PSG can't let crowd sanctions distract them from getting on track vs. Red Star
Paris Saint-Germain are back in Champions League action on Wednesday and the runaway Ligue 1 leaders cannot afford another slip-up at home to Red Star Belgrade after losing their Group C opener away at Liverpool.
A narrow 3-2 defeat last time out in Europe has taken a little of the shine off of a commanding start to the season domestically with eight wins from a possible eight in Le Championnat. Due to the opening defeat only a win will do against the Serbs with a doubleheader against Napoli to come before a visit from Liverpool in the finale.
Red Star, back in the Champions League after 26 years away, should not be taken lightly by Thomas Tuchel's men -- particularly after they held Napoli to a goalless draw in their Group C opener.
However, Wednesday's encounter will have a peculiar feel to it with the Auteuil end of Parc des Princes closed as punishment for last season's use of flares during the round-of-16 defeat to eventual winners Real Madrid, while the Serbian champions are banned from taking fans to Paris or Naples.
The two measures, coupled with the unusually early start, should take some of the edge off of the encounter and make the game less intimidating for Red Star -- also creating a more level playing field than one might expect.
With this in mind, PSG cannot afford to be unsettled by the sight of their ultras' usual home standing empty and the Parc des Princes atmosphere being fed by the others stands.
Had this been against Liverpool or Napoli, there would have been uproar, but the fact that it has fallen against the Serbians - who have their own fan troubles -- is probably for the best in all honesty.
It makes the potential crowd smaller, so easier (in theory) for security to handle, while the partial stadium closure and early kick-off time is purged at the same time against the team that, on paper at least, should be easiest to beat in this group.
Against the likes of Liverpool and Napoli, the PSG players will need the Parc des Princes to be at its raucous best and for the ultras to be in fine voice but had last season's behaviour not been punished, many probably would not have attended the Red Star clash anyways due to the early kick-off time.
Although the sight of an empty stand behind one goal is always a little strange for teams accustomed to strong support home and away, PSG are not totally unfamiliar with less than capacity crowds with some recent domestic clashes far from sellouts.
The best thing the French capital outfit can do in midweek is suck it up and get the odd experience out of the way -- win and look forward to welcoming the ultras back against Napoli later this month.
UEFA's decision to partially close Parc des Princes was understandable as PSG's ultras were given multiple chances to stop using flares against Real and refused to do so -- there was always the risk that the first group stage home match this season would be a big one.
As it turned out, Red Star, under these conditions, is not the end of the world and the atmosphere for the games against Napoli and Liverpool promise to be electric.
That does not mean that PSG can afford to get complacent, though, as they need a win to get back on track after their Liverpool disappointment and will be hoping for a favour from Napoli to balance out Group C ahead of home and away clashes with the Italians.
Gianluigi Buffon will serve the second of his three-match suspension on Wednesday but apart from that and a few longer-term injuries, Tuchel has a relatively strong squad to choose from.
Considering the performance in the 3-0 win away at Nice last Saturday, PSG are ready to get their Champions League campaign launched at the second time of asking against Red Star.