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Di Maria flying ahead of trip to Caen

Publish on 01/03/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria has been terrific in 2019 and Thomas Tuchel's side will again look to the Argentinian when the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders head to Caen on Saturday afternoon.

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A double in the Coupe de France quarter-finals at home to Dijon on Tueday took the former Real Madrid man onto six goals this calendar year, while his two assists at Manchester United helped PSG into a prime position going into the Parc des Princes return leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.

Tuchel: "I'm a big fan of his mentality and quality"

With Neymar and Edinson Cavani injured, and Ligue 1 Conforama top scorer Kylian Mbappé rested, Di Maria was magnificent against the Burgundy club in midweek. The 31-year-old's glorious form has come as no surprise to his German coach. Tuchel said: "He won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2014. I watched the matches and he was a key man in the success. I'm a big fan of his mentality and his quality. It's a present for me to be able to have a player like that. He's always among the first to arrive to training and he shows his desire every day.

"He always plays to score goals and to win and we've seen he's got the qualities necessary to finish off our attacks. In the absence of Cavani, Neymar and Mbappé that was necessary. He's very intelligent in his runs and is dangerous with his shots and passes."

Since Neymar was hurt against Strasbourg in the Coupe de France on January 23, Di Maria has taken on ever greater responsibility. Thomas Meunier, quoted in L'Equipe on Thursday, said of his team-mate: "Angel was great. Everybody knows his qualities. He can disappear for several minutes in a match and then he can dribble past five players and score with a chip."

Caen lost in the Coupe de France quarter-finals at Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday evening and now their only focus is on retaining their top division status. Having not won since Week 18 and ranked 18th in the table, they know it will not be easy. In Week 26 they drew 1-1 at Toulouse in the first match since Rolland Courbis was appointed to give support to beleaguered coach Fabien Mercadal.

After losing at OL Mercadal commented: "We would have liked to have qualified but now we can focus on Ligue 1. Against Paris we'll have to raise our performance by several levels. We have good spells of possession but we need to start weighing in more, especially from an attacking standpoint."

Mbappé to score? Courbis bets a meal with players

Veteran Courbis added: "There's a meal in a restaurant at stake as I told the players I didn't think they were capable of stopping Mbappé scoring. It's not that I don't have confidence in them, it's just the way I see things. There are sometimes surprises. I'll ask Fabien whether he wants to bet with me as well."

Probable Teams

Caen: Samba - Guilbert, Diomandé, Gradit, Armougom - Oniangué (c), Fajr - Beauvue, Khaoui, Ninga - Crivelli

PSG: Areola - Kehrer, Thiago Silva (c), Kimpembe - Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Verratti, Bernat - Draxler - Mbappé, Di Maria

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