Ligue 1 braces itself for arguably the most important clash of the season as PSG take on LOSC Lille on Saturday.

Following the end of the international break, Ligue 1 resumes this weekend and in quite a fashion as PSG play hosts to LOSC Lille on Saturday, in a fixture that could go a long way in shaping the outcome of the nicely poised title race.

The hosts PSG are leading the table heading into this game, but only due to a superior goal difference. They gained the hotseat in the last matchday when Lille’s shocking defeat to relegation candidates Nimes, coupled with a 4-2 win over another title challengers Lyon helped the defending champions get level on points with Christopher Galtier’s men.

The two sides have met recently in the Round of 16 of the French Cup, where PSG secured a comfortable 2-0 win over Les Dogues. However, things could get much trickier, knowing the away team have prioritised Ligue 1 and are thus likely to field their strongest possible eleven this weekend.

Lille are also one of the most stable defensive sides in the league as they have had to deal with only three defeats throughout the campaign compared to seven of PSG. With just 19 goals conceded, they also boast the best defensive record in the league and one of the best in Europe.

Les Parisien, though, do have the best attack in the league with 67 goals, so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this fascinating encounter. And interestingly, a draw here could make the title race much spicier, giving the chasing pack in AS Monaco and Lyon an opportunity to get back into the picture.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look over these two sides ahead of this crucial Ligue 1 matchup at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

Team News & Tactics

PSG

Ushering in a new era at PSG (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Pochettino is dealing with an injury crisis at PSG. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

It is difficult to predict PSG’s setup as most of the players, including Kylian Mbappe, are coming on the back of international duty with their respective countries. PSG, though, were boosted by the return of Neymar in their last game against Lyon and he might get a starting role, with Mbappe spearheading the attack, as both Mauro Icardi and Moise Kean remain doubts.

Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria should fill up the rest of the attacking slots for the home side, who, in truth, are dealing with a lot of injuries right now with Pablo Sarabia, Juan Bernat as well as the aforementioned Icardi sidelined.

Marco Verratti, too, is not fully fit and will likely be rested with an eye on the Champions League clash against Bayern Munich, meaning the onus will be on the likes of Draxler, Neymar and Di Maria offer that X-factor going forward.

Danilo, meanwhile, remains a favourite in the holding midfield area, thanks to his excellent performances in recent matches. He will offer the grit to Idrissa Gueye’s grace at the base of PSG’s 4-2-3-1 that will play a crucial role in helping the defending champions take control of the game.

Defensively, Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe should take charge of the backline, with additional support from the two full-backs in Colin Dagba and Layvin Kurzawa, although the duo will more likely be focused on offering the width going forward.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Dagba, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Danilo, Gueye; Di Maria, Draxler, Neymar; Mbappe

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LOSC Lille

LOSC Lille have endured a poor run of form recently and it will be imperative for Christophe Galtier’s men to find that semblance of defensive balance that has helped them mount a title challenge thus far.

Naturally, the central defensive duo of Jose Fonte and Sven Botman are going to be the main protagonists of a cautious counter-attacking approach that could come at the expense of PSG launching a set of attacking waves.

Rui Fonte has been "vocal" about his happiness at being linked with a move to Manchester United and could join fellow countryman Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. (PIcture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Jose Fonte will be vital to Lille’s chances. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

Lille usually play with a 4-4-2, so the full-backs in Zeki Celik and Reinildo should operate close to the centre-backs, in a narrow setup that will look to provide maximum coverage for goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

However, the two holding midfielders often play the most crucial role in a 4-4-2, meaning it will be up to the likes of Benjamin Andre and Boubakary Soumare to offer that resistance in the second line of press. Renato Sanches is another option should Galtier go for more creativity in the middle of the park.

Otherwise, the two wide midfielders in Jonathan Ikone and Jonathan Bamba are going to be tasked with the responsibility of offering that supply for the two strikers in Jonathan David and Burak Yilmaz.

Crosses are likely to be favoured for the veteran goalscorer Yilmaz but in David, Lille have someone who can drop deep and create the play – almost working as an auxiliary number ten. Yusuf Yazici can also play that role if required while Timothy Weah is an alternative for the ageing Yilmaz.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Maignan; Celik, Fonte, Botman, Reinildo; Ikone, Soumare, Andre, Bamba; David, Yilmaz

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Key Stats

  • PSG and Lille are facing each other as the top two teams in the Ligue 1 table for the fourth time in the 21st century after November 2018, April 2019 and December 2020, equalling the best tally for such a fixture over that period (PSG – Monaco).
  • PSG drew 0-0 against Lille in Ligue 1 in the reverse fixture and could fail to win two games in a row against them for the first time since January 2012-April 2012 (4).
  • Only Atletico Madrid and Inter have lost fewer games than Lille in the top five European leagues this season (3).
  • PSG are unbeaten in their last 21 home games against Lille in Ligue 1 – their last home defeat against LOSC in the top-flight was in April 1996.
  • After being defeated by Nimes, Lille could lose consecutive games in Ligue 1 for the first time since December 2019 – January 2020 (3).

Player to Watch

Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar looks on as he takes part in a training session in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris, on August 17, 2019, on the eve of the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Rennes. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

All eyes on Neymar. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Neymar is going to be the focal point of this fixture for a multitude of reasons as the Brazilian braces himself for his first league start since returning from injury two weeks ago. His absence has been clearly felt by PSG, even though the club has performed significantly well, especially on the domestic front.

And with a host of key players out injured, coupled with the mixed run of form Kylian Mbappe is having, Neymar could be more important than ever, especially up against a Lille side that has conceded only 19 goals this term.

The winger will primarily hope to operate out wide, using his pace and dribbling prowess to either penetrate the opposing lines or create space for his teammates. Lille, though, are likely to defend in deep blocks while also offering him very little time on the ball, so it will be interesting to see whether the former Barcelona superstar can inspire a victory for PSG with a magical performance this weekend.

Prediction

PSG 2-1 LOSC Lille

PSG may not have been the favourites to win this game a few months ago, but the French champions have made a recovery despite the shock defeats to Monaco and Nantes, as well as the injury problems that still haunt Mauricio Pochettino.

They have Neymar back and running while the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Marquinhos and Angeli Di Maria should slot right back into the side, up against a Lille team that has largely underperformed recently.

In fact, the away side may struggle even to cause problems for the PSG backline and although we do expect them to score at least one goal, they are likely to slump to a narrow defeat in this encounter.

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