Paris Saint-Germain renew their rivalry with bitter foes Marseille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday as Laurent Blanc’s men bid to retain their unbeaten start going into the international break.
PSG have a four-point lead over nearest rivals Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 and made it two wins from two Champions League group stage matches with a 3-0 triumph away to Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
“Our start to the Champions League is perfect but we’re still not qualified for the next round,” PSG captain Thiago Silva told Canal+ after the match in Lviv.
“Now we have to rest up and starting Thursday we’ll prepare ourselves for Sunday. Marseille have plenty of qualities, it’s always special to play against them.”
Wednesday’s performance in Ukraine was arguably PSG’s most complete display this term, a worrying sign for a Marseille side languishing down in 15th place, 12 points behind their arch rivals.
Despite thumping wins over Troyes and Bastia, OM have lost four of eight league matches so far and new boss Michel is still adapting to the French mentality.
“It appears that in French football players preserve themselves so they don’t play too many matches in a row, and they choose their matches within reason. This surprises me but I have to get used to it,” said Michel, in quotes published by French sports daily L’Equipe.
“They tell me that when there are big games coming up, against PSG for example, that this is normal behaviour. I have to accept it but I have trouble understanding it,” added the former Real Madrid midfielder, who spoke of certain players asking to sit out Thursday’s home Europa League clash against Slovan Liberec, which OM lost 1-0.
Recent history is not on the Spaniard’s side either as PSG have won the last seven meetings between the two clubs, including a 3-2 victory at the Stade Velodrome in April that effectively signalled the end of Marseille’s title challenge.
Lyon’s woes in front of goal persisted in their midweek 1-0 Champions League defeat at home to Valencia as last season’s runners-up continue to struggle to overcome a long-term injury to Nabil Fekir.
Hubert Fournier’s men enter Saturday’s showdown with fourth-placed Reims, unbeaten in their last five, already eight points adrift of PSG.
“Winning against Reims would be a good remedy to (Tuesday’s) disappointment,” Fournier, whose side have won just one of six matches since losing Fekir, told the club’s website.
“There are more expectations than last season, perhaps too many right now for several reasons.
“Alexandre (Lacazette) is a case in point. He’s struggling, just like the rest of the team, to meet people’s expectations,” Fournier said of the reigning Ligue 1 Player of the Year, who has scored just one goal this term and was left out of Didier Deschamps’ latest France squad.
“(But) we’re just four points from second place, so it’s not an irreversible situation,” added the OL coach.
Second-placed Saint-Etienne, who had their five-match winning run emphatically snapped by Nice last weekend, will aim to get back on track at Caen, while third-placed Rennes, coming off three successive draws, go to mid-table Monaco.
Free-scoring Nice have racked up 13 goals over the course of a three-match winning streak and will look to continue their ascent at home to Nantes.
Promoted Angers, one of four teams five points off the pace, host Bastia, Lorient face Bordeaux, while goal-shy Lille kick off week nine against fellow strugglers Montpellier on Friday.
Friday (kick-off times GMT)
Lille v Montpellier (1830 GMT)
Lyon v Reims (1530 GMT), Troyes v Guingamp, Nice v Nantes, Angers v Bastia, Gazelec Ajaccio v Toulouse (1800 GMT)
Monaco v Rennes (1200 GMT), Caen v Saint-Etienne, Lorient v Bordeaux (both 1500 GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Marseille (1900 GMT)
– Agence France-Presse