Paris Saint-Germain turn to Di Maria to spark attack in Coupe de France
For the second time in three days, Paris Saint-Germain will meet Toulouse. However, after a flattering 1-0 win away at Dominique Arribage's Ligue 1 strugglers on Saturday, Tuesday's clash between the pair is at Parc des Princes, with a place in the Coupe de France round of 16 at stake.
It was an uninspiring performance from Laurent Blanc's men at Stadium Municipal, and one of the reasons for that lack of inspiration was Angel Di Maria's absence from the squad. The Argentina international had picked up a knock in the 2-1 home win over Olympique Lyonnais in the Coupe de la Ligue three days before. El Fideo is back for the second of PSG's triple-header with Toulouse, and the defending champions are in need of his invention after some insipid displays so far in 2016.
Di Maria's form since November has been scintillating. The 27-year-old has four goals and eight assists to his name from 10 appearances across all domestic competitions, and he has arguably outshone even the dominant Zlatan Ibrahimovic during that time.
The South American was recently voted Ligue 1's player of the month for December, and it was no less than he deserved, with two goals and four assists from the four games in Le Championnat that month. Three of those goals created came in the same 5-1 win over Lyon.
During that time, Di Maria has also shown himself to have a liking for domestic cup competitions. Both times the former Manchester United man has been brought on as a substitute in the Coupe de la Ligue, he has produced game-changing assists that have helped the capital club to victory.
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
The PSG No. 11 is yet to feature in the Coupe de France, but this should change on Tuesday. If the man from Rosario is given a start against Toulouse, then he could help the Ligue 1 giants register their first truly impressive performance of 2016.
If Les Parisiens are to dispose of Le Tefece with greater ease than they managed on Saturday, then Blanc will need Di Maria to help compensate for the loss of a number of important players.
Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti, Javier Pastore and Marquinhos are all out of the squad for the game through injury, and Le President is likely to field a rotated starting XI. With the defence weaker without the two Brazilians, PSG's attack will need to be sharper than it has been all year, and Di Maria is key to that.
Considering that the Argentinian did not feature in Toulouse, Blanc will probably play him from the start on Tuesday alongside Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani in what had been considered the team's strongest front three until recently.
The Uruguay international has lost his place in the side of late and needs a convincing performance in order to silence some of his critics. Di Maria's understanding with El Matador is a good omen, and that combination has already produced some slick goals this season, with another one or two needed at Parc des Princes midweek.
PSG were well below their best in the 1-0 win at Toulouse over the weekend, but it was still a stronger display than the one exhibited in the Coupe de France round of 64 to barely squeeze past amateur side ES Wasquehal. Les Parisiens must conjure up a better performance than that; otherwise TFC could embarrass them and send them out of the competition early.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.