Over the next six days, Paris Saint-Germain will participate in the International Champions Cup, a preseason tournament that will see them take the pitch against Real Madrid, Leicester City, and Inter Milan, who they face Sunday evening from Eugene, Oregon.
For the reigning French champions, the ICC is primarily a money-making venture with the goal of expanding the club’s brand but it’s also a great opportunity for the players to impress new manager Unai Emery. For a few in particular, the next three games are crucial to ensure they will feature prominently in Emery’s plans for the upcoming season.
Here are a few players we think have to be at their best this preseason:
KEVIN TRAPP & ALPHONSE AREOLA
With Salvore Sirigu’s departure this summer a near certainty, it will be interesting to see who emerges victorious in the battle for PSG’s starting goalkeeper position between Kevin Trapp and Alphonse Areola. The German, despite suffering some hiccups in his debut season for the club, performed very well overall. Meanwhile, Areola, who spent last season on loan with Villarreal, had a successful season as well and picked up Player of the Month awards from the club in the process. On the surface, there isn’t a whole lot that separates Trapp and Areola and there’s been no clear indication as to who Emery prefers. The ICC will be critical in helping the manager select his starting keeper.
After an injury-filled 2015-16, Javier Pastore needs to hit the ground running to finally cement his place in the starting XI. It’s largely believed that El Flaco will start along new signing Hatem Ben Arfa but there’s a chance the manager may go in another direction. Both Pastore and Ben Arfa possess a similar playing style and like to have a lot of the ball to dictate play, not to mention Ben Arfa’s best position is in the Argentine’s preferred #10 position. Pastore will need to stay healthy and be at his best to keep his place in the team as Ben Arfa is coming off the best season of his career at OGC Nice.
Lucas Moura’s time a the club has been largely unfulfilling but there’s a real chance he could unlock his full potential under Emery. Being the only natural winger in the squad, the Brazilian could really benefit if the manager were to make a switch to his familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Lucas’ combination of speed and ability to take on his man on the flank could make him an important asset to the Spaniard and potentially see him book a spot in the starting lineup next season. Lucas was impressive against West Bromwich Albion recently and if he can continue that form, we might finally see him finally reach his potential.
The 18-year-old academy graduate, who recently signed a new contract, could have an important role to play with the senior team next season as he’s one of their few available wingers. Capable of playing on either side of the pitch, the Frenchman performed well against West Bromwich and if he can shine against top class opponents during the ICC, his playing time could increase.
Following a poor spell under Laurent Blanc last season, Benjamin Stambouli’s career at PSG appeared to be over. However, there’s a chance he could fight to push himself into the new manager’s plans for next season though. Despite failing to fit into Blanc’s system, Stambouli could enjoy better luck under the new manager as his hard running and tackling style could see him fit much better in Emery’s energetic system. With his direct competition for the holding midfield spot (Grzegorz Krychowiak and Thiago Motta) arriving a bit later in preseason, Stambouli is guaranteed a relatively standard amount of minutes and that could be enough to turn his PSG career around if can impress.
Photograph by SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty Images