Champions League: PSG hampered by injury problems ahead of Ajax clash
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc continues to struggle with a raft of injury problems as his side prepare to entertain Ajax at the Parc des Princes in Champions League Group F on Tuesday.
Paris: Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc continues to struggle with a raft of injury problems as his side prepare to entertain Ajax at the Parc des Princes in Champions League Group F on Tuesday.
The French champions are already through to the last 16 for the third season running after following up a 1-1 draw away to Ajax in September with three consecutive wins.
They come into their penultimate group game a point clear of Barcelona, who have also qualified, and their trip to the Camp Nou on December 10 is set to decide who goes through to the knockout stage as winners of the section.
However, in the seemingly unlikely event that Barcelona should lose to APOEL in Cyprus, PSG would be guaranteed top spot by beating already-eliminated Ajax in the French capital.
Few would bet against PSG, who are unbeaten in 31 home games in Europe and are still unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions this season after a 3-2 win at Metz in Ligue 1 on Friday.
A late goal by Ezequiel Lavezzi against Metz clinched a seventh straight win for Laurent Blanc`s side, but the PSG coach saw his injury worries increase in that match as midfield duo Yohan Cabaye and Thiago Motta both came off prematurely.
"Motta came off at half-time with a calf problem. Yohan Cabaye also had a calf problem. That is what happens to clubs who have a lot of international players. You need to be able to deal with it," conceded Blanc.
David Luiz, Lucas and Marco Verratti all missed that game and the latter is expected to be on the sidelines once more against Ajax, so young midfielder Adrien Rabiot could again feature after starting for the first time this season against Metz.
The weekend win also saw talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic start for his club for the first time in two months after a heel injury.
Ibrahimovic, who spent three years with Ajax before joining Juventus in 2004, will now be looking forward to facing his old club, while full-backs Gregory van der Wiel and Maxwell will also face their former side.
"It is always special for me to play against Ajax. I learnt so many things there. My time in Amsterdam allowed me to become a man," said Maxwell, who made his name in Europe during a five-year spell with Ajax.Ajax have lost only two of their last 15 games but both defeats came against Barcelona and their 2-0 home loss to the Catalans three weeks ago condemned them to another premature exit from the Champions League.
They have mustered just two points from four games so far but remain a point clear of APOEL in the battle to claim the consolation of a place in the Europa League, with a home encounter against the Cypriots to come.
Ajax came from behind to beat Heerenveen 4-1 on Saturday and sit second in the Dutch Eredivisie, two points behind leaders PSV. They have appeared vulnerable defensively at times this season but coach Frank de Boer, who is without the banned Joel Veltman, hopes his team can put up a good showing in France.
"I am not worried about my defence. Obviously, we cannot allow ourselves any lapses in concentration against a team like Paris," he said. "But my men will apply themselves in the right manner, I am convinced of that."