Marseille, PSG set for curtain-raiser

After a summer in which French football hit rock bottom, Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain will begin to turn the page when they kick off the domestic season in the Champions Trophy on Wednesday.

This year's curtain-raising match takes place in Rades, Tunisia and will be attended by new France coach Laurent Blanc and Fernand Duchaussoy, the interim president of the French Football Federation (FFF). Blanc and Duchaussoy are the men charged with the responsibility of restoring the image of football in the country after the France squad's now infamous squad upheaval at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.

They will expect to see a spiky spectacle, given the traditional enmity between league champions Marseille and French Cup winners PSG, but the timing of the match means both sides are short of physical sharpness. The Ligue 1 season begins on 7 August and Marseille are yet to welcome back all their players from FIFA World Cup duty, while forwards Brandao and Mamadou Niang and young winger Jordan Ayew are all suspended.

"We'll give it our best considering we're missing key players and we'll do what's necessary to win the Champions Trophy," said Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, whose side ended an 18-year wait for the title last season. "I'm not going to take risks with certain players. The important thing is that the large majority of the squad are ready for the first league game of the season."

Wednesday's game could mark the final appearance in a Marseille shirt for French international winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who is rumoured to be on the verge of a move to English Premier League side Newcastle United. Cameroon centre-back Stephane Mbia has, however, been left out of the squad following his late return from the FIFA World Cup.

New recruits
Marseille can call upon summer signing Cesar Azpilicueta, the Spain Under-21 captain, at right-back, with PSG coach Antoine Kombouare likely to field new recruits Mathieu Bodmer and Brazilian forward Nene.

Paris goalkeeper Gregory Coupet has won the Champions Trophy a record five times and is in line to deputise for the injured Apoula Edel, who is struggling with an abdominal problem. "This match is important because the winners get a line added to their honours and in our squad there aren't too many players who have won a lot of trophies," said the 37-year-old, who will retire at the end of the season.

"When you are a PSG player and you face OM then it's a match to be won. There should be a great atmosphere in Rades. The match will let us get back on the bike and find out what real competition is like again."

PSG let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Poland's Legia Warsaw in their most recent pre-season game on Friday, while Marseille defeated Sicilian side Catania 2-0 on Saturday. Kombouare's men begin their league campaign at home to Saint-Etienne a week on Saturday, with Marseille starting their title defence against newcomers Caen.