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PSG will have the opportunity to bridge the gap at the top of the Ligue 1 table as they take on Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
It has been a fantastic week for PSG, whose midweek win over Bayern Munich led to their second straight semi-final in the UEFA Champions League. And on Saturday, they received a massive boost in their title defence hopes as league leaders LOSC Lille stumbled to a 1-1 draw against Montpellier.
The result gives PSG the opportunity to potentially bridge the gap at the top to just one point when they take on Saint-Etienne at Parc des Princes on Sunday. Another mishap, however, could pave the way for AS Monaco and Olympique Lyon to move ahead of them in the league table, potentially leaving Les Parisiens stranded in the fourth position.
Saint-Etienne are hoping to do extend their recent positive run, having secured back to back wins in their last two Ligue 1 games, beating Bordeaux and Nimes respectively. It has helped them return in contention for an upper mid-table spot as they look to move into the top half of the standings.
Saint-Etienne did actually manage to hold PSG out in the reverse fixture, drawing 1-1 at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium. And with momentum once again on their side, Les Verts will be hoping to plant another dagger in PSG’s hopes for a successful title defence this season.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this highly-anticipated Ligue 1 encounter this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Mauricio Pochettino has to make some key decisions with regard to team selection as midweek’s star performers in Neymar, Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes are all suspended, joining the injured Marquinhos, Abdou Diallo and Juan Bernat in the list of absentees. Even Keylor Navas has been ruled out due to shoulder pain, thus making Sergio Rico a guaranteed starter.
On the bright side, though, PSG will be boosted by the return of Marco Veratti and Alessandro Florenzi, who should allow Colin Dagba a breather at right-back while the young Mitchell Bakker could be rewarded with a start on the opposite flank.
Danilo and Presnel Kimpembe are set to continue at centre-back due to the lack of options available, while Veratti should slot into the double-pivot alongside Ander Herrera. It is a relatively more attacking combination, so PSG will have to be careful of their forays down the opposition third, knowing they won’t get the support of Gueye and Paredes in the middle of the park.
Speaking of attack, Neymar’s absence makes Moise Kean a guaranteed starter, as the leader of the PSG line. The on-loan Everton striker is set to be partnered by Angel Di Maria, Pablo Sarabia and Kylian Mbappe, although Pochettino does also have the option of deploying Rafinha and Julian Draxler.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Rico; Florenzi, Pereira, Kimpembe, Bakker; Herrera, Veratti; Di Maria, Sarabia, Mbappe; Kean
Saint-Etienne boss Claudio Puel is missing a few key players, especially in midfield and defence with Alpha Sissoko, Ryad Boudebouz and Yven Neyou all ruled out. And much like PSG, they are also missing their goalkeepers in both Stefan Bajic and Jessy Moulin, which could see the young Etienne Green once again starting in between the sticks for the visitors this weekend.
It will be interesting to see how Puel sets his team up, knowing PSG are likely to have the lion’s share of possession and restrict Saint-Etienne in their own half for the most part. A 4-4-2 is not a bad option with the in-form Wahbi Khazri spearheading the attack alongside Charles Abi.
However, it could come at the expense of a lack of support for the back-four consisting of Mathieu Debuchy, Harold Moukoudi, Pape Abou Cisse and Gabriel Silva. Hence. Puel just might continue with the 4-1-4-1 with Zaydou Youssouf replacing the recently injured Yven Neyou in the holding midfield role.
Youssouf will operate just behind the two main central midfielders in Mahdi Camara and the insanely talented Adil Aouchiche, although Saint-Etienne also have the privilege of calling up another youth sensation in Lucas Gourna-Douath.
As for the attack, Khazri is guaranteed to lead the line, but instead of opting for the additional forward in Abi, Puel might rely on the services of the wide attacking duo of Romain Hamouma and Denis Bouanga to offer the creativity by delivering crosses into the box or using quick link play to outwit the PSG backline.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Green; Debuchy, Moukoudi, Cisse, Silva; Youssouf; Hamouma, Camara, Aouchiche, Bouanga; Khazri
- PSG have not lost any of their 15 Ligue 1 games against St-Etienne, only against Angers and Brest are they on a long unbeaten run among current top-flight sides.
- PSG have not lost any of their last six Ligue 1 home games against St-Etienne, since a 1-2 defeat in November 2012.
- St-Etienne have won three of their last four Ligue 1 matches, as many as in their previous 13.
- PSG have scored in each of their last 20 league games against St-Etienne, their longest such run against a specific opponent in the top-flight.
- PSG have lost eight of their 32 Ligue 1 games this season, their worst tally at this stage since the 2009/10 campaign when they finished 13th. Lyon in 2001/02 were the last team to win the title with at least eight losses in the opening 32 games.
Player to Watch
Ready to make his presence felt? (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Kylian Mbappe has been a force of nature who has helped Paris Saint-Germain remain in the title chase despite a disastrous season in Ligue 1. While his heroic performances against Bayern Munich did catapult the French side to the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League, the Frenchman has also netted 21 goals in Ligue 1 this term.
Mbappe’s pace, trickery and ability to score even from the tightest of space makes him the most important player for PSG, especially in this encounter as Les Parisien will be without his partner in crime, Neymar.
Perhaps one of the key takeaways from Mbappe’s performances in Ligue 1 is that the attacker has struggled when teams have sat deep in a low defensive block. He is going to face a similar test this weekend when Saint-Etienne’s defensive line will restrict him from using his pace – making things difficult for the Frenchman.
PSG 2-1 Saint-Etienne
Considering the recent form, Saint-Etienne are not an opponent that should be taken lightly by PSG this weekend. The Saints boast a solid defensive unit and could frustrate their opponents, although we do expect the hosts to come through, thanks to the return of Veratti that is going to boost Pochettino’s creative unit. The absence of so many key defenders might see them concede, though, ultimately leading to a nervy victory for the defending champions.