PSG admit ‘we have no character’

PARIS Saint-Germain will be without four regulars for the UEFA Cup clash against Derry City at The Brandywell tonight.

Right-back Bernard Mendy, who once played for Bolton, is suspended, while French international midfielder Jérôme Rothen is injured.

And manager Guy Lacombe has axed central midfielders Vikash Dhorasoo and Edouard Cissé after Sunday night’s 3-1 home defeat by Marseilles, which dropped PSG to 15th place in Ligue 1.

The experience of Dhorasoo, who played for France at the World Cup finals in Germany, and Cissé, who spent a season on loan at West Ham, would have been useful against Stephen Kenny’s team. But Lacombe is in a mean mood this week.

“My players don’t have huge reserves of character, we knew that already,” he admitted after his side’s third loss in five matches this season, conceding five penalties in the process.

The French Cup holders have failed to win any of their last 14 league games outside Paris, taking just 9 points from a possible 42 on the road since November last year.

Lacombe, an Olympic gold medallist with France in 1984, took charge of the under-achieving Paris giants late last year after Paul Le Guen and Didier Deschamps refused the job. The 51-year-old had come to prominence at Sochaux, leading the provincial club to two UEFA Cup qualifications and victory in the French League Cup.

He is treating tonight’s first round, first leg test with extreme caution.

“Derry City overall are strong, particularly in the middle of the park, while they also have a number of attacking players who can make a difference in a game,” said Lacombe, who praised Darren Kelly, Barry Molloy and Kevin Deery after watching Derry’s recent 1-0 win against Shelbourne in the FAI Cup.

“They are a disciplined team who have all the attributes and qualities you would associate with a British or Irish team,” added Lacombe. “We will certainly show them the respect they deserve.”

Despite confirming PSG’s reputation as knock-out experts by leading the club to its seventh French Cup triumph in April, Lacombe is no nearer to adding to the League titles won by Gérard Houllier (1986) and Artur Jorge (1994). New PSG president Alain Cayzac has launched a five-year plan, targeting three Champions’ League qualifications. Stability is also on the agenda, in contrast to the frequent changes of personnel that dominated when French satellite broadcaster Canal Plus ran the club.

While PSG lack consistency, they have no shortage of experience.

Goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau, Czech defender David Rozenhal, Ivory Coast winger Bonaventure Kalou and Portuguese striker Pedro Pauleta went to the World Cup finals in Germany.

Kalou, the older brother of Chelsea striker Salomon, scored Ivory Coast’s winner against Serbia-Montenegro in Munich and helped Feyenoord to lift the UEFA Cup in 2002. Between them, Lacombe’s players have won 12 league titles in seven countries.

But a decade has passed since George Weah, David Ginola and Youri Djorkaeff inspired European exploits against Napoli, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Celtic, Parma and Liverpool.

And the club’s last Euro campaign, a miserable failure in the Champions’ League two years ago, was book-ended by heavy home defeats to Chelsea and CSKA Moscow.

“We don’t know much about Derry, but we’re familiar with the characteristics of Irish football,” goalkeeper Landreau said yesterday. “We must win the individual battles and compete successfully in the air. If we get stuck in from the start, we can impose our football and hope to win.”

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