By A. Scott
Paris Saint-Germain are seeking a return to winning ways as they play host to LOSC on Saturday, but Neymar Jr will miss the match at the Parc des Princes.
Paris Saint-Germain – LOSC
>> Live scoring and statistics from 1700 CET (1600 GMT) Saturday
PSG have endured their worst week of the season so far, suffering a first defeat in 26 games in all competitions since April as they lost 2-1 away to RC Strasbourg Alsace at the Stade de la Meinau last Saturday and then going down 3-1 to Bayern Munich in their final UEFA Champions League group outing on Tuesday.
Those setbacks have placed coach Unai Emery firmly back in the spotlight. It is the first time that Paris have suffered back-to-back defeats since December 2014, but they remain in a formidable position. The Bayern loss did not prevent them from winning their Champions League group, and they are nine points clear of Olympique Lyonnais, AS Monaco and Olympique de Marseille at the top of the Ligue 1 Conforama table.
“At Strasbourg it was a difficult match. Maybe our minds were already on the match against Bayern, which came just after,” Julian Draxler said in an interview with the club’s website. “It’s normal to have ups and downs in a season. Obviously we are not happy to lose these two matches but we have finished first in our Champions League group – that is important to us – and we are still nine points clear in Ligue 1. Now we need to beat Lille at home.”
Highlights: PSG stunned by Strasbourg
It would be a shock of seismic proportions if they did lose to the northern outfit. After all, PSG are unbeaten at the Parc des Princes since Emery was appointed in the summer of last year and they have not lost three consecutive matches since November-December 2011, when Antoine Kombouaré was in charge. They have also not lost at home to Lille since a 1-0 defeat in April 1996.
However, they are handicapped by the absence of Neymar as he serves a one-match ban, while skipper Thiago Silva is struggling with injuries to his left knee and calf suffered in the match at the Allianz Arena. Thiago Motta is already ruled out, while Yuri Berchiche could start here given that he will sit out the midweek return to Strasbourg on Coupe de la Ligue duty due to suspension.
Of course, Emery will still be able to put out a formidable line-up as his side begin a run of four games in 12 days before jetting off to Qatar for a short warm-weather training camp to signal the start of the winter break.
‘Expecting to suffer’
In contrast to their hosts, Lille travel to the capital with morale significantly boosted after recording back-to-back wins under their interim management quartet that has been overseeing affairs since Marcelo Bielsa was suspended by the club last month.
Lille lost 3-0 away to Montpellier Hérault SC in their first game under João Sacramento, Fernando Da Cruz, Benoît Delaval and Franck Mantaux, but have since bounced back to stun Lyon 2-1 away and beat Toulouse FC 1-0 at home last weekend to climb out of the bottom three. They certainly got a break to beat Toulouse at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, with Mike Maignan saving a last-minute penalty to ensure Nicolas Pépé’s excellent goal proved the winner.
Highlights: Late drama as Lille beat Toulouse
“There is a bit more confidence, because when you put together two good results and take six points out of six from the last two games, it brings serenity to our daily lives and confidence to the players,” said Da Cruz this week.
“We need to keep working and pick up the maximum number of points possible between now and the winter break. We will try to get something against Paris, but they have eight wins from eight matches at home, with an average of 3.5 goals per game, so it will be very, very difficult and we are expecting to suffer.”
Lille are without the suspended Fodé Ballo-Touré while Rominigue Kouamé is still on the sidelines.
Paris SG: (To follow)
Lille: (To follow)