Paris Saint-Germain are aiming to break their curse against top teams as they take on Olympique Lyon this weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain are looking for their first league win in 2022 when they travel to Groupama Stadium to face a daunting challenge against Olympique Lyon on Sunday.

PSG began the new calendar year in a positive manner on Monday, securing a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Vannes in the Round of 32 stage of Coupe de France. But they have their task cut out in Ligue 1, having dropped points in three of their last four league matches. Their most recent mishap came in a 1-1 draw with Lorient, just before Christmas.

Despite their poor form in the league, PSG have managed to retain their staggering nine-point lead at the top of the table. However, the club’s underwhelming results against top teams have proven to be a major concern for coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Les Parisiens have dropped points against OGC Nice, Marseille, Stade Rennais and defending champions LOSC Lille this term. Although they had managed to avoid such a displeasing trend in the reverse fixture against Olympique Lyon, the opposition’s home advantage could make the challenge a lot trickier.

On a positive note for PSG, Lyon haven’t enjoyed the best form heading into this contest. Les Gones are winless in their last five competitive matches and are currently dawdling on the wrong side of the table, with just 24 points on the board. So it will be a daunting prospect for the home side to return to winning ways, especially against the league leaders who are hungry for three points in an attempt to wrap up the Ligue 1 title as soon as possible.

Team News & Tactics

Olympique Lyon

Olympique Lyon’s task has been made difficult by the AFCON-related absentees, with the front three of Karl Toko Ekambi, Tino Kadewere and Islam Slimani away representing their national teams. In addition, Lucas Paqueta remains a doubt after contracting COVID-19, while Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Sinaly Diomande and Jason Denayer remain out injured.

Paqueta’s likely absence could be a major blow for the home side, as the Brazilian is the club’s top goalscorer this season. With him being unavailable, Lyon manager Peter Bosz is likely to deploy Xherdan Shaqiri and Houssem Aouar in the two advanced midfield positions, just behind Moussa Dembele. Rayan Cherki is another alternative, should Bosz prefer trickery and dynamism in the final third.

But in midfield, the Dutchman will want grit and commitment from Bruno Guimaraes and Maxence Caqueret. Both the central midfielders are adept in ball progression, but their defensive game will be tested against the mighty PSG side that boasts a star-studded creative setup.

Elsewhere in the second line of press, Malo Gusto and Emerson Palmieri remain favourites to occupy the wing-back slots. The onus will be on these two to prevent the PSG wide players from making a difference, especially on the counter. On the flip side, they will have a key role to play in the build-up and chance creation out wide.

Defensively, Les Gones are set to continue with the back three consisting of Castello Lukeba, Jerome Boateng and Damien Da Silva. Bosz may even end up deploying Thiago Mendes in midfield if Lyon find themselves in a position where they may have to defend a lead.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lopes; Lukeba, Boateng, Da Silva; Gusto, Guimaraes, Caqueret, Emerson; Shaqiri, Aouar; Dembele

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Paris Saint-Germain

Lionel Messi was set to be in contention for Sunday’s game after returning with a negative test. But in the pre-match press conference, Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed that his compatriot is not available this weekend owing to COVID-related protocol.

The Argentine joins Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Danilo Pereira, Layvin Kurzawa and Gianluigi Donnarumma on the sidelines. Neymar is unavailable as well, due to his injury, although the Brazilian is nearing a return.

The absence of so many key players may force Pochettino to hand Mauro Icardi the chance to spearhead the PSG frontline, with additional support from Kylian Mbappe and the young Xavi Simons, who may retain his place in the side due to a lack of alternatives in the right-wing slot. It will be an excellent opportunity for Simons to once again make an impact after a slightly underwhelming display against Vannes.

Moving into midfield, Leandro Paredes may operate in the number six role in the absence of Danilo. The Argentine should play a vital role in offering protection to the back four, whereas the onus will be on Marco Verratti and Ander Herrera to provide the creative essence in the final third.

As for the defensive unit, Sergio Ramos is back from suspension but may have to settle for a place on the bench, as PSG opt for a more familiar central defensive combination of Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe. One other defensive change could see Colin Dagba make way for Achraf Hakimi, whereas Nuno Mendes remains a favourite to start ahead of Juan Bernat at left-back.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Navas; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes; Herrera, Paredes, Verratti; Simons, Icardi, Mbappe

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Key Stats

  • No other side have beaten PSG more often than Lyon in Ligue 1 since 2011/12 and the beginning of the Qatari era: 5 times in 21 matches.
  • Lyon have lost their last two home games against PSG in Ligue 1, as many as in their previous 14 in the competition.
  • Lyon have picked up 24 points in 18 games in Ligue 1 this season (including the one-point penalty), their joint-lowest tally at this stage of a top-flight season in the 21st century, alongside 2013/14.
  • Paris Saint-Germain have drawn three of their last four games in Ligue 1 (W1), as many as in their first 36 under Mauricio Pochettino.
  • PSG have won neither of their last two away games in Ligue 1 and have not had a longer winless run on the road in the top-flight since April 2019 (3 games).

Player to Watch

Kylian Mbappe

With Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Angel Di Maria ruled out, Kylian Mbappe will have to deal with the extra burden on his shoulders when Paris Saint-Germain take on Olympique Lyon on Sunday.

The Frenchman has recently struggled with his productivity in Ligue 1, often appearing wasteful in front of goal. But the attacker enjoyed a stunning start to the year when his hat-trick against Vannes helped his team breeze past the fourth division side 4-0. Although PSG are set to face a much trickier opponent in the form of Lyon, Mbappe certainly has the quality to replicate a similar performance.

From a tactical perspective, the 23-year-old should operate out wide, with the visitors hoping to utilise his speed on the break to catch the opposition defence off-guard – making him the danger for Les Gones this weekend.

Prediction

Olympique Lyon 0-1 Paris Saint-Germain

Olympique Lyon are a team brimming with quality and are more than capable of causing an upset against a side like PSG. However, they haven’t enjoyed the best of seasons and have a leaky defence that may struggle in dealing with the pace and dynamism of the opposition attackers, including Kylian Mbappe.

Moreover, the absence of Lucas Paqueta, Islam Slimani, Karl Toko Ekambi and Tino Kadeware may have a major impact on their productivity. The same can be said for PSG, which is why we predict a low scoring encounter where Pochettino’s men might just edge their opposition out.

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