With the international break now over, French champions Paris Saint-Germain begin a busy sequence of matches on Saturday when they travel to Brittany to face Rennes in Ligue 1.
Laurent Blanc’s side will play seven matches in the next three and a half weeks, with their Champions League campaign beginning at Ajax next Wednesday, but first they will look to extend their unbeaten start to the season at the Stade de la Route de Lorient.
The capital club produced comfortably their best performance so far this season when they hammered Saint-Etienne 5-0 in their last outing before the international break, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a hat-trick, but they will be wary of a Rennes side who won when the clubs last met in May.
On that occasion, PSG had just been confirmed as champions when Philippe Montanier’s men claimed a 2-1 victory in the capital that secured their own survival, although the Rennes squad has undergone a major overhaul since then.
Rennes, who are unbeaten in their last three outings, saw 11 new faces arrive over the summer, with the last to join before the transfer window closed being Gent forward Habib Habibou, who began his career as a youth at PSG.
He will hope to make his debut as Montanier looks for his side to spring a surprise against the two-time defending champions.
“I think Paris will be even more difficult to beat this season, but the merit will be all the greater for the teams who manage to,” Montanier said. “I hope we prove to be one of them.”
PSG have defensive problems with skipper Thiago Silva still sidelined while David Luiz suffered a knee knock playing for Brazil and Serge Aurier needs extra tests after losing consciousness during a clash of heads playing for the Ivory Coast.
Paris come into the weekend in second place, two points behind unbeaten leaders Bordeaux, who go to Guingamp on Sunday.
– Tension at Marseille –
Elsewhere on Sunday, Marseille go to bottom club Evian looking for a third straight win that would improve the tense atmosphere around the club after coach Marcelo Bielsa hit out at president Vincent Labrune for his summer transfer dealings.
The enigmatic Argentine claimed that none of the players he wanted to bring to the Stade Velodrome were signed, and insisted that he was against the decision to bring in young Brazilian defender Doria, a five million-euro signing from Botafogo on deadline day.
However, Doria, who at 19 is labelled as one of Brazil’s most exciting prospects, told sports daily L’Equipe that Bielsa’s comments have left him unfazed.
“That changes nothing for me,” he said. “I think that is a problem between the coach and the board. It doesn’t matter. I was told Bielsa had been following me for a while; now he says he doesn’t know me. I am going to do my job and show him my worth. That’s all I can do.”
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim has also endured a difficult start to life in Ligue 1 after seeing a host of leading players depart without being replaced.
However, in contrast to Bielsa, the Portuguese refused to hit out at the club’s hierarchy ahead of his side’s trip to Lyon.
“The team has lost five first-team regulars, including its three top scorers, two leading assist providers and its captain,” said Jardim after seeing Radamel Falcao follow James Rodriguez, Emmanuel Riviere and Eric Abidal out of the principality.
“We can therefore no longer compare the team to that of last season.
“The club’s plans have changed. It is a different team, with a few experienced players to supervise the youngsters.”
Monaco, who host Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League next Tuesday, face a Lyon side who have also started badly but who welcome back playmaker Yoann Gourcuff after his latest injury.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1800GMT unless stated)
Lyon v Monaco (1830)
Rennes v Paris Saint-Germain (1500), SC Bastia v Lens, Montpellier v Lorient, Nice v Metz, Reims v Toulouse, Saint-Etienne v Caen
Lille v Nantes (1200), Guingamp v Bordeaux (1500), Evian v Marseille (1900)
– Agence France-Presse