Paris Saint-Germain continue their hunt for the top spot in the Ligue 1 table as they lock horns with fellow title challengers Olympique Lyon on Sunday.
A vital game in the context of the Ligue 1 title race awaits us on Sunday as Paris Saint-Germain take on Olympique Lyon at Groupama Stadium. For PSG, it will be an opportunity to create a significant gap between their closest competitors, who are trailing them merely by goal difference heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
PSG themselves are trailing league leaders LOSC Lille by three points, meaning a win could be crucial if they are to keep up with Les Dogues. The first place has already eluded Mauricio Pochettino’s men for quite a while now and that is unlikely to change as Lille do face a relatively easier opposition in Nimes this weekend.
As for Lyon, a win on Sunday could help them regain their place in the second spot while also helping them remain ahead of fourth-placed Monaco. It is a fascinating title race indeed with at least four teams having a realistic chance of lifting the Ligue 1 by the end of the campaign, with PSG and Lille appearing as favourites.
That said, Lyon are no slouches and had secured a famous 1-0 victory over Les Parisien in the reverse fixture. Their coach Rudi Garcia will be hoping for a similar display from his men this time around. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial Ligue 1 encounter on Sunday.
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Garcia primarily favours a fluid 4-3-3 formation with the front three of Rayan Cherki, Memphis Depay and Karl Toko Ekambi hoping to cause problems for the PSG defence. Their free-flowing setup should enable them to become more expressive with regard to their movements in the final third, with all three attackers boasting the pace that could ideally complement Lyon’s counter-attacking approach.
Lyon do have options in the bank though, including Tino Kadewere and the experienced Islam Slimani, whose aerial prowess could serve as a potential plan B for Rudi Garcia’s men.
Either way, the emphasis will be on clever through balls in behind the PSG backline that worked so well for Nantes around a week ago. For Lyon, the onus of providing such services would usually fall upon the shoulders of the gifted Houssem Aouar, but he is not included in the squad, so Garcia will have to make do with Maxence Caqueret.
Caqueret should receive additional support from Lucas Paqueta and Thiago Mendes, although the latter is likely to operate as a holding midfielder. The Brazilian, in fact, should play a key role in offering resistance in that number six slot. His defensive prowess should be integral in adding protection for the backline involving Jason Denayer and Marcelo.
They should expect additional aid from the right-back in Leo Dubois. The Frenchman should operate a little deeper in Lyon’s left-sided overload, thus allowing the left-back in Maxwel Cornet to become more expressive in the final third. However, it will be interesting to see whether Garcia opts for Mattia De Sciglio knowing the defensive challenge his side is going to face against PSG this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lopes; Dubois, Denayer, Marcelo, Cornet; Paqueta, Mendes, Caqueret; Cherki, Depay, Toko Ekambi
One of Pochettino’s main problems at PSG has been injuries that keeps the likes of Juan Bernat, Thilo Kehrer, Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia on the sidelines heading into this fixture. To make matters worse, Colin Dagba has been ruled out due to suspension.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) March 20, 2021
It leaves Alessandro Florenzi as pretty much a guaranteed starter at right-back while Layvin Kurzawa is likely to get the nod ahead of the young Mitchell Bakker on the opposite flank. The two should play an integral role in offering width out wide – something that is crucial to Pochettino’s approach play.
However, it does keep the central defenders in Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe quite isolated. It was evident even in the defeat to Nantes as one of the goals came from a straight long ball from goalkeeper Alban Lafont. PSG, therefore, will need to be extra careful in regards to their high line of press, especially with goalkeeper Keylor Navas not being recognised as the best of sweeper keepers.
In midfield, Idrissa Gueye should slot in effortlessly alongside Leandro Paredes, although Danilo Pereira is also another option should Mourinho opt for a more defensive-oriented approach.
In the number ten role, Marco Verratti should get the nod ahead of Julian Draxler and Rafinha for obvious reasons. The Italian’s ability to thread passes in and around the final third is set to play a critical role in PSG’s chance creation this weekend.
Speaking of which, Pochettino has confirmed that Neymar will be included in the squad for Sunday’s game, although his potential appearance remains a doubt. As such, the PSG frontline could continue to be spearheaded by Kylian Mbappe, with Moise Kean and Angel Di Maria offering additional support.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Florenzi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Gueye, Paredes; Di Maria, Verratti, Kean; Mbappe
- Lyon have won only 31% of their games against PSG in Ligue 1, their second-lowest percentage against a current top-flight team after Reims.
- Lyon have beaten PSG in Ligue 1 more often than any other team since PSG became Qatari owned franchise in 2011/12.
- Lyon have conceded at least one goal in their last six home games against PSG in Ligue 1, their worst run at home against the club and their worst ongoing run at home against a current top-flight team (alongside Nice).
- Lyon have won just two of their last five games in Ligue 1, after winning each of their previous four.
- PSG have lost seven of their 29 games in Ligue 1 2020/21. No team has gone on to win the French top-flight title with as many defeats at this stage since Lyon in 2002/03 (also 7).
Player to Watch
After a horrendous display against Nantes last weekend, Kylian Mbappe redeemed himself in midweek against Lille in the cup game but will once again be under the microscope as the PSG superstar hopes to guide his team back to the top of the Ligue 1 table with a win over Lyon on Sunday.
As such, Mbappe’s pace and ability to squeeze through tight spaces should make it difficult for the defenders to operate in a settled, defensive backline with an emphasis on minimising the influence of the passing channels including the wide areas. So it is indeed a challenge for them to keep the Frenchman quiet.
From Mbappe’s perspective, his electric pace could be enough for PSG to convince playing on the counter. The 22-year-old, though, needs to offer the productivity as well, especially with Pochettino missing Icardi while Neymar is barely fit to play this weekend – making him undisputedly the most interesting player heading into this game.
PSG 2-1 Lyon
This is by no means to be an easy task for Olympique Lyon if we take into account PSG’s recent triumph over FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League while the Ligue 1 giants also recently secured a comprehensive 3-0 victory over league leaders Lille in the Cup.
Lyon, in contrast, have strayed from their paths in recent weeks, often struggling to maintain their consistency. Although Les Gones do not necessarily have any injury-related issues, they are indeed the underdogs and it will be hardly surprising to see them fail to collect even a point from this outing.