Ligue 1 Preview: Paris-Saint Germain have no right to cry

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PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe, right, duels for the ball with Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen during the Champions League group H soccer match between RB Leipzig and Paris Saint Germain at the RB Arena in Leipzig, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

European disappointment is the story for most French teams going into Round 10 of the Ligue 1 season. Teams now have one of two options: reminisce on what they did wrong in their respective matches, and how unfair the clogged up schedule is for all teams involved or pick themselves up by their bootstraps, forget the self-pity and continue to get results domestically.  

Now, we need to get something out of the way from the get-go, which is the notion that Paris-Saint Germain has an actual gripe about the overly clogged schedule. The fact of the matter is that this is not the case; although attacking midfielder Neymar Jr., winger Kylian Mbappé and forward Mauro Icardi were all out, a club owned by one of the richest nations in the world, Qatar, should have massive squad depth.  

For that reason, this cannot be a valid explanation for failing to beat RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, Nov. 5. Although this loss might just have sent the Parisians to the Europa League, they must have a short memory, as they are set to face an extremely difficult Stade Rennais team at the Parc des Princes on Saturday, Nov. 7.  

The matchday squad will be quite similar to the starting 11 we saw midweek in the European competition. Neymar won’t be returning until after the international break, which begins on Nov. 12 and concludes on Nov. 18, while Mbappé is set to miss the rest of the month with a hamstring injury he sustained last weekend against FC Nantes. To add onto an already battered squad, star midfielder Marco Verratti and solid role player Julian Draxler are also set to miss the contest against Eduardo Camavinga’s men. 

Gary Christofer Kagelmacher of Uruguay’s Penarol, right, and Alberto Tarragona of Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield battle for the ball during a Copa Sudamericana soccer match in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020.(AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, Pool)

There is hope in a sea of disarray, as Leandro Paredes is set to return on Saturday and will certainly be in Tuchel’s plans, as the Argentine international is one of the few midfielders that excels creatively in the attack. Forward Moise Kean has to step up once again, something he has done exceptionally, with four goals and one assist in six matches. Moreover, players such as winger Pablo Sarabia and center midfielder need to continue to step up and try to fill the voids of both Neymar and Mbappé, respectively. Most importantly, manager Thomas Tuchel needs to demonstrate that he has not lost the locker room. The performance against Leipzig felt lifeless, with a team that looked as if they did not want to be on the pitch. Moreover, when they subsequently went down 2-1, there was no urgency or fight in the team.  

This should come to no one’s surprise. Tuchel has largely relied on Neymar and Mbappé’s magic in place of working on and perfecting a style of play. Purposefully choosing to not focus on tactics will ultimately come back to haunt you sooner or later. Instead, Tuchel wants to be a tactical “guru,” and use players in various positions. For example, although recent signing Danilo Pereira is naturally a center midfielder, the German manager has chosen to play him at center back, while Marquinhos — a natural center back — was slotted into midfield. These attempts to reinvent the wheel have negatively impacted the fluidity of the team on the pitch and despite this, he refuses to change.  

Returning to Saturday, the game is so important for PSG because they need to begin winning convincingly, in a disciplined manner and in domestic competition, so as to bring that momentum with them when the Champions League returns on Nov. 24.  

PSG’s Moise Kean, right, duels for the ball with Leipzig’s Willi Orban during the Champions League group H soccer match between RB Leipzig and Paris Saint Germain at the RB Arena in Leipzig, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

It’s easy for the Parisians to not take Ligue 1 matchups as seriously as European ones, but that cannot happen against a Julian Stéphan squad that will be hungry to improve their form before the international break. Still, the task will be difficult for “Les Rouge et Noir,” who will be without their teenage superstar Eduardo Camavinga, along with midfielder Flavin Tait and center back Daniele Rugani. Attacking midfielder Romain Del Castillo will have to cause havoc in the final third if Stéphan’s men hope to get anything out of this contest.  

