Draxler in line for home PSG bow in cup tie

Paris: Julian Draxler could make his competitive debut for Paris Saint-Germain when they begin their defence of the French Cup at home to Bastia on Saturday.
The German World Cup-winning winger, 23, completed his move to Paris from Wolfsburg for a reported fee of up to 42 million euros (£36 million, $45 million) in time to make his first appearance for his new club in a friendly win over Club Africain in Tunisia on Wednesday.
Giovani Lo Celso, the 20-year-old midfielder recruited from Rosario Central in his native Argentina, also made his bow in that game and PSG are hoping the new duo can provide a faltering team with a boost in the new year.
“Lo Celso and Draxler are intelligent players who have already understood how the team plays. They had good games,” said captain Thiago Silva after the match in Tunisia, which PSG won 3-0.
“With these two players we can do some great things in the second half of the season.”
Unai Emery’s side, who went into the winter break in third place in Ligue 1 five points behind leaders Nice, are looking to complete a clean sweep of the domestic trophies in France for a third season in succession.
Bastia have never won away to PSG but the Parc des Princes was the scene of their finest hour, a 2-1 victory over Michel Platini’s Saint-Etienne in the 1981 French Cup final when Cameroonian great Roger Milla scored the winning goal.
Nice enjoyed a superb first half to the season but will be depleted as they travel to Lorient in their round-of-64 tie.
Mario Balotelli is suspended after being red-carded in the 0-0 league draw at Bordeaux just before Christmas, while playmaker Younes Belhanda is on the sidelines with a toe injury.
Their preparations have also been disrupted by the virus that has left coach Lucien Favre bed-ridden in recent days.
Second in Ligue 1, Monaco host second-tier Ajaccio with coach Leonardo Jardim admitting that he will use the game to rotate his squad.
Marseille, who lost to PSG in last season’s final and have not lifted the trophy since 1989, go to Toulouse in one of four all-top-flight ties.
Coach Rudi Garcia is hopeful of strengthening a squad that suffered four straight league wins to end 2016, but no moves have been completed yet amid speculation about a possible move to bring Dimitri Payet back to the club from West Ham United.
Lyon are at home to Montpellier while the longest journey will be undertaken by AS Excelsior.
The sixth-tier side from the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, where Payet began his career more than a decade ago, will travel to the French mainland to take on top-flight Lille.
“My biggest concern is the weather at the moment on the mainland. I am worried about how the players will react in temperatures they are not familiar with,” said Excelsior coach Bernard Mahmoud as his team prepare for the winter chill of Europe. — AFP

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