Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Angel Di Maria (R) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the French League Cup round of 16 football match between Strasbourg (RCSA) and Paris-Saint-Germain (PSG) on December 13, 2017 at the Meinau stadium in Strasbourg, eastern France. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN
Paris Saint-Germain will reclaim the French title if they beat reigning champions and current second-placed side Monaco at the Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
The Qatar-backed Parisians lead Monaco by 14 points with six games to go, meaning they are on the brink of a fifth title in six seasons, despite having to cope without the injured Neymar for more than a month now.
The Brazilian has been in his home country recovering from a foot operation and PSG are hoping to have him back before the end of the season.
But they should be champions well before any possible return date for the world’s most expensive player, and beating Monaco would be the perfect way to seal the deal.
It would come a year after the principality side finished eight points clear of PSG at the summit in a campaign which also saw them reach the Champions League semi-finals.
“Knowing that we can be champions at home, against our main rivals this season and the team that kidnapped the title from us last season, is an exciting moment,” defender Marquinhos told PSG TV.
PSG’s campaign has been overshadowed by their defeat against Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League, but they are on course for a clean sweep of the domestic trophies.
Unai Emery’s side have a 100 percent home record and if they can keep that up they will be able to celebrate the seventh title in their history on Sunday.
PSG have won their last five meetings with Leonardo Jardim’s side too, including a 3-0 victory in the recent League Cup final, when Kylian Mbappe ran his old club ragged.
The 19-year-old will make his loan move permanent in a 180 million-euro ($222 million) deal at the end of this season, when PSG will hope to spend big again to rebuild for another assault on Europe.
Uncertainty has been cast on their ability to do that with a report by Britain’s Financial Times this week suggesting that they will face UEFA sanctions for breaches of Financial Fair Play with “overstated” contracts.
The club themselves called that “erroneous information” and are focused on their search for a new coach, with ex-Borussia Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel emerging as the clear favourite.
In the meantime, Emery has the chance to bow out of Paris with a league title, although they will not be taking the Monaco of Radamel Falcao and the in-form Rony Lopes lightly.
“Of course, we have a lot of respect for them, but we will be at home and to have the chance to be champions again, against the reigning champions, is exciting for us, and especially for the supporters,” Thiago Motta told PSG TV.
Beneath the top two Lyon and Marseille are locked, level on points, in a fierce battle for third place and the final Champions League qualifying berth.
Lyon, with Memphis Depay in superb form, have recovered from a sticky patch and sit ahead of Marseille on goal difference.
OL host Amiens while Marseille travel to struggling Troyes.
Player to watch: Memphis Depay
He can blow hot and cold, but the Dutchman really has been in superb form, and with it Lyon have hauled themselves right back into contention for a top-three finish.
Depay scored one and set up the rest in Lyon’s 5-0 win at Metz last weekend, having netted a brace in a 2-0 defeat of Toulouse before that.
“He is staying here, all the time, my children,” said Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, attempting an answer in English, when asked on French television last weekend if he would ever sell the Dutchman to Real Madrid.
Angers v Nice (1845)
Lyon v Amiens (1500), Caen v Toulouse, Lille v Guingamp, Nantes v Dijon, Rennes v Metz, Strasbourg v Saint-Etienne (all 1800)
Montpellier v Bordeaux (1300), Troyes v Marseille (1500), Paris Sant-Germain v Monaco (1900)