PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain welcome Troyes to Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 on Wednesday to kick-off what will be a brutal run of matches between now and the winter break.
After this midweek clash, Unai Emery’s men will travel to Strasbourg in Le Championnat, Munich for the UEFA Champions League, back to Paris for Lille in the league and then on the road again in Strasbourg once more (Coupe de la Ligue this time) and Rennes in Ligue 1 before finishing 2017 at home to Caen in the French top flight.
Angel Di Maria refusing to warm up with the other substitutes before PSG’s 2-1 win away at AS Monaco last Sunday and preferring to sit on the ball and pout sums up the feelings of a few members of the PSG squad at present.
The Argentina international’s compatriot, Javier Pastore, and right-back Thomas Meunier are also lacking chances in the starting XI, while Lucas Moura is no longer even part of the squad on most match days.
With so many matches coming up in such a short space of time, it looks almost certain that the likes of Di Maria, Pastore and Meunier will get their chance in the next few weeks — deservedly in the case of the patient Belgium international — and at the right time with El Flaco “considering” his future and El Fideo appearing to be doing the same.
“The most important thing for us and for the team is to maintain a good level of competition in order to obtain the best possible performances,” Emery declared at his pre-match news conference at Camp des Loges on Tuesday. “All the players feel good, and those who are playing less are ready to seize the opportunities when they come in.
“We have been playing matches in quick succession of late and, after the match against Munich, we will have played four matches in the space of 10 days.
“The players’ physical condition is important — we have to spread the game time around to be able to perform to our best. Concerning the match against Troyes, we will make our decisions after the training session.”
With PSG looking insatiable at times going forward, it appears unlikely that Di Maria and Pastore can realistically target an attacking berth.
However, both should be looking at how Julian Draxler has reinvented himself as a central midfielder and wondering if they can do similar.
The Argentine pair have more experience than the Germany international in central midfield before he started to play there but the former Wolfsburg and Schalke man has been a revelation since he made the switch and now looks at ease.
Whether played up top or in the middle, both Di Maria and Pastore need to accept that one good performance against the likes of mid-table Troyes will not be enough to convince Emery to make a permanent change.
A series of strong showings between now and the Caen clash, though, could change the pair’s situation just before the January transfer window opens.
Emery will likely rotate elsewhere, with Marquinhos being rested and Presnel Kimpemb given a chance to impress.
Right-back Meunier may well get the nod ahead of positional rival Dani Alves, while Yuri Berchiche could come in for Layvin Kurzawa at left-back.
Significant rotation in midfield will be difficult for Emery because of the lack of deep-lying options but Draxler and/or Marco Verratti could find themselves handed a breather.
Equally, Neymar could be allowed a bit of rest, or Edinson Cavani could get a bit of a break with Kylian Mbappe likely to start — despite his wasteful display on his Monaco return — because he was rested for the visit of Nantes just after the most recent international break.
Emery will not be able to rotate everybody but he does have options available to him and with Strasbourg and Bayern Munich particularly in mind, now is the perfect chance to rest those most deserving of it.
Troyes’ visit to Parc des Princes is significant not only because it could be another chance for PSG to add to their nine-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 but because the Auteuil end of Les Parisiens’ spiritual home will be closed as punishment for the recent use of flares during a 3-0 home win over Nice.
The capital club already had a suspended sentence hanging over them from the damage done to Lyon’s Groupama Stadium during last season’s Coupe de la Ligue final, so this infraction has been punished by a one-game closure of the Auteuil end — which means no ultras.
“We love seeing all our fans turn out at the stadium,” Emery said of the sanction. “The atmosphere is magnificent. Several of my friends came last time we played at home, and they were impressed by the atmosphere.
“There is a real fusion between the stands and the pitch. We want to see the Parc packed to the rafters every time, of course.
“We will do all we can to win for them (those absent) on Wednesday night.”
Luckily for PSG, Troyes are a side that the hosts should be able to beat without an intimidating home atmosphere.
The ultras might be missed more in Strasbourg this weekend when they boycott the trip to Stade de la Meinau to face Thierry Laurey’s struggling Racing side in protest against the Ligue de Football Professionnel’s (LFP) strict control over travelling contingents.
First, though, Troyes.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.