute performance against his former club on Monday. Returning to face Napoli for this first time since he left them last summer, the match was supposed to be a noncompetitive love-in of sorts for PSG's No. 9. Instead, it turned into a yet another miserable display that suggests all is not well with the Uruguayan.

Given a rare opportunity to impress in the absence of the at times overbearing Ibrahimovic, Cavani failed to take the chance handed to him by Blanc. The 27-year-old has shown little desire when on the pitch since the start of 2014 and le President probably saw it as an ideal chance to breathe new life into one of his star players without feeling obliged to call upon PSG's top dog for once.

Instead, el Matador continues to be anonymous in this team -- with or without Ibrahimovic -- and the Napoli fans who once revered him were likely shocked at the shell of the player they once knew. Currently, there are spooky similarities between the slump in form that Pastore only just seems to be crawling out of and the one that is now engulfing Cavani.

David Luiz was solid for PSG against Napoli.

Silver Linings

Overall, despite the big positive in seeing Pastore put in yet another performance of the highest quality, PSG's friendly victory over Napoli was not worth the cost it came at.

The French champions cannot afford to be losing key players in a position with such limited depth, and it is unclear right now how long Blanc will be deprived of Silva's services for.

David Luiz -- who made a steady debut performance in Italy -- will now be expected to feature alongside Marquinhos for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the silver lining in Silva's injury is the fact that it pushes the 20-year-old into the first team picture after it had appeared that he would be playing second fiddle to Silva and Luiz all season, seeing his dreams of a move to Barcelona dashed.

However, Marquinhos must now prove that he merits first team football, while Luiz has to settle in without trusted international teammate Silva by his side.

Jonathan Johnson

Based in Paris, Jonathan Johnson is a freelance football journalist and the voice of PSG TV. He writes for ESPN, Bleacher Report and French Football Weekly. You can find him on Twitter @Jon_LeGossip.

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