Tue, 21 Mar 2023

Ligue 1, Scene 2: PSG lead but plot thickens

28 Jan 2023, 08:47 GMT+10

Fittingly, a rumbustious Breton derby launched the second half of the Ligue 1 season with seventh-placed Lorient entertaining fifth-placed Rennes at the Stade du Moustoir.

Rennes went into the encounter buoyed by their 1-0 win on 15 January over pacesetters Paris Saint-Germain while Lorient were licking their wounds from a 3-1 pummelling at Marseille.

Montassar Talbi opened the scoring for the hosts in the 14th minute. The defender headed home Enzo Le Fee's corner from the right.

And just after the half hour mark, Theo Le Bris doubled the advantage. Flavien Tait halved the deficit 16 minutes from time but Lorient held on for the local bragging rights.

The victory brought Lorient to within two points of their neighbours rivals in the race for a place in next season's Europa Conference League.

Rennes' demise offered Marseille and Monaco the chance to gain some distance after arguably the game of the weekend between the two sides on Saturday afternoon.

Five points separate the teams. "We'll have to do everything to win and send a message to the competitors," said Monaco midfielder Youssouf Fofana on the eve of the clash at the Velodrome.

"The teams in front of us are on a bit of a roll but we showed last year that we can live with them," he added.

Victory would take Monaco to within three points of Marseille who top the form charts.

Igor Tudor's men have won their last five games to close to within five points of PSG and two behind second-placed Lens.

"It will be a game between two sides who like to be on the front foot," added Monaco boss Philippe Clement.

Lens could go level on points with PSG if they win on Saturday night at 14th-placed Troyes who are still feeling their way under their new coach Patrick Kisnorbo.

He switched continents after two years as head coach at Melbourne FC.

The 41-year-old Australian has overseen a win, a draw and a defeat since taking over from Bruno Irles.

"The leadership starts with me," said the former Australia international.

"But I want to help the players to develop so that there are 11 leaders on the pitch and there's not just a captain and a coach."

Kisnorbo added: "Four years ago, Melbourne FC was a bit like Troyes ... new coach ... different ways wanted. But we started to work and four yeas on, Melbourne had won two league titles and an Asian Cup."

The Troyes faithful will simply be joyous for Ligue 1 status. They have 18 points from their first 19 games and hover three points above the four relegation places.


That battle to survive suffered a blow when midfield playmaker Florian Tardieu succumbed to an achilles tendon injury.

The 30-year-old Frenchman will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season.

"The whole club wishes him well for his recovery," said a club statement. "And we look forward to seeing him back on the field as soon as possible."

Tardieu's nous would have been welcome against Lens who have lost one game this season. One of their 13 victories came against PSG who were ceremoniously dispatched 3-1 from the Stade Bollaert on 1 January.

"The game against Troyes is the first match of the second half of the season," deadpanned Lens boss Franck Haise.

"We have to go there and try to win. It's as simple as that. And then in the other matches there will be times when we are not as strong or the opponents are simply better.

"Troyes have their goals and ambitions and there won't be any straightforward games after that.

"We have to work hard and try to create problems for our opponents. That's what we've been trying to do for a while."


Lionel Messi has a storied career creating problems for adversaries. He ran riot and amassed trophies at Barcelona for the best part of two decades before moving to PSG in August 2021 to join Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

The tricky troika have been brought together to fire PSG's quest for Champions League glory.

Ligue 1 supremacy - long regarded by the team's Qatari owners as bunting for the ultimate bauble - might be a tad more difficult to secure than in previous seasons.

Especially when the reinforcements are getting restless.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who has been designated understudy to Gigi Donnarumma for Ligue 1 and Champions League clashes, is understood to be weighing up a move to Nottingham Forest in England's Premier League.

The Costa Rica international won 10 titles at Real Madrid including three consecutive Champions League medals between 2016 and 2018. Seven more trophies have been added since his move to PSG in 2019.

"Keylor has been exemplary in his work since the start of the season" said PSG coach Christophe Galtier.

"He was named goalkeeper for the Coupe de France games and I have total confidence in him.

"But we have to take into consideration what he feels. The things he has done as a player mean we have to give him that respect," Galtier added. "I know that the club hierarchy feels the same way."

The 36-year-old's departure could leave PSG compromised in the event of injury to Donnarumma or the Italy international yielding to an extended bout of flakiness.

PSG will play seven matches in February, including last-16 ties against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

They will also go up against Marseille in the last-16 of the Coupe de France on 8 February as well as a Ligue 1 clash on 26 February.

There is also a game at Monaco.

"The calendar is like that, unfortunately," Galtier added. "With the accumulation of matches, we'll need to be careful with how many minutes we give to the players."

Victory over Reims at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night would keep the vultures away - at least for a few days.

"We've got to take into account their 13-game unbeaten streak," said Galtier. "So it's a good test for us just before we go into that run of games in February.

"Reims is a team that concedes few goals ... and that's not luck. We have to perform well and do things right to win."

Over to you, Neymar, Lionel and Kylian.

Originally published on RFI

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