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Prediction: Paris Saint-Germain vs Athletic Bilbao

Paris Saint-Germain are not only looking for a revenge on Athletic Bilbao for the 2:0 defeat at San Mames, but also want a victory that would probably see them qualify for the next round. With the first place in the group already in the bag, los Leones are going to use this opportunity to give some fringe players a chance to impress.

Paris Saint-Germain spent the entire last decade trailing behind Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Lille on domestic stage, so to say their fans were delighted with arrival of rich owners from Qatar would be an understatement. The oil money allowed the Saints to attract star players such as Javier Pastore, Momo Sissoko, Diego Lugano and Jeremy Menez, to name just a few, and the heavy summer recruitment obviously had a very positive effect on team’s fortunes. The Saints have been doing pretty well on domestic stage, where they are tied on points with leaders Montpellier, but their European campaign is threatening to turn into utter disappointment. That is why Antoine Kombouare’s side have got to give their best to beat what should be Athletic’s second string side, even if they could get eliminated anyway. PSG currently boast inferior head to head record to second-placed Salzburg, so they will be cheering on Slovan to take at least one point from that clash. Coach Kombouare should have virtually fully fit squad to choose from, with only Blaise Matuidi and Clement Chantome expected to miss out.

Athletic Bilbao are renowned as the club that sticks to its principles, being the only club in the world to field exclusively players of Basque origin, but small pool of talent to choose from didn’t stop los Leones from raising the club’s profile over the last few years. Following the 6th-place finish in La Liga last season and boosted by the arrival of El Loco Bielsa, Athletic continued to impress this term, with their showings in Europa League leaving little to be desired. With 13 points from 5 group games, los Leones have already secured the first place in the standings, which will allow Marcelo Bielsa to field a weakened line-up for the first time this season. Realizing that his back-up players are not decent replacements for the likes of Llorente, Muniain and Javi Martinez, Bielsa has so far been fielding strong sides in all the competitions, but that is now set to change. The controversial manager left key players Martinez, Amorebieta, De Marcos and Herrera in Spain, whereas Llorente, Gurpegui, Ocio and Martinez were not included because of injuries. This basically means that talented youngsters Jonas Ramalho and Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta are likely to start, with the rest of the side likely to be comprised of fringe players.

Conclusion

Star-studded Paris Saint-Germain desperately need a win here and they shouldn’t have too many problems against second-string Athletic. There are no doubts that the visiting players will be looking to impress Bielsa and use this chance to the fullest, but they are likely to face a tough task against their more illustrious opponents.

Verdict: Home win Paris Saint-Germain (1)

Best Odds: 2/3

Bookmaker: Stan James

Tue 13 December, 2011
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