PARIS, France, Oct 4 – First place in Ligue 1 will be on the line on Saturday when leaders Paris Saint-Germain host their surprising challengers Angers at Parc des Princes.
With many of their traditional rivals, notably Lyon, Monaco and Marseille, languishing in the lower half of the table, PSG have moved two points clear with a string of narrow victories.
Since the start of September, PSG have only won one game by more than one goal. That was am impressive 3-0 home victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League.
They have won three of their last four Ligue 1 matches 1-0, with Neymar scoring a late winner each time: in the 70th minute against Bordeaux, the 87th minute at Lyon and two minutes into added time against Strasbourg.
Yet in their last home game they lost 2-0 to mid-table Reims.
PSG, who have scored more than 100 goals in each of the last two seasons, have hit just 13 in eight matches. Angers have scored 16.
It could be that Neymar has to shoulder the attacking load alone once more as the recently returned Kylian Mbappe is an injury doubt for Saturday.
Stephane Moulin, the Angers manager, believes the long sequence of injuries, notably to Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani, has blunted PSG.
“They have been a little less scary for the past six months, because they have had a lot of players missing,” said Moulin, who has been in charge since 2011, longer than any other manager in the big five European Leagues.
Neymar insists, that, even though he had given the impression in the summer that he was desperate for a divorce, he remains committed to PSG.
“It’s like when you are in a relationship with your girlfriend,” he said this week. “When things aren’t going well between you, you don’t speak to each other. But with a lot of love and cuddles, everything gets back in order. I am here to help PSG.”
One to watch: Saint-Etienne hot seat
Lyon make the 60km trip to Saint-Etienne for the match known simply as ‘Le Derby’ but they will not be taking any fans with them. The local police have banned them saying there is a “proven” risk of confrontation.
The authorities in Lyon banned Saint-Etienne fans last November.
While Lyon, who have finished in the top four in 20 of the last 21 seasons, are an embarrassing 11th in the 20-team division their ancient enemies are one point but, significantly, eight places worse off.
Manager Ghislain Printant seemed doomed since his team was humiliated at Angers on September 22. He was on the bench as Saint-Etienne hosted Wolfsburg in the Europa League on Thursday, but it the only question might be whether Saint-Etienne can bring in a replacement by Sunday.
Jean-Louis Gasset, who retired as Saint-Etienne manager after last season, and the much-travelled Antoine Kombouare, are being linked with the post. The most intriguing suggestion is Claude Puel, fired by Leicester in February. He would probably be happy the ban would prevent a reunion with Lyon fans. He managed their club for three seasons from 2008 to 2011.
2 – Number of matches Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud is banned after going into the referee’s changing room after a home draw with Montpellier.
7 – Goals in all competitions by Lille’s top scorer Victor Osimhen, all scored at home.
7- PSG have won all seven games in which Idrissa Gueye has appeared this season, without conceding a goal.
Amiens v Marseille (2145)
Paris Saint-Germain v Angers (1830), Brest v Metz, Dijon v Strasbourg, Montpellier v Monaco, Nantes v Nice, Toulouse v Bordeaux (all 2100)
Lille v Nimes (1600), Rennes v Reims (1800), Saint-Etienne v Lyon (2200)