One of the smallest clubs ever to play in France’s top flight could be in for a rude awakening on Sunday when Corsican minnows Gazelec Ajaccio face Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes.
PSG began their quest for a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title with a 1-0 victory at Lille last weekend, despite playing more than an hour with 10 men following Adrien Rabiot’s sending-off.
Laurent Blanc’s side will now be looking for a 15th successive win in domestic competition when they entertain newly-promoted Gazelec in the capital.
Gazelec, appearing in the top flight for the first time in their history after winning back-to-back promotions, had a gentle introduction to life in Ligue 1 when they drew 0-0 at fellow new boys Troyes last weekend.
But now they are being thrown in at the deep end against PSG in what, on paper at least, is one of the biggest mismatches ever seen in a major European league.
While Qatar-backed PSG boast a budget for this season of around 490 million euros ($546m, £350m) and last week signed Angel di Maria from Manchester United for 63 million euros, Gazelec’s budget is reported to be around 13.8 million euros.
That alone is less than the annual salary of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The biggest name in the islanders’ squad is probably Djokovic, although that would be the Croatian-born, Dutch-raised midfielder Damjan Djokovic, not the tennis superstar Novak.
However, Paris skipper Thiago Silva insisted: “It is going to be a difficult match because we don’t know much about this team. They might cause us problems. But if we are as focused as we were against Lille we should be fine.
“It is difficult for any team to come and play against us at the Parc,” added Silva, with a nod to PSG’s record of not having lost at home in the league since May last year.
However, PSG have Ibrahimovic on the sidelines just now with a knee problem while Di Maria is not yet ready to make his debut, although he is set to be unveiled to the home fans.
– Valbuena ready for Lyon –
Last season’s runners-up Lyon responded to a frustrating opening 0-0 draw against Lorient by further strengthening their squad with the signing of France playmaker Mathieu Valbuena from Dynamo Moscow.
The pint-sized former Marseille star signed a three-year deal at the Stade de Gerland after a one-season exile in Russia and could make his OL debut on Saturday at Guingamp.
“He started playing again at the beginning of July for Dynamo Moscow. He has shown in training that he is ready and will bring his technical quality to the team,” said Lyon coach Hubert Fournier.
“He is eligible and there is a chance he will start.”
Claudio Beauvue will hope to play for Lyon against the club he left in the summer for an initial 4.5 million euros after scoring 27 goals in all competitions last season, but there is a doubt over France’s reigning player of the year Alexandre Lacazette, who came off last weekend with a back problem.
Monaco play host to Lille on Friday before going to Spain for the first leg of their Champions League play-off against Valencia next Wednesday, while Marseille will aim to bounce back from the shock of coach Marcelo Bielsa’s resignation as they visit Reims on Sunday.
Bielsa stunned French football by quitting OM following their opening 1-0 defeat to Caen at the Stade Velodrome, leaving his assistant Franck Passi to take charge in Reims.
“I am not saying it’s not serious, it is unfortunate, but OM is a big institution and has already experienced this type of situation,” said club president Vincent Labrune on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Saint-Etienne host Bordeaux and newly-promoted Angers, leaders after the opening weekend, host Nantes in a local derby.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1800GMT unless stated)
Monaco v Lille (1830GMT)
Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux (1500GMT), Rennes v Montpellier, Troyes v Nice, Caen v Toulouse, Guingamp v Lyon, Angers v Nantes
Reims v Marseille (1200GMT), Lorient v SC Bastia (1500GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Gazelec Ajaccio (1900GMT)
– Agence France-Presse