A meeting of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco might not carry the same allure that it did just a few months ago, but for Laurent Blanc’s side it is a chance to really kick-start their domestic campaign.
PSG come into Sunday’s encounter at the Parc des Princes fresh from an exhilarating 3-2 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League in midweek, a result that Blanc admitted was possibly his best since being appointed as coach last year.
“I will remember this win, as will the players and all those who were at the stadium. We do this job to live nights like these,” he said.
“We hope this really launches our season. It can serve as a reference point for us to build from.”
The champions are still unbeaten this season, but have drawn five of their eight Ligue 1 games so far and come into October five points behind leaders Marseille.
They also have injury problems — top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic has missed the last three matches with a heel complaint and the Swede faces a race against time to be fit to face Monaco.
Captain Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi are still out and Blanc admitted that Marquinhos struggled through to the end of the Barcelona clash with a similar problem.
“Marquinhos felt pain in his thigh and played the whole second half with that pain,” he said.
However, Monaco are themselves worrying about the fitness of Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov, who has an injured ankle.
The principality club have unsurprisingly toiled since seeing star duo James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao depart without being replaced.
That means that a fixture that was so eagerly anticipated last season is perhaps no longer the biggest showdown in the French game, but there is still no shortage of intrigue.
If PSG are unhappy at being in fourth place, Leonardo Jardim’s side languish in 12th and were beaten 1-0 at home by local rivals Nice last week.
However, they did boost morale with an excellent draw at Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on Wednesday and now Jardim is hoping they can reproduce their European form in Ligue 1.
“It’s easier for the manager to motivate the players in the Champions League,” he acknowledged after the draw in Russia.
“The team played well, had a good 90 minutes with lots of quality and intensity. I think the team can play like this in the domestic league too.”
– Marseille chase seven in a row –
Paris could be even further off the pace at the top by the time they kick off on Sunday, with leaders Marseille chasing a seventh consecutive win when they go to Caen a day earlier.
Marcelo Bielsa has already transformed a side that failed to qualify for Europe last season and are now being tipped by some observers as genuine title contenders.
Dimitri Payet, who scored in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat of Saint-Etienne, is a doubt for the visit to Normandy because of an ankle knock, but Bielsa believes complacency could be his side’s biggest enemy.
“One of the most important qualities that a footballer must have is knowing to capitalise on the effects of a favourable run of results,” said Bielsa.
“Sometimes it generates more confidence or allows a player’s qualities to shine through more easily, but sometimes the players start to think things will continue in the same way without them putting in the effort.”
Bordeaux, who are two points behind OM in second, can go provisionally top with a win at struggling Reims on Friday.
On Sunday, Lyon, who are unbeaten in four, can move to within a point of third-placed Lille by beating the northern side at the Stade de Gerland.
Saint-Etienne entertain Toulouse on Sunday while Metz, who are fifth, go to an Evian side in the bottom three.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1800GMT unless stated)
Reims v Bordeaux (1830GMT)
Caen v Marseille (1500GMT), SC Bastia v Lorient, Evian v Metz, Nice v Montpellier, Rennes v Lens
Saint-Etienne v Toulouse (1200GMT), Guingamp v Nantes, Lyon v Lille (both 1500GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Monaco (1900GMT)
– Agence France-Presse