Mauricio Pochettino, PSG
Match Reports

Pochettino sure PSG will come good

Publish on 14/01/2022 at 09:54 - I. HOLYMAN

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Mauricio Pochettino will hope Paris Saint-Germain can shake off a patchy run of form and the absence of a number of first-choice players despite being in what he calls a period of "total uncertainty" when the Ligue 1 Uber Eats leaders host Brest on Saturday (kick-off 9.00pm CET).

Paris Saint-Germain v BREST

 

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PSG have a healthy double-digit lead at the top of the table coming into Round 21, but Pochettino has seen his team stutter either side of the festive period. Four of the pacesetters' last five league games have ended in a draw offset by just a single win, that's as many winless matches as in their previous 24 top-flight outings.

 

There are certainly mitigating factors, namely COVID-19. Gianluigi Donnarumma, Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria were able to return to training this week after missing last weekend's 1-1 draw at Lyon following positive tests, but Lionel Messi — who returned late from his festive break having tested positive in his native Argentina — continued to train individually with symptoms of the virus lingering.

 

With Achraf Hakimi, Idrissa Gueye and Abdou Diallo all at the Africa Cup of Nations and Neymar (ankle) and Alexandre Letellier (calf) also unavilable, even Pochettino has had to dig deep into his rich squad to field a competitive team. The former PSG and Argentina international defender is fully aware his pre-match plans and preparations could be thrown into chaos at any moment before kick-off.

 

WATCH: PSG snatch a point at Lyon

 

 

 

"As I always say, we're all in a state of total uncertainty. We're living in difficult times with this virus, where we have a different case every day. We don't know whether, tomorrow, we'll be able to train with 20, 15 or 25 players, and we have to adapt on a daily basis," he told PSG TV this week. 

 

"So, naturally, I'm hoping for the best. I hope that we can improve in every area, and I think that the aim is always to win and to come out on top in everything that we're involved in."

 

The pandemic has led to the club indefinitely postponing its 2022 Qatar Winter Tour, initially scheduled for next week. The mid-season warm weather training camp might have been a good opportunity for Pochettino's men to build the bonds that create a successful team. The PSG boss is, however, convinced that criticism of his side being little more than a glittering collection of gifted individuals will soon be a thing of the past.

 

"There are strategies for each player, but it's also a matter of time in order for you to get to know each other and to create those bonds. Naturally, relationships can never be forced; they need a certain amount of time. I think that every player coming into this squad – and this is normal – needs those moments and needs a different amount of time, and it's only as the season progresses that they'll become stronger," said the former Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton manager, who also rubbished suggestions his team's healthy advantage at the top of the table meant their opponents could be written off as little more than cannon fodder. 

 

"It's a difficult league. I think that there's merit in what we've done so far. It isn't an easy league, and it's improving year upon year. It's growing, and it's become very competitive. Naturally, given how Paris have done in recent years, we're always the team to beat, and I think that it's normal for the teams playing against us to have added motivation. I think that that extra effort sometimes makes matches difficult against teams that defend a lot and close down the spaces. It isn't easy, but it certainly means that we deserve to be where we are, at the top of the table."

 

WATCH: Nice pick apart Brest

 

 

 

Brest could well provide living proof of Pochettino's claims. Though they are winless in their last three league games, the Bretons have excelled away from home winning three times in an unbeaten five-match streak 'on the road'.

 

They were, however, well beaten last weekend going down 3-0 at home to Nice, despite playing the vast majority of the game with a man extra.

 

"How many balls arrived in the right place? What counts is efficiency. Nice were, we weren't," coach Michel Der Zakarian complained. "Football isn't about having the ball, it's about using it well and above all defending well when you don't have it. We're not lacking confidence, but we always have to keep asking questions of ourselves. You give yourself confidence by working well in training, by staying focussed." 

 

Attacking midfielder Romain Faivre and forward Irvin Cardona both worked in the gym when their teammates returned to training earlier this week, but Der Zakarian will hope to have both available for the trip to the capital where Brest have not won since September 1981.

 

Probable teams


PSG: Navas; Kehrer, Marquinhos, Ramos, Nuno Mendes; Verratti, Herrera, Paredes; Wijnaldum, Di Maria, Mbappé

 

Brest: Bizot; Chardonnet, Herelle, Duverne, Pierre-Gabriel; Faivre, Agoume, Lasne, Honorat; Mounié, Le Douaron

 

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