PSG look to give Emery some festive cheer
By A. Scott
Paris Saint-Germain need to finish 2016 with a bang at home to FC Lorient at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday to ease the pressure on coach Unai Emery.
Paris Saint-Germain - FC Lorient
The Spaniard has come in for criticism during a poor month of December for PSG, with just one win in five games in all competitions, and that at home to LOSC in the Coupe de la Ligue. The capital club recorded seven wins and a draw in eight Ligue 1 games in October and November, but have taken just one point from a possible nine in the league this month to slip seven points behind leaders OGC Nice, already crowned as autumn champions.
Saturday's 2-1 defeat at EA Guingamp was PSG's fourth in the league this season, already twice as many as they suffered in the whole of the last campaign. Indeed, they have lost more games so far this season than in all of any of their three years under Emery's predecessor Laurent Blanc, and if they don't beat Lorient they will have their worst points tally at the halfway stage of a season since the Qatar Sports Investments takeover of 2011.
PSG are still in contention to win a fifth straight Ligue 1 title, have a UEFA Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona to look forward to in February and are through to the last eight in the Coupe de la Ligue. They begin their Coupe de France defence at home to SC Bastia in early January, but while there is much to look forward to, even midfielder Marco Verratti admitted Paris are a club in crisis just now. Marquinhos, however, disagrees.
Watch: PSG go down to Guingamp
"For me it is not a crisis, I am more positive. I think great teams also go through bad spells, periods of adaptation, transition. We have a squad of superb quality, we have a coach who has already demonstrated that too, and we just need to come through these bad moments together and then after that we will get our confidence back," the Brazilian centre-back told the popular Canal Football Club show on Canal Plus at the weekend.
"Over the last year we have not been used to experiencing times like this. But this will help us grow. At times like these you see the mistakes you make, you think a lot about it. Everyone needs to think about what they can improve."
The problems are varied right now for Paris, but they are most glaring in defence - Paris have let in 10 goals in their last five games in all competitions, and from just 11 shots on target. They had conceded only five in 11 outings before that.
"Last season even in the difficult matches, away from home, we managed to grind out 1-0 wins, score goals in the last minute, everything was going well. At the moment, things are not going well for us," Marquinhos added.
"We are not defending as well, not as clinical at the other end, but we still have a match to come and we want to finish well, and after the winter break things will improve for sure."
On top of everything else, Paris have fitness worries surrounding Hatem Ben Arfa, Javier Pastore and Adrien Rabiot at the moment, but Lorient would gladly swap positions with their opponents. The Bretons come into the game at the foot of the table, three points from outright safety, and have been in the relegation zone after all bar two matchdays this season. However, they are improving under Bernard Casoni, the former Olympique de Marseille player and coach who replaced Sylvan Ripoll in early November.
Watch: Lorient see off Saint-Etienne
Lorient have had two wins, two draws and two defeats in six games under Casoni, including a 2-1 home victory over AS Saint-Etienne at the weekend when Romain Philippoteaux and Jimmy Cabot found the target. They have collected more points since the new coach came in than they had in the preceding 12 matches.
Philippoteaux will miss the game with an ankle injury but Arnold Mvuemba can return after suspension and both Benjamin Moukandjo and Majeed Waris, scorers of 11 of Lorient's 20 league goals between them, are set to be fit as Les Merlus look to avoid a fourth defeat in as many visits to the Parc des Princes and finish the year on a high.
Paris Saint-Germain: Areola; Aurier, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva (cap.), Maxwell; Verratti, Thiago Motta, Matuidi; Lucas, Cavani, Ikoné
Lorient: Delecroix; Koffi, Z.Touré (cap.), Ciani, Le Goff; Marveaux, Mvuemba, Lautoa, Mesloub, Waris; Moukandjo