By I. Holyman

Paris Saint-Germain have to deal with the difficulty of having a high-quality squad as their international players return to domestic matters against Dijon FCO on Saturday.

  Dijon FCO – Paris Saint-Germain 


No fewer than 13 of Unai Emery’s first-team squad were on duty for the countries during the international break, including six South American stars who made a sapping return trip across the Atlantic in addition to jetting about their home continent in a bid to secure a berth at next summer’s 2018 FIFA World Cup finals.

If the Brazilian quartet of Neymar Jr, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Dani Alves already knew they would be going to Russia prior to jetting off to join the Seleçao, Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani and Argentina’s Angel Di Maria both had their destinies to decide.

The pair did that successfully, and Emery must now decide whether Cavani, who played both of his country’s qualifiers in the last week, will start Saturday’s Week 9 game at the spearhead of his side or if Kylian Mbappé, who had shorter trips in helping France qualify, should be at the sharp end for the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders.

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“We have a lot of players capable of playing in the three attacking positions. We will see how Edinson Cavani is feeling physically as he’s just played two matches with Uruguay, but he is used to recovering quickly and is available to play against Dijon,” the PSG coach explained.

“If a player is not able to play, we will find a solution. For example, Kylian Mbappé can play on the right side or in the middle. The most important thing is to know who the players are feeling, physically and mentally, ahead of Saturday’s game.”

Motta: ‘We’re used to it’

The boost provided by qualifying for the World Cup finals should only spur on a side that is yet to lose in 11 competitive outings this season, and they have failed to win just one of those matches.

Thiago Motta, his international career ended, remained at the club’s Ooredoo Training Centre during the break with a skeleton squad as Emery attempted to prepare for the encounter at the Stade Gaston Gérard.

The former Italy midfielder is confident the players who were left behind and those returning have the experience to handle the workload.

“It’s difficult, but we’re used to it. It’s a bit more complicated for the South Americans, who have long journeys, but they’re used to it as well. They are very professional; they rest after the match and recover quickly. It doesn’t cause any problems, even though Dijon have two weeks to think long and hard about how to prepare for the match against Paris Saint-Germain,” he explained.

“We need to be ready, as it’s an important moment in the season. We started well, but we need to continue.”

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PSG will have to try to at least maintain their three-point lead at the top of the table without injured captain Thiago Silva, who was replaced by club team-mate Marquinhos during last Thursday’s goalless draw with Bolivia, while Layvin Kurzawa, who had not even been called up by France due to injury, will again sit out though Emery is optimistic both can feature in next Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League tie at Anderlecht.

Dall’Oglio: ‘A lot of hope’

Dijon, who are winless in four league games, have had more time to plot out their strategy to outwit PSG, but coach Olivier Dall’Oglio did have South Korea striker Kwon Chang-hoon away playing for his country.

He returned to Europe with a foot injury, but could still feature, though Julio Tavares and Mehdi Abeid are still sidelined as the hosts seek to avoid defeat for the first time in a top-flight game at home to PSG, who have won both Ligue 1 Conforama meetings to date.

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“PSG is a steamroller, a very good team with a lot of possibilities to change how they set up. There are a lot of very good players so Unai Emery has a whole range of options. They’re definitely one of the best teams in Europe,” said a somewhat envious Dall’Oglio before sounding a defiant note.

“I like testing myself against those kinds of things. We know it’ll be very difficult, we’ve seen they’re capable of spanking quite a few teams, but also of being held. We have to believe in our chances, our team. We have to be optimistic and positive, and go into the game with a lot of hope.”

Probable teams

Dijon: to follow

PSG: to follow


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