PSG may spotlight youth against a relegation-threatened Angers
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain's early kickoff against Angers on Wednesday will give Unai Emery's men the chance to open up a provisional 17-point lead over Monaco at the Ligue 1 summit.
Brought forward because of the Coupe de la Ligue final against Les Monegasques at Bordeaux's Matmut Atlantique later this month, it will be a strange atmosphere at Parc des Princes in midweek, but the clash with Stephane Moulin's resurgent side is a good opportunity to inch closer to a seventh French title.
Emery is wary of the fact that Angers have started to pick up form in the past few weeks to stave off the threat of relegation.
"We are playing Angers at Parc des Princes and every home match is special," the Spaniard said at Tuesday's prematch news conference. "Because of the early kickoff on a weekday, not all of our fans will be able to come to the game, but we will still have a lot of support.
"Angers are in good form at the moment after two wins and a draw and will be coming here looking for a result. We want the three points to take another step closer to the title and we want to entertain our fans."
As has been the case against Troyes (2-0 away win) and Metz (5-0 home win) recently, Angers will likely be used as a test for youth academy graduates.
Timothy Weah is the latest player to make the leap from the conveyor belt of young talent at Camp des Loges to the senior setup. Emery hopes to contribute to the education of young players as he believes the experience will be vital for PSG's future.
"Our youth academy is very important for the club," said the Basque tactician to journalists at Camp des Loges on Tuesday. "We really want to make it as successful as possible.
"We try to give as many opportunities as possible for the youngsters to train with the first team. If they show they are good enough in training, we can give them some playing time with the first team. "It is very important for the club that the young players from the youth academy develop into quality footballers."
Although he has been around the senior setup for longer, Christopher Nkunku, like Weah, is a homegrown talent, and the Frenchman has scored three goals in his past two appearances. Emery revealed how happy he is with the way that Nkunku has played when given the chance, and the 20-year-old could be handed another opportunity against Angers after coming close to a first-half hat trick against Metz during PSG's latest match.
"Christopher is a young player -- he is patient and very humble," Emery said of Les Parisiens' No. 24. "He played very well last season.
"We decided with him, that the best option was to stay at the club rather than go out on loan. We are very pleased with his recent performances, which have justified that decision. Christopher plays well when we call on him."
Weah and Nkunku are not the only players who could find themselves enjoying some rare game time against Angers. Substitute goalkeeper Kevin Trapp could also be in line to start as Emery looks to reward the Germany international's professionalism.
"Kevin is a great professional," said Emery of the former Eintracht Frankfurt man. "He works very hard. Kevin is playing in the domestic cups, but we might also give him some playing time in the league before the end of the season."
If Trapp starts in goal instead of Alphonse Areola, it is realistic that he will play behind a back four of Dani Alves, captain Thiago Silva, Presnel Kimpembe and Yuri Berchiche.
Moving into midfield, with Lassana Diarra suspended, Thiago Motta or Giovani Lo Celso are likely to occupy the deep-lying midfield role, while two of Nkunku, Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot or Julian Draxler could be deployed ahead of the chosen defensive midfielder.
Edinson Cavani's return from suspension likely means a front three of the Uruguay international, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria.
With Nice away coming up on Sunday in Ligue 1's first experimental early kickoff designed to capture the Chinese market, Emery may well look to youth in this winnable clash with Angers.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.