Paris Saint-Germain will be aiming to stay perched atop the Ligue 1 table when they welcome 11th-placed Montpellier to Parc des Princes on Friday.

After a near-week-long and much-needed rest for the players in a tightly scheduled season, Ligue 1 returns with a big clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier on Friday. While PSG look to cement their spot at the top of the league table, Montpellier will hope to remain in contention and climb into the top half.

It was initially a difficult start to the 2020/21 season for France’s most enterprising club. Since reaching the Champions League final, PSG have failed to reach those levels of performances. Les Parisiens narrowly qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, leaving it right till the very end. Moreover, it was not until their last game versus Angers that PSG finally reached the top of Ligue 1.

Thomas Tuchel faced the axe after an underwhelming start and things are now looking bright at Parc des Princes, with Mauricio Pochettino at the helm. PSG have won their last three matches under the Argentine and will look to build on the momentum being created at the club.

Montpellier, on the other hand, are winless in their last six games and are drifting further away from the European football spots with each passing game. Placed 4th after the first 14 matchdays, a torrid run of results has left the visitors at 11th, 8 points off the top four. They now travel to Paris, where they have lost their previous three away times with an aggregate of 14-1.

Team News & Tactics

PSG

Unfortunately for Mauricio Pochettino, he remains sidelined after being diagnosed with COVID-19 soon after winning his first trophy as a manager. Assistant manager Jesus Perez has taken over the reins for the time being. On the team news front, Ander Herrera, Colin Dagba and Juan Bernat are all unavailable for the game while Raphinha and Thilo Kehrer return to the squad.

Keylor Navas is expected to start in goal, with a defensive pairing of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe ahead of him. Layvin Kurzawa, who scored the winner in PSG’s narrow win over Angers, picked up a knock towards the end of the game which may see Mitchel Bakker start ahead of the Frenchman. On the opposite flank, Alessandro Florenzi should be handed a start.

PSG have returned to a back four under Pochettinho and also deploy a double pivot with a no. 10 in their system. Marco Verratti, who has played in a variety of roles already under the new manager, is expected to reprise the no. 10 role yet again. Idrissa Gueye and Leandro Paredes are expected to operate in midfield, albeit in the deeper roles, in order to provide Verratti more freedom.

Neymar Jr. has looked in fine touch lately and the Brazilian is expected to start from the left, while Kylian Mbappe may be deployed on the right wing. Mauro Icardi has looked sharp in training of late and also impressed in the cup final versus Marseille, meaning he is likely to get the nod to lead the line for PSG against Montpellier.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Bakker; Paredes, Gueye; Mbappe, Verratti, Neymar; Icardi

Montpellier

Despite Montpellier’s dreadful record versus PSG, they can definitely take some positives from their away record this season, having won four and lost just two of their eight away games in Ligue 1 so far.

To manager Michel Der Zakarian’s fortune, the visitors do not have many absentees coming into this game. However, midfielder Jordan Ferri is suspended for accumulating too many yellow cards and star striker Andy Delort, who found the net in the last game versus AS Monaco, is also sidelined.

Montpellier are expected to line-up in their defensive 5-3-2 formation in order to absorb the pressure that the PSG attack will look to create. Jonas Omlin should start in goal for the 19th time this season. Surprisingly, the only two times that Montpellier have kept a clean sheet this season has been in the absence of Omlin.

The back-five is likely to remain unchanged after a narrow 3-2 loss to AS Monaco last week. Salomon Sambia and Mihailo Ristic are expected to be the wing-backs, while Daniel Congre, Pedro Mendes and Nicolas Cozza are likely to slot in centrally.

Joris Chotard should replace the suspended Ferri in midfield, while Damien Le Tallec and Florent Mollet are expected to start alongside him. In the absence of Delort, Stephy Mavididi is expected to be one of the two strikers, with Gaetan Laborde being his partner. Laborde and Mavididi have ten goals between them this season and will hope to further inflict themselves upon PSG.

Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Omlin; Sambia, Congre, Mendes, Cozza, Ristic; Mollet, Chotard, Le Tallec; Mavididi, Laborde

Key Stats

  • PSG are on a three-game unbeaten run versus Montpellier, their longest streak versus the visitors in Ligue 1
  • Montpellier are winless in six 6 games (L4 D2), which is their worst run under manager Michel Der Zakarian. If Montpellier lose and make it 7 games in a row without a win, it will be their worst record since 2017.
  • PSG have won three games without conceding a goal at home in Ligue 1. If they beat Montpellier with a clean sheet, they will match their four-game record of 2019.
  • Montpellier striker Gaetan Laborde has only gone more games without a goal versus Angers, having failed to score in his last 8 games against PSG (10 vs Angers). Meanwhile, Kylian Mbappe has failed to find the back of the net since the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino.
  • Since Montpellier’s last Ligue 1 win on December 12 2020, they have gone on to concede 14 goals, which is the third-worst record in this period the league. Only Lorient and Nimes have let in as many.

Player to Watch

Kylian Mbappe

Time to step up. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Time to step up. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Mbappe has been the talk of the town of late, with PSG director Leonardo and Barcelona manager Ronaldo Koeman both making comments about the young Frenchman. There have been a lot of rumours over a move for to Real Madrid, which has caught a lot traction in the past few days.

Moreover, Mbappe has been under immense scrutiny for his poor form – only scoring once in his last five games. Assistant manager Jesus Perez has brushed aside concerns about Mbappe’s focus and attitude, and claimed that he is settling into the new style and it will only be a matter of time before the prolific forward starts scoring goals for fun. What better time, then, than against Montpellier this week.

Prediction

PSG 3-0 Montpellier

Angers gave PSG a run for their money with some terrific goalkeeping and defensive display. However, Montpellier have not been in the best of forms defensively and the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr. may prove to be too much for them to handle.

PSG would be hoping to be as clinical as possible and impose themselves upon Montpellier in order to deliver a comprehensive victory. In the end, the hosts should be comfortable and The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-0 win for the Ligue 1 champions.

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