PSG enjoy Ligue 1 cruise control as also-rans scavenge for scraps

·4-min read

Ligue 1 pacesetters Paris Saint-Germain play at second-from-bottom Lorient on Wednesday night ensconced in a monied world of their own.

Maurcio Pochettino’s galaxy of international stars go into their 19th fixture of the 2021/22 campaign 13 points ahead of second-placed Marseille who have played one game less.

PSG are expected to take three points at a team who have only scored seven goals at the Stade du Moustoir in their eight matches. PSG have hit the target 17 times on their travels.

However, the leaders will be without Kylian Mbappé. The France international, who has scored 10 times and set up nine goals, is suspended. Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, is out with an injury.

Against the Borg in the Star Trek sci-fi series, resistance was futile. For PSG in the QSI era, depletion is relative.

The absence of 400 million euros worth of talent will likely unleash an all-Argentine front three of Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi.

“Without Kylian and Neymar means we’ll have to be more patient in our build-up,” said Pochettino on the eve of the game.

“When they’re on the field, the tendency can be to get the ball to them quickly and they do the rest.

“We have the players who are capable of playing at a different pace and it will be a good test for the team to try and attack in a different way.”

Gap

Even if Marseille were to win their abandoned game against Lyon to cut the gap to 10 points, only the mother of all meltdowns will prevent PSG from recapturing the French title from Lille and hoisting their eighth top flight crown in 10 years.

In reality, PSG are over the hills and light years away.

Marseille are essentially in a fight for the runners-up slot and automatic access to the group stages of 2022/23 Champions League. Jorge Sampaoli’s outfit, who take on mid-table Reims on Wednesday night, are battling with Rennes, Nice, Montpellier and Lens for that berth.

Lille, who pipped PSG to the 2021 title, languish in 11th on 25 points - only three points away from the slot for next season’s Europa Conference League.

That competition will be less glamorous than their current foray into the latter stages of the Champions League where they became the first Lille squad to top their pool. The reward for such an exploit in European club football's most prestigious competition? A last-16 clash against the defending champions Chelsea.

Challenge

Those tests over two legs come early next year. Unitl then, rather more parochial issues concern coach Jocelyn Gourvennec who took over from Christophe Galtier in July.

“From what we’ve been doing on the pitch … we should be around nine points better off than we are,” said Gourvennec before his side’s trip to Bordeaux.

“But we haven’t been efficient and we’ve got to improve this side of our game because we can’t keep coming off the field feeling that we’ve thrown the points away.

"We’ve got to increase the intensity to get those wins.”

Such fighting talk will echo around dressing rooms of teams seeking the places for European competitions as well as those battling to stay in Ligue 1.

Comeback

Five points separate 15th-placed Bordeaux from bottom of the table Saint-Etienne who sacked their coach Claude Puel after their 5-0 drubbing at home to Rennes and replaced him with Pascal Dupraz.

His mission - while not impossible - appears difficult. Galvanise the players and woo a public who showed their discontent about the drift at the club during ugly scenes at the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard before the match againstAngers in October.

Dupraz’s team scraped past fourth tier Lyon La Duchere 1-0 on Sunday to reach the last 32 of the Coupe de France.

On Wednesday night they host Nantes - one of the teams hunting for a place in the European tournaments.

“There are 60 points to play for over the second half of the season,” Dupraz said. “We’ve got to try and reach 40 points to be safe.

“We’ve already got 12 and I reckon our supporters will help us get at least 10 more … so it’s up to the players to go out and get the rest to keep us in Ligue 1.”

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