(From L) Paris Saint-Germain’s French midfielder Blaise Matuidi, Paris Saint-Germain’s Belgian defender Thomas Meunier, Paris Saint-Germain’s French defender Layvin Kurzawa and Paris Saint-Germain’s Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani celebrate after Paris Saint-Germain’s players won the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona on February 14, 2017 at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE LOPEZ
Paris Saint-Germain must win their Ligue 1 grudge match at resurgent Marseille with the club’s Qatari owners demanding nothing less than the successful defence of their title.
Such are the demands at PSG that should they lose to their bitter southern rivals on Sunday and drop six points behind leaders Monaco it would be considered a crisis.
The four-time reigning champions also face pressure from Nice who host Montpellier in Friday’s early match and could overtake PSG and pull level with leaders Monaco before their trips to Marseille and Guingamp respectively.
PSG and Nice both have 56 points from 26 games — three points behind leaders Monaco.
A pale PSG drew 0-0 at home with lowly Toulouse last Sunday and bouncing back at Marseille, where new signings Patrice Evra and Dimitri Payet have now settled, will be a real test of their pedigree.
Away fans are barred for security reasons and a 65,000 famously raucous sell out crowd will be baying for their first league win over PSG since November 2009.
Key PSG defender Serge Aurier said Sunday’s slip was down to tiredness after thumping Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League the Tuesday before.
“It’s not easy to repeat that immediately afterwards. We will stay positive. Now we will start preparing for Sunday’s match and keep picking up points,” the Ivoirian promised.
His defensive partner Marquinos was equally assured for the Marseille match.
“Starting with Sunday’s game, we will come back stronger,” the Brazilian said.
Spanish coach Unai Emery is in the Qatari good books after the crushing of the Catalan giant, but he knows the domestic title is also indispensible.
“We have to fully focus on Marseille, the most consistent team will win the league and we will keep working,” said Emery, who has an injury free squad.
Free scoring table toppers Monaco take the long trip north to mid-table Guingamp with every hope of going six clear of PSG on Saturday, although they will have mixed feelings about their 5-3 defeat at Manchester City in their Champions League last-16 first-leg on Wednesday.
The last three league meetings between Monaco and Guingamp have all been high scoring too and produced 15 goals with a 3-2 win for Monaco squeezed between a 2-2 and 3-3 draw.
Fans will also be keen to get a fresh view of the ‘New Thierry Henry’ in the form of Monaco’s 18-year-old striker Kylian Mbappé, who scored against City and has ten goals in his last 19 games.
Mbappé, Falcao and Monaco’s 76 league goals so far this season will be giving Guingamp nightmares.
Third-placed Nice host Montpellier without star striker Mario Balotelli, sent off for a third time this season last weekend for dissent to the referee.
The early season pace setters with a limited squad have also lost their top scorer Alassane Plea to a knee injury which required surgery Monday.
“He’s our top scorer, there’s nothing more to say except that’s football,” Swiss coach Lucien Favre said.
The pair have scored 20 of Nice’s 42 league goals between them this season.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Nantes v Dijon (1800), Nice v Montpellier (1945)
Guingamp v Monaco (1600), Angers v Bastia, Lille v Bordeaux, Nancy v Toulouse, Rennes v Lorient (1900)
Saint-Etienne v Caen (1400), Lyon v Metz (1600), Marseille v Paris Saint Germain (2000)