The Ligue 1 title could be on the line when Paris Saint-Germain welcome RC Lens to Parc des Princes on Saturday.
Following a devastating 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in midweek, Paris Saint-Germain shift their attention back to the Ligue 1 title chase when they take on RC Lens on Saturday. It is a must-win encounter for Mauricio Pochettino’s men as they hope to regain their place at the top of the league table.
The defending champions have fared well in the league recently, securing three back-to-back wins that have helped them bridge the gap to table-toppers LOSC Lille to just one point. However, with a midweek second leg Champions League fixture against Manchester City looming large, Pochettino needs to prioritise one or the other, potentially opening up an excellent opportunity for Lens to spring a surprise.
The Sang et Or got the better of PSG last time they faced each other, securing a hard-fought 1-0 victory back in September of last year. They have performed really well since, emerging as the fifth-best team in France, with 56 points on the board, even though the visitors have no hopes of breaking into the top four, as fourth-placed Lyon are leading them by a whopping 11 points.
Nevertheless, Lens will be determined to finish the season ahead of their competitors in Marseille, Rennes. As such, a victory could be necessary, as they look to not only rain of PSG’s parade but also solidify their current league standings. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial Ligue 1 encounter at Parc des Princes this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Mauricio Pochettino is likely to ring in the changes from the side that faced Manchester City in midweek, resting some of the key players including Neymar and Marco Veratti, both of whom need some rest as Les Parisiens look to come out all guns blazing in midweek.
In Neymar’s absence, PSG are likely to unleash the in-form Mauro Icardi. The Argentine has been brilliant over the past few weeks and is destined to lead the line for the hosts, with additional support from Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe out wide while Julian Draxler should operate down the middle, hoping to offer the creative essence in the final third.
There could be changes in midfield as well, with Ander Herrera replacing Leandro Paredes. The former Manchester United man has been in great form and his ability to offer useful forward passes could be key, especially alongside Idrissa Gueye, who remains a guaranteed starter as his red in midweek rules him out of the second leg clash.
It will be interesting to see whether Pochettino opts to make any changes in the central defensive unit. Marquinhos, in particular, has recently returned to full fitness and it would perhaps be wiser to give him a breather ahead of next week’s contest. In his stead, Danilo Pereira could come into the side, renewing his defensive partnership alongside Presnel Kimpembe.
Elsewhere, Alessandro Florenzi should make way for Colin Dagba at right-back, while Mitchell Bakker is set to be replaced Layvin Kurzawa, whose attacking prowess means PSG could employ a left sided overload, especially with Mbappe operating on that side.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Dagba, Danilo, Kimpembe, Kurzawa; Herrera, Gueye; Di Maria, Draxler, Mbappe; Icardi
RC Lens head coach Franck Haise primarily likes to operate with a three-man backline that offers his side excellent balance in defensive and indeed, in the build-up play. Although the visitors have one of the worst defensive records in the top half of the league table, in Loic Bade, they one of the league’s best-emerging talents.
— Racing Club de Lens (@RCLens) April 29, 2021
Unfortunately, the youngster will serve a suspension this weekend along with fellow centre-back Massimo Haidara due to the accumulation of yellow cards while wing-back Issiga Sylla received a direct red during the hard-fought win over Nimes.
These notable absentees in defence will be a cause for concern for Haise, who might have to make do with Steven Fortes and Facundo Medina, in the absence of Bade and Haidara.
Ismael Boura, on the other hand, should replace Sylla at left wing-back, with Jonathan Clauss remaining a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank. The latter will be offered more freedom to move up the pitch, perhaps whipping in crosses for the offensive duo of Ignatius Ganago and Florian Sotoca, who will be hoping to return to the starting eleven after making his comeback to training this week.
And finally, in the midfield department, top-scorer Gael Kakuta is still recovering from COVID-19, posing further problems for Haise. As such, we are expecting a rather passive approach, with Yannick Cahuzac, Seko Fofana and Cheick Doucoure operating at the base of Lens’ 3-5-2 setup.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Farinez; Medina, Fortes, Gradit; Clauss, Cahuzac, Doucoure, Fofana, Boura; Sotoca, Ganago
- PSG have lost only one of their last 10 Ligue 1 games against Lens, but it was the most recent one on 10 September 2020. They have not lost both league games in a top-flight season against Lens since 2003/04. Only Monaco (this season) and Nancy (2011/12) have won their both league games against PSG in a season since the beginning of the QSI era.
- PSG have won only two of their last 10 league home games against Lens. Only against Monaco (6) have PSG lost more games on home sail in the top-flight in the 21st century against Lens (5).
- Lens are unbeaten in their last 13 league games, the longest ongoing such run in the division and the joint-longest run by a newly promoted side in the top-flight in the 21st century (St-Etienne in the 2004/05 and Reims in 2018/19).
- PSG have won their last three Ligue 1 games and could make it four in a row under Mauricio Pochettino for the first time.
- PSG have lost three of their last four Ligue 1 home games (W1), as many as in their previous 46 (W39 D4).
Player to Watch
Kylian Mbappe has a point to prove after being fiercely criticised for his performance against Manchester City. He struggled in tight spaces and could not find his way around the excellent defensive duo of Ruben Dias and John Stones. The lack of spaces to run in behind, it seems, causes the attacker to struggle.
That said, the Frenchman has been in inspiring form in Ligue 1 in recent weeks and could once again play a critical role as PSG look to brush side this Lens squad.
For Pochettino, it will be essential that Mbappe gets deployed out wide rather than in a central attacking role, as it gives him an opportunity to properly utilise his pace. But one thing that is certain is that the youngster is due a big haul and his performance against Lens could go a long way in boosting his confidence ahead of the second leg at the Etihad next week.
Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 RC Lens
It is hard to imagine a positive result for RC Lens, who are missing their most important players in this vital game. Although the visitors have looked quite sturdy in recent weeks, they could struggle against a PSG side seeking retribution following their shock defeat in the reverse fixture. And with Mauricio Pochettino being blessed with the return of key players from injury, the hosts could be too hot to handle for Franck Haise’s men.