PSG face tricky trip to Saint-Etienne amid mounting injuries
Paris Saint-Germain are seeking a 13th consecutive win across all competitions when they take on AS Saint-Etienne at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Sunday. It could be a tricky task for Ligue 1's runaway leaders, though; Laurent Blanc is missing eight squad members for the clash with Les Verts.
Captain Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Javier Pastore, Layvin Kurzawa, Gregory van der Wiel, Salvatore Sirigu, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Hervin Ongenda are all missing for the trip to Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes. However, PSG coach Laurent Blanc will be grateful that those absences will not affect his starting XI too much -- most of his star players are available to him as he pits his wits against old friend Christophe Galtier.
Angel Di Maria is currently in red-hot form -- five goals and six assists from his past 10 appearances across all domestic competitions -- and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also in impressive shape. The Sweden international loves playing against Saint-Etienne; he has recorded nine goals and one assist during their past six meetings. Blanc will hope that his talismanic No. 10 and El Fideo can continue to dovetail nicely.
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Marco Verratti is back from injury and Marquinhos should feature this time, after returning to the squad for the midweek victory over Toulouse, only to be omitted from the 18-man group just before kick-off. The Italy international will likely start on the substitutes' bench after a couple of weeks without action, but the Brazilian should be thrown right back into the thick of things -- Luiz is out having suffered a knock against Toulouse on Wednesday.
If Blanc thinks Marquinhos is not ready to start, he will probably turn to Presnel Kimpembe instead. The PSG youth academy graduate's performances are steadily improving after being given more chances to impress in recent weeks, thanks to a demanding domestic schedule.
Speaking of youngsters, because of the high number of unavailable players for the Saint-Etienne game, there are five total homegrown players in the squad. Kimpembe is one, while Adrien Rabiot, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Christopher Nkunku and Kevin Rimane are also included. Although Rabiot -- and possibly Kimpembe -- are the only ones likely to significantly feature, Augustin and Nkunku offer good options from the bench. Both will be keen to take any chance to impress with the upcoming Coupe de France last-16 meeting with Olympique Lyonnais bound to feature a deeply rotated PSG side.
PSG are enjoying a good run of form against Saint-Etienne at present and away from home, and Les Parisiens are unbeaten in eight games across all domestic competitions. The last time Les Verts beat the men from the capital at home was back in Sept. 2008.
As long as PSG can avoid defeat to keep their impressive unbeaten domestic record intact, a draw would not be the worst result for the French champions. After all, AS Monaco's 3-0 defeat away at Angers SCO has already guaranteed that PSG will remain at least 21 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit this weekend.
Jonathan Johnson is based in Paris and the voice of PSG TV. He also writes for French Football Weekly. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.