No Zlatan as PSG begin title defence at Lille

Paris Saint-Germain begin their quest for a fourth straight Ligue 1 title on Friday at Lille, who will be playing their first competitive match under new coach Herve Renard.
The capital club won every domestic trophy available last season and have already won silverware at the start of this campaign, beating Lyon 2-0 in last weekend’s Champions Trophy in the Canadian city of Montreal.
In addition, this week has seen them agree to a deal to bring long-time target Angel Di Maria to Paris from Manchester United – the 27-year-old Argentina winger will be unveiled on Thursday after he passed a medical and the clubs agreed a fee of €63 million (£44m, USD$68.9m). Di Maria, who had a long summer break after helping Argentina to the Copa America final, will have to wait to make his debut and the game at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy will also go ahead without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Swede, beginning the final season of his contract at PSG, is sidelined after hurting his right knee against Lyon, so Javier Pastore could start for the visitors. Otherwise, coach Laurent Blanc is likely to stick with the same team that outclassed Lyon, meaning German goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, a new recruit from Eintracht Frankfurt, will again start and Ivorian powerhouse Serge Aurier should get the nod after an outstanding display last week.
“He has had a great pre-season, he is full of motivation and has learned from last season, which was chaotic with all his injuries,” said Blanc of the defender.
For Lille, it is the start of a new era after Renard – who coached Aurier and Côte d’Ivoire to CAF Africa Cup of Nations glory in February – was appointed to succeed Rene Girard in the dugout. It has been a trying summer for Renard with defender Simon Kjaer, midfielder Idrissa Gueye and forward Nolan Roux all leaving the club and Lille losing out to Aston Villa in their attempts to sign Lorient’s Jordan Ayew, but the 46-year-old Renard is looking forward to the game.
“It is a great occasion to open the season. Is it a good thing to host PSG so early? I can’t answer that,” he said. “With PSG you never know, if their machine is well-oiled or they are on top form it becomes more and more difficult. But the important thing for us is to focus on ourselves and be ready to play well and make as few mistakes as possible.”
Monaco start with derby
Fresh from beating Swiss side Young Boys 7-1 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, Monaco make the short trip to Nice for a Cote d’Azur derby. The principality club, who finished third last season largely thanks to their watertight defence, have sold Geoffrey Kondogbia and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid this summer but have reinvested much of the money raised into improving their attack.
The early signs are good, with new boys Guido Carrillo, Ivan Cavaleiro and Stephan El Shaarawy all scoring against Young Boys. “The objective is the podium. Paris are a long way ahead of everyone else. But there’s no reason why we can’t try to finish second,” said the Moroccan Nabil Dirar. “We are better than at the same stage last year. And the team is progressing. August will be very important.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, a new-look Marseille entertain Caen after a summer which has seen Andre-Pierre Gignac, Dimitri Payet, Andre Ayew, Giannelli Imbula, Jeremy Morel and Rod Fanni all leave the Stade Velodrome. A host of new faces have come in, including injury-prone former Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby, for whom this match will come too soon.
Last season’s runners-up Lyon open their campaign against Lorient at the Stade de Gerland, while tiny Corsican club Gazelec Ajaccio play their first ever Ligue 1 game against fellow newly-promoted side Troyes.

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