Blanc hoping for Cavani impact as PSG make home bow
Paris Saint-Germain play their first home game since Laurent Blanc replaced Carlo Ancelotti as coach of the Ligue 1 champions when they entertain Ajaccio at the Parc des Princes on Sunday evening, with memories of last season's struggles against the Corsicans still fresh.
The capital club were held to goalless draws in both meetings with Ajaccio in 2012-13, but those results did not prevent them from comfortably winning the Ligue 1 crown in May.
Former France coach Blanc has been at the helm for six weeks now, and oversaw the Champions Trophy win against Bordeaux in his first competitive game at the helm before a 1-1 draw in Montpellier in last weekend's league opener.
In both games, PSG have had to come from behind, with Brazilian full-back Maxwell earning them a draw at the Stade de la Mosson after they had trailed at the interval against opponents who pressed and harried tirelessly.
With Corsican sides renowned for their aggression, and Ajaccio coach Fabrizio Ravanelli determined to make his team difficult to beat, PSG could face a frustrating evening on Sunday.
However, Blanc will hope that 64 million-euro (US$85.4m, Â£54.6m) record signing Edinson Cavani can have an impact on his home debut after almost scoring as a substitute in Montpellier.
"Certainly," Blanc said when asked if the Uruguayan former Napoli striker, who started pre-season training late, will feature against Ajaccio. "But the question is will he start. That is a decision we will take. He is a little bit behind with his preparation and has had some fitness problems."
Ajaccio lost 1-0 to Saint-Etienne last weekend, but Ravanelli will relish the occasion in the capital having already experienced the heat of the Parc des Princes during his days as a Marseille player.
In November 1997, the Italian striker played a central part in a controversial victory at the ground for PSG's bitter rivals, diving to win a penalty that was converted by...Laurent Blanc.
"It is a great thing to return to Paris, especially as a coach. It is a real pleasure," said Ravanelli.
"We know we will be playing against an extraordinary team with extraordinary means. But even if we lose we will come out with our heads held high, because we know we can enjoy a good season."
Earlier on Sunday, Monaco, tipped as PSG's most likely title challengers, will look to build on their opening-day win at Bordeaux when they welcome Montpellier to the Stade Louis II.
Claudio Ranieri's side. a mixture of expensive summer acquisitions and exciting young talent, won 2-0 in Bordeaux, with Radamel Falcao netting a debut goal after his 60 million-euro move from Atletico Madrid.
And in midweek they won an appeal against a three-point deduction handed down as a punishment for a trouble at the end of a game last season, so confidence will be high at the principality club.
Confidence is also high in Marseille after OM cruised to an opening-day win in Guingamp. They play host to Evian on Saturday, although recent signing Saber Khalifa is unlikely to make his debut against his former club in that encounter as he builds up his fitness.
After thumping Nice 4-0 last weekend, Lyon travel to Sochaux on Friday, the match being brought forward to help Remi Garde's side prepare for next midweek's Champions League play-off, first leg against Real Sociedad.
"Sochaux are a team that like to play football and don't worry about their opponents. That's the club's culture," said Garde.
"We are expecting a tough game. We need to confirm our good form and try and cause them as many problems as possible."
In the pick of the other matches, Nice face Rennes at the Stade du Ray, although that match will be played behind closed doors as a punishment for fan misbehaviour last season.
Fixtures (all kick-offs 1800 GMT unless stated)
Sochaux v Lyon (1830 GMT)
Marseille v Evian-Thonon-Gaillard (1500 GMT), Bastia v Valenciennes, Nice v Rennes, Reims v Lille, Saint-Etienne v Guingamp, Toulouse v Bordeaux
Monaco v Montpellier (1200 GMT), Lorient v Nantes (1500 GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Ajaccio (1900 GMT)
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