There’s no better place to spend Valentine’s Day than the city of love, and football romantics everywhere will be hoping Valenciennes can cause an upset when they visit Paris tonight to take on PSG.
With the Champions five points clear at the top, and VA ensconced in a relegation battle, you might think that the best the visiting players can hope for is a narrow defeat and a chance to buy a swanky gift for their wife/girlfriend/mistress/that random girl they picked up in a nightclub. And indeed, boss Ariel Jacobs is under no illusion about the size of the task facing his team.
“Except maybe Monaco, there is no team that is the favourite against PSG, and we are not the exception,” said Jacobs. “We’ll have to hope they are at 250 per cent and they are only 70 per cent. That is the reality.”
I’m no mathematician, but if Jacobs is expecting 250 per cent from his players, he could be in for a nasty surprise. His team has struggled for goals this season, but one man who will doubtless be keen to find the net is Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, who is eligible to play despite being on loan at VA from PSG.
Valenciennes do have form for giant-killing, having won at Monaco just before Christmas, and Jacobs’ comment about PSG needing to be at 70 per cent could, in a way, prove to be fairly accurate, as Laurent Blanc is set to spin his team-picking wheel and rest a number of key men ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
Thiago Silva and Alex have both been struggling with injury this week, so one of them, probably Alex, is likely to be swapped with Marquinhos, with Lucas Digne coming in for Maxwell at left-back. In midfield, Yohan Cabaye is set for his first start alongside Motta and Pastore, as Matuidi and Verratti drop to the bench, and up front Cavani is still injured, so it will be Zlatan, Lavezzi, and one of Lucas or Menez.
Last time Larry made big changes for a league game it didn’t end so well, with a reshuffled side going down 2-0 at Evian in December. PSG haven’t been at their best for the last few weeks, and Blanc is concerned that our busy games programme is having an effect.
“I do not think there is a physical fatigue. Maybe a little mental fatigue,” he said. “We have tried to find freshness [but] we’ve played every three days since early January .
“My main concern is to have the best team to win against Valenciennes. I think the team will be different from the one that started in Monaco.”