Ligue 1

Paris Saint-Germain v Nice: Aurier returns to training after ban

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Serge Aurier could be back in the Paris Saint-Germain squad for the Ligue 1 champions’ home game against Nice on Saturday after the defender completed his club suspension.

Aurier was banished from the PSG first team as a result of controversial comments he made about coach Laurent Blanc and team-mates including Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a Periscope video on February 13.

Although Aurier made a swift apology, PSG issued the defender with an exclusion from first team duty until March 20.

Marquinhos has been filling in at right-back in Aurier’s absence, but the 23-year-old will be available for selection against Nice and is match fit after playing the full 90 minutes in both of Ivory Coast’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Sudan, a 1-1 draw and a 1-0 win, during the international break.

Blanc confirmed that Aurier could return for the Nice match after he discussed the matter with the player.

“I really think that fellow did not measure his words,” Blanc said. “I told him what I had to say, that’s why I wanted to meet him.

“He returned to training and must be considered a player in the squad, nothing less.”

PSG clinched the title this month with a 9-0 thrashing of Troyes but followed that result up with a 2-0 home defeat to Monaco and will be looking to avoid a third straight home game without a win.

Nice, third in Ligue 1, come into the match in fine form having won their last three fixtures.

And playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa has revealed he is planning a special tribute to Netherlands legend Johan Cruyff - who died of cancer last week - in the contest at Parc des Princes.

“He’s [Cruyff] the one who taught me about the concept of freedom out on the pitch,” said Ben Arfa.

“Right from when I first saw it, I have loved this feint, which consists of knocking the ball behind your standing leg. As a kid, I even called it the Cruyff Special.

“I think really the only thing I can do is try to pull one off in our next game - in Paris against PSG.”

Blanc could be without Angel Di Maria as he was forced off during international duty with Argentina due to a shin injury, while Javier Pastore (calf), Marco Verratti (groin) and Layvin Kurzawa (hamstring) have all been battling injury issues.

PSG host Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday and it would be no surprise to see Blanc rest players as they aim to end a run of three straight quarter-final exits in Europe’s premier club competition.

Former PSG midfielder Mathieu Bodmer (shin) and the suspended Jeremy Pied are among the players unavailable to Nice coach Claude Puel, who is looking to arrest of run of six straight defeats against the capital club for his side.


Key Opta Stats:

- PSG have lost two of their last four Ligue 1 games (W1 D1), as many as in their previous 47.
- Nice have kept three clean sheets in their last five Ligue 1 games, as many as in their previous 12.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored eight goals in six Ligue 1 games against Nice, only against St Etienne he has scored more (10).

- Valere Germain has been involved in five of the last eight Nice goals in Ligue (3 goals, 2 assists).

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