PSG wary of Marseille

Laurent Blanc (File)
Laurent Blanc (File)

Paris - Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc is hoping his side's Champions League exertions do not work against them in Sunday's top of the table clash with bitter rivals Marseille.

PSG will head into the biggest grudge match in French football with the pressure on as they trail the Ligue 1 leaders by four points.

And while Blanc's men were busy securing their place in the Champions League knockout stage with two games to spare in Group F by defeating APOEL of Cyprus 1-0 at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday thanks to Edinson Cavani's early strike, Marseille have no European distractions this season.

When asked if his team had set themselves up perfectly for Sunday's encounter by maintaining their unbeaten record this season and making it five wins on the bounce in all competitions, Blanc suggested that the APOEL performance could work against them.

"Is playing a Champions League match on a Wednesday ideal preparation for a 'Clasico' on a Sunday? I don't know," said the former Marseille defender.

"Winning is always better than losing or drawing, it helps you recover better.

"Marseille will come here with an ambitious mindset after the start they have had to the season, but we will approach the match in the same way."

Despite being undefeated three months into the campaign, too many draws allowed Marseille to pull away at the top, with PSG saving their best performance so far for their Champions League win against Barcelona at the end of September.

"We have dropped points in games this season but the fact we are playing in the Champions League has prevented us from picking up as many as we maybe deserve," added Blanc.

"It's certainly an advantage for Marseille, and the more games you play the more you expose yourself to the risk of picking up injuries."

PSG have been without their biggest asset, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for the last seven weeks as the Swede battles to recover from a heel injury.

He watched the victory over APOEL from the stands and Blanc was cautious when asked if his star centre-forward might return this weekend.

"I can't answer that, honestly. I said last week it is a very unusual injury but he has made good progress in the last few days.

"I think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. He has started training and running, and if that progress continues in the coming days, everything is possible."

In Ibrahimovic's absence, more responsibility falls on the shoulders of Cavani, who scored his fourth goal in his last four appearances to put PSG ahead after just 57 seconds against APOEL and hit the post soon after, but also squandered several other openings.

"Strikers go through spells where they get the breaks. The goal was probably his least easy chance," said Blanc.

"He is a boy who scores goals and always will, but he lacks confidence."

PSG's next Champions League outing is at home to Ajax at the end of this month, with December's trip to Barcelona - whose 2-0 win in Amsterdam on Wednesday also took them through - likely to decide who goes through to the last 16 as winners of Group F.

"We needed the three points to be sure of going through. Now let's try to confirm our ambition and finish first, which is an advantage - a small one, but an advantage all the same," said Blanc.

APOEL are bottom of the group with only one point but could yet pip Ajax to third and the consolation of a place in the Europa League knockout stage.

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