Blaise Matuidi has issued a stern warning to Paris Saint-Germain’s Ligue 1 rivals as they resume their top-flight campaign against Bastia on Friday.
Last season’s treble-winners soared to a 19-point lead at the top of the table prior to the mid-season break, having only lost one game in all competitions so far this term, away to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
PSG were given a stern test by lowly Wasquehal in the Coupe de France last Sunday, but a solitary Zlatan Ibrahimovic header was enough for them to start 2016 with a victory.
Matuidi says there are concrete signs that Laurent Blanc’s side are stronger than they were in their record-breaking 2014-15 campaign as they prepare to host a side without a win in 30 visits to the Parc des Princes.
“We feel better, you can see it in the preparation for our matches. And we’re truly serious when we don’t have the ball,” Matuidi told Le Parisien. “That’s the big change compared to previous years.
“We’re better physically, too. We’re used to playing together. It’s this multitude of things that has made us stronger this season.”
Ibrahimovic scored twice in the meeting at Stade Armand-Cesari in October, and with 18 goals in his last 18 starts in all competitions, the Corsicans have every reason to fear the 34-year-old.
PSG, who spent time in Qatar during the break, have an almost full squad to choose from, with only Salvatore Sirigu and Javier Pastore likely to miss out with respective groin and calf injuries.
Bastia also began the new year in victorious fashion, seeing off Sedan 2-0 in the Coupe de France, and are set to welcome back a handful of important first-team players before travelling to face the champions.
Yannick Cahuzac, Mathieu Paybernes and Julian Palmieri return from suspension, while Florian Marange has recovered from a troublesome calf injury and Francois Kamano could make his first appearance since September, having completed full training on Monday after recovering from a broken foot.
Mehdi Mostefa (back) is also in contention to return and Jesper Hansen is fighting to overcome illness, though Floyd Ayite and Sadio Diallo face late fitness tests on calf and groin problems.
Bastia picked up a vital 2-0 win over fellow strugglers Reims in December to move three points clear of the relegation zone, but their record in the capital does not paint a positive picture as they seek to end PSG’s 28-game unbeaten run in the league.
The champions have won three league games and conceded just once since their surprise 0-0 draw with Angers on December 1, but Friday’s match signals the start of a run of five games in just 15 days in what could prove a pivotal point in their campaign.