Paris Saint-Germain are looking to wrap up their 2021 on a strong note as they take on Lorient on Wednesday.
Paris Saint-Germain’s staggering 13-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table has conveniently made them the undisputed favourite to reclaim the title from champions LOSC Lille.
At the halfway point of the season, Les Parisiens are cruising with 45 points on the board, with a tally of 38 goals scored and only 16 goals conceded. Their closest competitor is Marseille, who have collected 32 points but have a game in hand. And as the Ligue 1 braces itself for the final matchday of 2021, OM will be hoping for an upset when PSG take on Lorient at Stade du Moustoir.
Any slip up from Mauricio Pochettino’s men could allow Marseille to bridge the large gap at the top. With the game in hand, they will have the opportunity to further narrow the difference, and most importantly, head into the second half of the season on a positive note.
However, PSG have been in imperious form in the domestic competitions. After two back to back draws with Nice and Lens, they have secured three consecutive wins in all competitions, including a 2-0 win over AS Monaco and a 4-1 thumping of Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League.
It won’t serve as welcome news for Lorient, who are winless since September and have tasted back-to-back defeats in their last seven matches in all competitions. The worrying run of form sees the club languishing around the drop zone, just three points ahead of the bottom club St-Etienne. It has put pressure on coach Christophe Pelissier, but a surprise win over PSG could ease his troubles heading into the January transfer window.
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FC Lorient head coach Pelissier has stood true to his three-man setup despite the club’s poor run of form. He is unlikely to make any changes against PSG, although it won’t be surprising to see the home side operate in a deep defensive line that will look to offer very little space in behind for the opposition attackers.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) December 21, 2021
Naturally, the wing-backs in Igor Silva and Vincent Le Goff should be deployed in a deeper role, almost adjacent to the three centre-backs in Moritz Jenz, Julien Laporte and Houboulang Mendes, thus forming a back-five.
It could be essential in preventing the mighty PSG frontline from dominating the game, while the wing-backs will likely be in charge of keeping close tabs on the marauding opposition full-backs.
In midfield, the combination of Enzo Le Fee and club captain Laurent Abergel could go a long way in adding more cover for the backline. The two might be supported by the wider attacking duo of Dango Ouattara and Quentin Boisgard, who is likely to deputise for Stephane Diarra if the latter fails to return to full fitness, having picked up a knock in the last game.
As for the attacking unit, the Lorient frontline should be led by Terem Moffi. With just two goals in 17 league outings, the Nigerian certainly has his work cut out, although his imposing 1.88m frame could be useful if the Lorient attackers can provide him with consistent service from wider areas of the pitch.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Nardi; Silva, Jenz, Laporte, Mendes, Le Goff; Boisgard, Abergel, Le Fee, Ouattara; Moffi
Mauricio Pochettino made a whole lot of changes for the weekend Coupe de France encounter against Feignies Aulnoye. He is likely to revert those changes, with Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria gunning for a return to the starting eleven.
Unfortunately, the visitors will miss out on the services of Kylian Mbappe due to suspension, while Neymar and Julian Draxler are already sidelined through injury. Ideally, this would usually lead to Mauro Icardi retaining his place in the side, but it appears Pochettino has retained Xavi Simons in the squad to face Lorient.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) December 21, 2021
It won’t be surprising to see the former La Masia graduate earn a dream start in attack alongside his idol Messi, while Di Maria is expected to operate on the left flank in the absence of Mbappe. However, we still favour a starting role for Icardi, as Messi does feel more comfortable in a wider role.
In midfield, Verratti joins PSG’s list of absentees due to yellow card suspension, much like Mbappe. The Italian’s absence should pave the way for Idrissa Gueye and Georginio Wijnaldum to return to the side. They are set to operate in the advanced midfield roles, with Danilo Pereira providing cover from the number six slot.
Wijnaldum and Gueye’s combination play with the wide full-backs in Achraf Hakimi and Abdou Diallo could go a long way in helping PSG breach the defence of Lorient. At the same time, they need to be careful of potential counter-attacking opportunities for the home side, thereby helping out Danilo in mopping up loose balls.
Defensively, Sergio Ramos made his return from injury in the weekend game against Feignies Aulnoye. The veteran defender may start alongside Marquinhos at the heart of the PSG backline, although it won’t be surprising to see the former Real Madrid star being subbed off at half-time for Presnel Kimpembe.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Hakimi, Ramos, Marquinhos, Diallo; Gueye, Danilo, Wijnaldum; Messi, Icardi, Di Maria
- Lorient have won just one of their last 13 games against PSG in Ligue 1, though it was the most recent one in January 2021.
- No side has won more away games at Lorient in Ligue 1 than PSG (8/14).
- Lorient have lost their last seven games in Ligue 1, their worst run ever in the top-flight and the longest current run in the division.
- PSG have picked up 45 points after 18 games in Ligue 1 2021/22; only Lyon (49 in 2006/07) and PSG themselves (48 in 2015/16, 47 in 2017/18, 50 in 2019/20) have done at least as well in the three points for a win era.
- Lorient have lost each of their last three home games in Ligue 1 after being unbeaten across their previous 11. They have not lost four consecutive home games in the top-flight since September-November 2014 (4 – the fourth game was against PSG).
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— PSG Chief (@psg_chief) December 21, 2021
Xavi Simons has truly made a solid impression with his performance against Feignies Aulnoye on the weekend. The youngster was given his full PSG debut by Pochettino, as he started on the right-hand side of the attack, partnering with Icardi and Mbappe.
The 18-year-old wasn’t quite the difference-maker. But his confidence on the ball, coupled with his dribbling prowess and speed, served as a breath of fresh air for a club that hasn’t been able to integrate too many young players into the first team in recent years.
But as reports have it, Simons has been included in the matchday squad that will face Lorient on Wednesday. Although the former Barcelona whizkid won’t be a guaranteed starter, he certainly remains the player worth keeping an eye on in the final game of 2021 for PSG.
FC Lorient 0-2 Paris Saint-Germain
FC Lorient have been in disastrous form throughout the course of the game campaign. They have shown very little promise going forward, while their lack of defensive solidity has made them one of the top contenders for relegation. Their fortunes are unlikely to change against a PSG side that have performed well in recent matches and have what it takes to secure a convincing three points in this Ligue 1 encounter.
The absence of Verratti, Mbappe and Neymar could certainly hurt the away side, but they have enough quality in their ranks to continue their excellent record in domestic competitions this season.