Paris Saint-Germain will be aiming to maintain their comfortable 11-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table when they take on Reims on Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to sign off for the international break on a positive note when they play hosts to Stade de Reims at Parc des Princes on Sunday.

The Ligue 1 juggernauts have endured a mixed start to 2022, securing a 4-0 win over Vannes in Coupe de France before playing out a 1-1 draw with Lyon. Their most recent match-up saw them clinch a welcome victory over Brest, with the three points helping them seize a healthy lead at the top of the table.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be expected to continue their form when they take on Reims. The club from the northeast are currently struggling at the wrong end of the league table, having collected only 24 points from 21 matches.

Despite a seven-point advantage over their nearest relegation rivals, Reims are not out of the woods yet, and a defeat to PSG could open the door for the likes of Troyes, Metz and Lorient to make some ground ahead of the international break.

Other than a 2-0 win back in the 2019/20 campaign, Stade de Reims have not had much success against PSG in recent years. They are yet to score a single goal against Les Parisiens in their last three league meetings. PSG clinched a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture earlier this season, and Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping for a similar result this time out.

Team News & Tactics

Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain are set to be boosted by the return of Lionel Messi this week after his recovery from COVID-19. The Argentine is likely to start against Reims on Sunday, though the same cannot be said for his strike partners Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Neymar remains a long-term absentee and will not be available until after the international break. Meanwhile, Mbappe is not fully fit due to a groin issue. While the Frenchman might be available to feature against Reims, he is unlikely to start, thus paving the way for an all-Argentine attacking setup consisting of Messi, Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi.

In midfield, Idrissa Gueye remains out due to his participation at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Georginio Wijnaldum is out injured. Danilo Pereira is the favourite to return to the PSG setup by occupying the number six slot. The Portuguese international is set to play a crucial role in offering support for the backline and mopping up loose balls in the middle of the park.

Danilo is likely to be partnered by Ander Herrera and Marco Verratti, whose ability to carry the ball around the half-spaces could go a long way in helping PSG evade Reims’s second line of press.

As for the defence, Achraf Hakimi and Abdou Diallo remain unavailable due to AFCON, while Juan Bernat is not fully fit. Even though Sergio Ramos is available, Pochettino is unlikely to make any changes from the defensive setup that faced Brest, with Nuno Mendes and Thilo Kehrer occupying the full-back roles, assisting the central defensive duo of Presnel Kimpembe and Marquinhos.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Kehrer, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes; Herrera, Danilo, Verratti; Messi, Icardi, Di Maria

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Reims

Reims are struggling with a host of unavailable players due to the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations. Ghislain Konan, Moussa Doumbia, and El Bilal Toure are some of the players still competing in the tournament, while Moreto Cassama is a doubt, despite Guinea-Bissau’s elimination.

Meanwhile, Valon Berisha and Marshall Munetsi are struggling with fitness issues. On a positive note, star player Hugo Ekitike returns from suspension. Azor Matusiwa has recovered from his thigh problems as well and will be an option on Sunday.

Ekitike’s return should enable the Newcastle United-linked youngster to spearhead the Reims frontline, with the assistance of two advanced attackers in Nathanael Mbuku and Ilan Kebbal. Reims have no shortage of alternatives, as academy talents such as N’Dri Philippe Koffi and Alexis Flips also look to make an impact against the mighty PSG.

Reims are a bit short in midfield due to all the absentees, either due to AFCON or injuries. However, Les rouges et blancs have recently brought in Jens Cajuste from Midtjylland. The young Swede is expected to make his debut against PSG, partnering Dion Lopy in the double-pivot. Matusiwa could start ahead of Lopy if he is declared fit enough to do so.

Elsewhere in the second line of press, wing-backs Thomas Foket and Bradley Locko could be key, with the former, in particular, being a crucial outlet on the counter. At the same time, they have to remain alert to the dangers posed by PSG’s wide players and help out the three-man backline, consisting of Andreaw Gravillon, Yunis Abdelhamid, Wout Faes.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Rajkovic; Gravillon, Abdelhamid, Faes; Foket, Cajuste, Lopy, Locko; Kebbal, Mbuku; Ekitike

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Key Stats

  • Paris Saint-Germain won each of their last three meetings with Reims in Ligue 1 without conceding a goal. They have managed as many clean sheets in these three matches as in the first eleven meetings between the two clubs in the 21st century.
  • Reims have lost only one of their last four matches against the Ligue 1 leaders, including their last one against Paris on August 29.
  • PSG have lost only one of their last 28 Ligue 1 matches, with the single defeat coming against Rennes on 3 October 2021.
  • Reims have won only two of their last 14 away games in Ligue 1 – these were at Rennes in September and Lyon in December.
  • PSG have not lost any of their last 13 home games in Ligue 1, having lost each of the previous three.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

It will be a welcome sight for PSG fans to see Lionel Messi back in action after missing four games due to a COVID-19 infection and the subsequent recovery process. It will be the first game of the year for the Argentine, who has been underwhelming in Ligue 1 to say the least.

Since joining from Barcelona in the summer, the attacker has scored only one goal in 11 league appearances. He has a point to prove on Sunday, especially with PSG missing key players such as Neymar, Georginio Wijnaldum and possibly, Kylian Mbappe.

From a tactical perspective, Messi is set to operate from his preferred right flank. His creativity and ability to play through the press could go a long way in helping PSG break the shackles of the Reims defence this weekend.

Prediction

Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Reims

It is hard to imagine anything other than a comprehensive victory for PSG, given the gulf in class between the two sides. The hosts are admittedly operating without a few key players such as Neymar and Achraf Hakimi, but the same can be said for Reims, who have struggled in the absence of AFCON participants and injuries throughout the year.

It gives PSG the edge, especially with Messi returning to the fold after almost a month-long absence. Les Parisiens have also been quite solid at the back lately, with Marquinhos forming a seemingly improving defensive combination alongside Kimpembe.

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