PSG look to put Real Madrid collapse behind them against Strasbourg
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain will want to get back to winning ways at Parc des Princes on Saturday when the French capital outfit host Strasbourg in Ligue 1.
PSG were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday in the first leg of the pair's Champions League round-of-16 tie and coach Unai Emery is looking for a response after what he felt was an unlucky and referee-influenced defeat in Spain.
Speaking at his prematch press conference the Spaniard stressed the importance of bouncing back from the Real loss and winning in front of the supporters at home in the first match at Parc des Princes in a month.
"The most important thing now is to prepare for this game against Strasbourg at the Parc and get back to winning ways in front of our fans," Emery told journalists. "We have a lot of respect for our opponents -- they managed to beat us in our first meeting this season.
"The most important thing is that the players are ready for the match."
Emery has no doubt had a tough few days with his players since the defeat in Madrid, with captain Thiago Silva particularly stunned by the Basque tactician's decision to drop him hours before the encounter.
Presnel Kimpembe performed well in the Brazil international's absence, but PSG were undone by some late lapses in concentration, which central defensive partner Marquinhos played a part in.
Emery admitted that Silva was disappointed to have not featured against Real but that the South American was not alone.
"Every player wants to play -- especially in the big games," said the former Sevilla boss. "It is normal that players were upset when they did not play on Wednesday but they all respect their teammates. I like it when the competition for places is healthy and respectful.
"We have a certain way of working. I am very satisfied with my three central defenders. All three play regularly.
"My decision to play Presnel against Madrid was a tactical one. I spoke with the players concerned. However, I have every confidence in all three players between now and the end of the season."
Angel Di Maria and Lassana Diarra no doubt felt similarly to Silva, especially as events unfolded on the pitch.
The next few matches against Strasbourg, and then a double versus Marseille in Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France, present the likes of Silva, Di Maria and Diarra with a chance to convince Emery that they deserve to start the second leg against Real in early March.
Di Maria will feel particularly aggrieved considering his 2018 form, but Kylian Mbappe's absence through suspension this weekend means that the Argentina international will almost certainly walk back into the starting XI -- it is up to El Fideo to show that his form has not been affected by Emery's midweek snub.
Marco Verratti is also banned against Strasbourg, which should create an opening for Diarra as Giovani Lo Celso will either move forward or take a substitute role after he struggled to cope with the pressure of starting in Madrid.
Javier Pastore could also get a look-in, while Thiago Motta is back in the squad and will be keen to prove his fitness ahead of the second leg.
Neymar and Edinson Cavani will likely continue in attack unless Emery wants to rest one of the two and use somebody like Pastore in one of the three attacking berths.
Whoever is named in the starting XI, they need to show plenty of hunger and to take their Madrid frustration out on a Strasbourg side that has already shocked PSG once this term.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.