PSG look for some salvation as Le Guen returns to France
November 23, 2006 7:26pm CST
by Pirate Irwin November 23, 2006 PARIS (AFP) - Paris Saint Germain fans could be forgiven for having given up on their team for yet another domestic season but they can try and keep alive their hopes of some silverware in the UEFA Cup. The underachieving French side host Hapoel Tel Aviv from Israel in their second match of the competition on Thursday, having garnered a point from their first clash. Having made their worst ever start to the championship - which is saying something given their mediocre record in the past decade - the 1996 Cup Winners Cup champions and their coach Bernard Lacombe are feeling the pressure from their firebrand fans. Elsewhere a former PSG favourite Paul Le Guen, who has also had his problems this term with Scottish outfit Rangers, returns to France as his side - also without much hope of regaining the title as they trail Celtic by 15 points - visit Auxerre. Rangers, in contrast to their inconsistent championship form, have taken six points from their first two matches and victory over Auxerre - who gained a morale boosting 1-0 win over Toulouse at the weekend - would virtually guarantee them a place in the knockout stages. The embattled Scottish giants also warmed up for Thursday's tie by beating Hearts 1-0 at the weekend and Le Guen, who broke his coaching teeth at Rennes before winning the title when he moved to Lyon, said he was delighted with the way the players had responded to criticism of their indifferent form. "It was a great performance by us which we needed and we need more of the same against Auxerre," said Le Guen, who was part of the PSG team that won the Cup Winners Cup. "However I may change things around for the match with Auxerre." Lacombe does not have the resources in player personnel that Le Guen does - indeed he has to do without a further two injured players in Sammy Traore and Clement Chantome for the visit of the Israeli side, who are also on just a point but have played one match more than PSG. However Lacombe is no shrinking violet when it comes to confronting hardships and he remains confident that the players will respond to the fans' dissatisfaction as they face first Hapoel and then strugglers Nantes in the league at the weekend. "They will be important matches," said Lacombe. "We'll have to have to have luck on our side and do everything we can to try and make the future a bit brighter. "There's some psychological issues to be resolved with this team. But I expect the players to unite and start to revolt as of Thursday. "I sincerely believe there will be a reaction." While Rangers will bid to maintain their perfect record so too will the other three British sides, who like the Scots and PSG look to have surrendered any hope whatsoever of winning their domestic title. However Newcastle, who entertain mid-table Spanish side Celta Vigo, Spurs, who face a tricky trip to former Champions League finalists Bayer Leverkusen, and Blackburn, who fought out a bad-tempered 1-1 draw with Spurs last Sunday face Dutch outfit Feyenoord. Wins for all three would at least give their fans some cheer and warm up what promises to be a long hard winter for them in their championships - that of course may not be a concern for Lacombe come next Monday. "I've got nothing to fear on a personal level. The day that I'm no longer coach of Paris St Germain, another coach will come in and the club will continue to go on without me," he commented.