Ligue 1

Caen v Paris Saint-Germain: Centurion Verratti thrilled to return

Marco Verratti is relishing his return to fitness as he prepares to make his 100th Ligue 1 appearance in Paris Saint-Germain’s trip to Caen on Saturday.

The Italy international – whose agent claimed on Thursday that contract extension talks had been initiated – made his first start since October in the 1-0 Coupe de la Ligue 1 win over Saint-Etienne on Wednesday after recovering from a troublesome ankle injury.

Verratti accepts the victory, which came courtesy of Edinson Cavani’s late goal, was hard won but is delighted to be getting close to full match sharpness again ahead of the mid-season break.

“It was a very difficult match for us because we didn’t score that early goal,” he said. “I think if we’d got that goal, it would have been a different match. But we finished the game well and qualified.

“I’m very happy because I hadn’t played for a long time. I’m not yet 100 per cent, but this match will help me get back to my best.”

PSG head into the game looking to extend a formidable domestic run in which they have not suffered defeat in 27 Ligue 1 matches – their best record since the 1993-94 season.

Caen, by contrast, have only managed two home wins in their last eight league matches and just once in PSG’s last 10 visits.

Chaker Alhadhur accepts he and his team-mates face a stern challenge, but believes they have a chance if they are clever with the ball.

“Paris are one of the best teams in Europe. We’re looking for 200 per cent of our resources to get a result,” he told Caen’s official website.

“The key will be our effectiveness when we have the ball. They are masters of possession.”

PSG will be without midfielder Javier Pastore, who is suffering from a shin injury, but have an otherwise full squad to take to Normandy.

Jeff Louis and Jordan Leborgne are facing fitness battles to be ready for the visit of the champions.

While Caen were beaten 2-0 at home by PSG last season, they did grab a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes in February, scoring twice in the last two minutes.

Key Opta stats:

– Caen are winless in their last eight games against Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 (D2 L6), failing to keep a clean sheet.
– PSG are the only team yet to lose a game among the Top 5 European leagues.
– Paris have 48 points after 18 games in Ligue 1 2015/16, the second best tally in Ligue 1 history at this stage behind Lyon 2006/07 (49).
– Paris have scored 45 goals after 18 games in Ligue 1 2015/16, their best tally in Ligue 1 history at this stage.
– Andy Delort has been involved in four of Caen’s last six home goals in Ligue 1 (3 goals, 1 assist).
– Angel Di Maria has assisted six goals in his last four Ligue 1 games. He has provided nine assists in Ligue 1 this season, more than any other player.

– Marco Verratti could become the 5th Italian to reach 100 Ligue 1 appearances over the last 25 seasons after Flavio Roma (204), Salvatore Sirigu (143), Marco Simone (140) & Thiago Motta (102).

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