PSG coach Blanc: finishing 2nd would be a failure
PARIS (AP) — All eyes will be on defending champion Paris Saint-Germain and big-spending rival Monaco when the French league kicks off this weekend, with new PSG coach Laurent Blanc making clear that anything short of the title will mean failure for his expensively assembled team.
Blanc’s first match in charge is at Montpellier on Friday, while newly promoted Monaco visits Bordeaux the day after.
PSG has again spent heavily in the transfer market, notably bringing in Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani from Napoli for 64 million euros ($84 million) in the fifth most expensive transfer in history.
“Our target will not be reached if we finish second,” Blanc said. “Our targets are clear: do as well as possible in all the competitions PSG are in. We want to do better in the Champions League than last year.”
“It will be a difficult season, as it often is after winning the league title,” he said. “There is extra pressure. And above all there are your rivals who are playing against the reigning champions. They want to beat you at any cost and that will be seen from the Montpellier match.”
Cavani is a doubt against Montpellier as he only recently joined his teammates. Fans may have to wait longer to see how he links up with star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“With Ibra and Cavani, we have the two best European goalscorers. We have both of them in the same shirt, it’s a dream attack,” Blanc said.
“But they have never played together yet. My job is to make them play together and see that together they keep the same efficiency they had before they knew each other.”
Montpellier beat PSG to the league title in 2012 but finished a disappointing ninth last season.
Monaco also has been on a spending spree, signing Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid for a reported 60 million euros ($80 million), as well as Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez from Porto. Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan and Ricardo Carvalho have also joined the club.
The Principality side is expected to be PSG’s closest challengers but coach Claudio Ranieri insists he is not thinking about the title.
“The goal is to finish in the top three,” he said. “But at the moment what’s important is to work because we are still building our team. I am satisfied with our preseason, now I want to see how it goes against Bordeaux, which has a good pressing and plays very well in counter attacks.
“This will be a good test against a team that is a Ligue 1 symbol. I’m curious to see how the team will work together. I have confidence in its ability to adapt.”
Runner-up Marseille travels to Guingamp on Sunday evening while the other game that day sees Ajaccio, with new manager Fabrizio Ravanelli, entertain Saint Etienne.
Nantes is the other promoted side, and the eight-time champion kicks off its return to the top flight at home to Bastia.
Elsewhere on Saturday it’s: Evian vs. Sochaux; Lille vs. Lorient; Valenciennes vs. Toulouse; Lyon vs. Nice; and Rennes vs. Reims.