Paris Saint-Germain v Bastia: Preview
Laurent Blanc has urged his Paris St Germain players to embrace their ``second marathon'' as the French Ligue 1 season resumes on Friday with the unbeaten leaders tackling Bastia.
The head coach saw his team head to the winter break with an astonishing 19-point advantage over second-placed Monaco, winning 16 and drawing three of their opening 19 league fixtures.
It means a fourth successive French title is almost assured.
But with other targets also coming into focus, including a Champions League campaign in which Chelsea are the next opponents, Blanc is demanding every effort from his players.
``A second marathon is beginning,'' said Blanc. ``When you've finished the first, it's hard to start again.
``We have to start up the machine again to win. Regardless of our lead in the league, we want to take every point.''
Blanc reported that his squad is almost entirely fit, with 25 players in training, which he sees as a highly favourable status ahead of a busy run of games domestically and in Europe.
And he has high hopes for Angel Di Maria in 2016, believing the Argentinian midfielder recruited from Manchester United last summer can kick on from his promising start in French football.
``The way he has adapted to Paris is good. I think the city of Paris and the France mentality suit him well,'' Blanc said in a press conference, shown on the club website.
``He feels more and more at ease. When he masters the language he'll be more comfortable. I think he'll be even better in the second half of the season.''
Blanc welcomed Real Madrid's appointment of his former France team-mate Zinedine Zidane as manager this week.
``He was an immense player,'' Blanc said. ``He could do things like nobody else. I'm pleased to see him become a coach.
``His first club is Real, that's great. As I told him, it's extraordinary for him, I wish him the best.''
Bastia climbed out of the relegation zone before Christmas, taking seven of a possible 12 points in December.
They also beat Sedan in the Coupe de France last Saturday, and midfielder Gael Danic said: ``The winter break has been good for us mentally. We're ready to go and secure our survival.''
The trip to the Parc des Princes is another matter though, and Danic added in a press conference, according to Bastia's official Twitter page: ``There is a world of difference (between the teams). But in a match, everything is possible.
``What is important for us is how the season ends, to know we've survived. This match in Paris is a bonus.''