Coupe de la Ligue Semi-Finals : Bordeaux v PSG
When Bordeaux met Paris Saint-Germain in the league in early October, the match, a 2-0 victory for the hosts at the Parc des Princes, was a bit of a damp squib. Edinson Cavani had a brace within half an hour and the result was never in doubt. Things have changed in the intervening nearly four months, however, as PSG went through, and seemingly emerged from, an existential crisis punctuated by losses to Guingamp and Montpellier.
The champions have now gone five matches without conceding, winning all five. Angel Di Maria is back on form, and was rested at the weekend with this encounter in mind; one could argue that the club are playing as well as they have under Unai Emery’s stewardship. Thus, today’s trip to the Stade Matmut Atlantique seemingly comes at an ideal time; a presumed cup final against Monaco will do much to boost the PSG hierarchy’s confidence in Emery as he seeks to retain the domestic treble.
More importantly, for the players, even though they are in the midst of a very busy period as regards their fixture list, the improvement of Christopher Nkunku and the arrivals of Giovanni Lo Celso and Julian Draxler have dramatically increased the competition for places in the team. This has meant that the squad, unsure what Emery considers his best eleven, have been putting out an increased level of effort of late, as no one’s place seems secure, save Cavani and Thiago Silva. The season may not be unfolding exactly as Emery had imagined, but his expanded squad look to have the bit firmly between their teeth heading into this match.
Bordeaux, however, have also looked better of late and will also be hungry to, as manager Jocelyn Gourvennec said in yesterday’s press conference, “write the history of the stadium.” Much of the team’s recent upturn has come as Gourvennec has moved to play a 4-3-3, rather than the clumsy diamond that was often used earlier in the season. In the process, he has dropped the temperamental Adam Ounas and the ineffective Jérémy Menez to build play around Gaetan Laborde. The youngster has responded impressively, scoring a brace in each of Bordeaux’s last two matches in this competition and offering a style of play that is much less selfish then either Menez or Diego Rolan.
Laborde is unfortunately suspended tonight as a result of yellow card accumulation, but more time has also been given to two other youngsters, left back Théo Pellenard and midfielder Valentin Vada, the latter developing a strong reputation as a free kick specialist. Despite still a being a bit blunt in attack as the team’s young attackers develop (Laborde missed a host of chances before notching his double against Guingamp in the quarterfinal), Bordeaux’s rejigged midfield has offered more solidity as the club have kept clean sheets in three of their last five matches, after recording just four in their first twenty.
On the whole, PSG should have the edge here as teams who have sought to stifle the champions have often ended up embarrassing themselves by lacking the ability to respond after setting up to play negatively from the off. It is true that Bordeaux have had more control in midfield in their new formation, but the team have also not faced a side with as much of a focus on possession as the champions save Nice, who they managed to frustrate in the league.
With Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti likely to be included from the off, the visitors will offer a more comprehensively physical approach than Nice, providing a stern test for the aging legs of Jaroslav Plasil and Jérémy Toulalan. In attack, Edinson Cavani has been more clinical of late, and while PSG will miss the injured Draxler, Lucas Moura will be eager to record his first goal of the calendar year. Bordeaux may indeed have success in making this a more competitive encounter than four months ago, but it is hard to see the result being any different.
Girondins de Bordeaux (4-3-3): Jérôme Prior; Milan Gajic, Igor Lewczuk, Nicolas Pallois, Maxime Poundjé; Gregory Sertic, Jérémy Toulalan, Valentin Vada; Malcom, Diego Rolan, Francois Kamano
Paris Saint-Germain (4-3-3): Alphonse Areola; Thomas Meunier, Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembé, Layvin Kurzawa; Adrien Rabiot, Marco Verratti, Christopher Nkunku; Lucas Moura, Edinson Cavani, Angel Di Maria
Girondins de Bordeaux 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain