Josh Mart takes the chance to preview Paris Saint Germain’s long journey east to the Bulgarian capital to Sofia, as the Parisian’s take on domestic Champions Ludogorets Razgrad.
Both sides suffered late setbacks in their opening Champions League match days, PSG conceded a fairly late equaliser at the Parc des Princes against Arsenal, whereas Ludogorets impressively led in Switzerland against FC Basel until the 80th minute, where they were pegged back to 1-1.
PSG will be absolutely desperate to get their campaign properly underway here, as Arsenal, the other group favourites, will certainly fancy their chances of beating Basel at the Emirates.
The Bulgarian champions Ludogorets have been in magnificent form in all competitions of late, and have won three games in a row in since the game in Basel just over a fortnight ago. T
his includes two consecutive away wins in league and cup by a four goal margin, and Friday’s 5-1 victory against Vereya will be a huge confidence boost for coach Dermendzhiev’s men.
He insists that his side are not afraid of an indifferent PSG side and it should be a great atmosphere at the Vasil Levski stadium tonight.
PSG have had a very poor start to the season by their usual high standards. Fridays 2-0 loss at Toulouse was PSG’s second defeat of the season, which means that they have already equalled their loss tally in Ligue 1 from the whole of last season… and its only September!
This poor start has seen the typical table toppers fall to 4th place in the current standings and has hugely increased the pressure on new head coach Unai Emery to deliver in the Champions League.
Team News and Tactics
Despite being on the Eastern edge of the Balkan Penisula, the Bulgarian champions have recruited many talented players from around the globe, Brazil being the best represented country.
Coach Dermendzhiev has a couple of injury concerns though, as Portuguese wing back Vitinha and Brazilian defender Cicinho are both ruled out of this one.
With this in mind I expect Ludogorets to line up in a fairly narrow 4-2-3-1 formation with Minev, Moţi, Palomino, Nataniel playing as the back four (right to left) in front of Bulgarian stopper Stoyanov.
Dyakov will help shield the back four alongside either Anicet Abel or Lucas Sasha. The front four of Ludogorets is extremely flexible but I would expect to see the Dutchman Misidjan start on the right, with Marcelinho as the no. 10. Last match’s goal scorer Jonathan Cafu should start on the left supporting striker Wanderson.
PSG boss Unai Emery is set to welcome back Verratti and Meunier who both missed Friday’s defeat to Toulouse, but Jese and Ben Arfa are both ruled out through injury. It will be interesting to see if Serge Aurier will be selected after having a nightmare time in the last weeks, culminating in a 2 month prison charge (he is free pending appeal).
With this in mind I expect PSG to line-up in a 4-3-3 formation with Aurier or Meunier starting at right back and Maxwell at left back. Thiago Silva and Marquinhos are almost certain to start at the heart of the defence ahead of keeper Areola.
Rabiot is doubtful so I fully expect Thiago Motta or Krychowiak to deputise for him alongside Matuidi and Verratti in the midfield three. Angel Di Maria is set to start on the right flank, with Lucas on the left although both can easily switch in support of front man Cavani. The Uruguayan will be hoping to be much more prolific here after missing so many chances against Arsenal a fortnight ago.
Marcelinho (Ludogorets) – Marcelinho is a very talented attacking midfielder who has spent the last five years playing for the Razgrad outfit.
He has become such a hit in Bulgaria that he acquired a Bulgarian passport in 2013 and made his debut for the national team in March of this year, scoring against Portugal. PSG will have to watch him tonight.
Cavani (PSG) – Edinson Cavani should be the happiest man in Paris after seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic move on to Manchester United in the summer, as this means that he is now without doubt PSG’s main man up front.
However, ‘El Matador’ seems to be a bit low on confidence despite scoring against Arsenal in match day one. Cavani on his day is unplayable as he works tirelessly for the team, as well as possessing great predatory instincts in front of goal.
On paper, you would think that this should be a walk in the park for PSG, as they should have far too much quality for this Ludogorets side. However, confidence is a huge thing in football, and I would say that the Bulgarian’s have lots of it and also have nothing to lose in this match.
PSG and Unai Emery on the other hand, are under real scrutiny and need to win this one. If PSG score early then it should settle any nerves and allow them to play freely but if the score remains at 0-0 until the latter stages, then Ludogorets could snatch a dream winner.
Prediction: Ludogorets 0-2 PSG