PARIS, France, Jan 19 – Lyon will look to inject fresh life into the Ligue 1 title race at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday when the focus will once again fall on world record signing Neymar.
The Brazilian scored four times in Wednesday’s 8-0 rout of Dijon but was whistled by his own fans after taking a late penalty and denying Edinson Cavani the chance to break Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s all-time PSG goals record.
“If he’d given it to (Cavani) it would have been a nice gesture. Now if it’s just a question of the record…if it’s not (on Wednesday), it will be on Sunday. He will smash the record,” said PSG defender Thomas Meunier of Cavani’s history-making aspirations.
“I don’t think you should linger over these types of details,” added the Belgium international. “He (Neymar) was the one who was supposed to take it. In reality he just did what he should have done.”
While PSG registered a record home win, Cavani notched his 156th goal for the club to draw level with the record set by Ibrahimovic over four seasons in the French capital.
A section of supporters jeered when the Uruguayan wasn’t presented the opportunity by Neymar to eclipse that mark, and Meunier admitted he found that reaction disappointing.
“When you score four goals, provide two assists and everything you bring to the team, to be whistled just for a penalty, I think that’s a bit ungrateful from the supporters,” Meunier said.
Nevertheless, the result kept Unai Emery’s team 11 points clear of second-place Lyon, who will rely on more inspiration from captain Nabil Fekir as they chase a sixth league win in seven matches.
Fekir is level on 15 goals with Neymar, trailing only Cavani (20) and Radamel Falcao (16), after netting the opener in a 2-0 victory at Guingamp.
“Nabil’s performance was extraordinary,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said afterwards. “He’s been on a roll since the start of the season. He’s at an international level and doing it consistently.”
– Garcia’s ‘big rubber’ –
Lyon also welcomed back striker Bertrand Traore in midweek as the Burkina Faso international made a late appearance off the bench on his return from a knee injury.
Marseille kick off the action on Friday with a trip to Caen, where they will aim for a fourth consecutive victory after overtaking defending champions Monaco for third place.
Rudi Garcia’s team have thrashed Caen 10-1 on aggregate over the past two meetings, but the Marseille boss is adamant there will be no complacency in Normandy.
“We know our recent results against Caen, but we have to forget them. If I need it, I have a big rubber in my office,” Garcia said on Thursday.
“What we have to keep in mind is that we’re again playing before everyone else. We have another chance to put the pressure on the teams around us.”
Monaco host bottom-of-the-table Metz on Sunday, although the visitors are unbeaten in five matches as they look to work their way out of trouble following a disastrous start to the campaign.
Bordeaux begin life after Jocelyn Gourvennec away to Nantes on Saturday, after the crisis-hit club sacked their coach following a run of just two wins in 14 games since September.
Former France midfielder Jeremy Toulalan has also left Bordeaux after asking to be released from his contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season.
Fixtures (all times 10pm unless stated)
Caen v Marseille (10:45pm)
Nantes v Bordeaux (7pm), Amiens v Guingamp, Montpellier v Toulouse, Rennes v Angers, Strasbourg v Dijon, Troyes v Lille
Nice v Saint-Etienne (5pm), Monaco v Metz (7pm), Lyon v Paris Saint-Germain (11pm)