Rotated PSG need win over Caen to keep pressure on in Ligue 1
Paris Saint-Germain will play their final game of 2017 at home to Caen in Ligue 1 on Wednesday and it should be a rotated starting XI that Unai Emery sends out at Parc des Princes.
Dani Alves, Marco Verratti and Presnel Kimpembe are all suspended, while Adrien Rabiot is injured and Neymar and Alphonse Areola are doubtful after coming down with "viral symptoms" ahead of the clash.
One player who will relish the prospect of a midweek start is right back Thomas Meunier, who can press his claims in Alves' absence.
"I have spoken to the players about the roles of those that play more and those that play less," Emery said of Meunier and Alves' competition during his pre-match press conference on Monday. "Those roles can change over the course of the season. We are all very happy with Thomas and his progression over the last year. There is real competition for the right back role between himself and Dani. We want Thomas to be ready and to play well, like against Strasbourg. Dani is suspended against Caen, so [Meunier] will have the opportunity to play."
The Belgium international should form part of a rejigged defence, with Layvin Kurzawa in the squad to give Emery a choice between him and Yuri Berchiche. Meanwhile, captain Thiago Silva is back to replace Kimpembe, about whom his manager also spoke.
"I am very happy with Presnel," said Emery. "I like his attitude. He plays with his heart and needs to learn to also play with a cool head. There are little things to work on, but Presnel is growing up with the team."
Emery and PSG's medical staff were right on the topic of the captain's recovery and Thiago Motta's recent return to action against Rennes suggests that the Ligue 1 leaders will not have too big a problem trying to cope with Rabiot's continued absence either.
Giovani Lo Celso did admirably in the deep-lying role against Rennes but, with Motta back, he could either be pushed forward or to the bench with fellow Argentina international Javier Pastore also hungry for matches.
Up front, losing Neymar would be a setback for Kylian Mbappe after both showed their special understanding in last weekend's 4-1 success away at Rennes.
"Kylian is learning a new way of playing with Paris," Emery said. "Before, he looked a lot for the space in behind the defenders. Here, you have to be more patient and work in tight spaces. He is a quick learner, he is scoring and providing assists. Kylian is getting better and breaking the opposition lines. The defensive side of his game still needs improving to help make the team compact."
Mbappe will turn 19 on the day of the match and the former Monaco man is set to play a significant role regardless of whether Neymar can participate, but the Brazil international's availability will decide whether the unhappy Angel Di Maria is a substitute again.
Edinson Cavani got back in on the act in front of goal in Rennes and two more strikes against Caen, against whom he scored four in one game last season, will see him equal Zlatan Ibrahimovic's all-time club record of 156. If he nets a hat trick, he will be presented with an award after the match.
Nine points clear of second-placed Monaco in Le Championnat, Emery and his players will assume that their closest rivals will beat Rennes at Stade Louis II but any slip-up in the principality must be pounced upon, so a win over Caen is needed to keep that pressure on. The same can be said regarding Lyon, who will be away at Toulouse.
In theory, PSG needing to rotate should not be a problem, but the same was true ahead of the recent trip to Strasbourg in Ligue 1 that ended with a 2-1 defeat. Three points to end 2017 would be most welcome and keep away unnecessary pressure over the holiday period.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.