Paris currently sit first in the table with 21 points, while Rennais sit third with 18 points.  

LOSC Lille manager Christophe Galtier is truly making the case that he is one of the best, if not the best, manager in France’s premier football division. The club is currently undefeated in all competitions and is set to travel to the Stade Francis Le Ble on Sunday, Nov. 8 to face Stade Brestois 29.  

“Les Dogues” have one of the most dynamic squads in all of Ligue 1, with multiple attacking players that can cause havoc for opposing teams. Winger Jonathan Bamba and veteran striker Burak Yilmaz are the joint-top goal scorers for the club with four goals. Bamba can easily make runs in behind the final third and serve up crosses to Yilmaz in the box. Furthermore, Luiz Araújo serves as an excellent, attacking midfielder who can find Bamba or right winger Jonathan Ikoné in dangerous positions.  

AC Milan’s Rafael Leao, bottom left, kicks the ball as Lille’s Sven Botman tries to stop him during the Europa League Group H soccer match between AC Milan and Lille at the San Siro Stadium, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Behind the Brazilian is a solid center midfield duo of Renato Sanches and Xeka, who absolutely control the middle of the park, speeding up and slowing down the game when they deem it necessary. An example of this was seen in their match against Italian side AC Milan in the Europa League on Nov. 5, slowing down the “Rossoneri” attack, while being the catalysts in the counter attack when they lost the ball. Young, promising attacking midfielder Yusuf Yazici demonstrated why he’s an exciting prospect, bagging a hat-trick in a dominant 3-0 win over “Il Diavolo.”  

Lille will have to win if they wish to keep pace on league leaders PSG. Although a draw is not what they are looking for, it would keep their undefeated run since the start of the season alive. Lille currently sit second in the table with 19 points, while Stade Brestois 29 sit 14th with nine points. 

Despite all the talk of Paris and Lille, the weekend fixtures begin when Olympique de Marseille travel to the Stade de la Meinau to face RC Strasbourg Alsace. The love André-Villas Boas has for “Les Olympiens” is all but gone after their embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Porteguese side FC Porto in the Champions League, extending their losing streak in the Champions League to 12 games.  

Simply put, the team does not have the players to compete amongst Europe’s elite; if losing to Porto does not tell you that, nothing will. Forgetting the analytics and disregarding the fact Strasbourg are second to last in the table, I still think Marseille will not get it done. Although it should be an easy victory for “Les Phocéens,” their recent loss in European competition is too gut-wrenching for it not to transition over to domestic competition.  

It’s still a bold prediction and unlikely to happen. However, if it does, it most certainly will spell the end of his tenure at the club. Marseille currently sit fifth in the table with 15 points, while Strasbourg — as previously stated — sit 19th in the table with six points.  

Nice’s Pierre Lees-Melou, right, challenges Slavia’s Petr Sevcik during their UEFA Europa League group C soccer match between Slavia Praha and OGC Nice at the Sinobo stadium in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

OGC Nice will look to recover over the weekend after their shocking 3-2 loss to Czech team SK Slavia Prague on Thursday, Nov. 5. Forward Amine Gouiri scored in the loss and is joint-top goal scorer with fellow forward Kasper Dolberg with three goals. They face an AS Monaco side who are coming off a 4-0 thrashing of FC Girondins De Bordeaux. Still, this is their first victory in almost two months, and they have to travel to the Allianz Riviera to face a Patrick Viera side who are looking to build off of their recent 3-0 away victory against Angers SCO.  

Nice sit fifth in the table with 17 points, while Monaco sit eight with 14 points.  

Finally, Olympique Lyonnais host a struggling AS-Saint Étienne at the Groupama Stadium. Rudi Garcia’s men have failed to lose in their past five outings, including an impressive 1-1 draw away at Lille. Claude Puel’s Saint-Étienne side are on a five-game losing streak and will need a miracle to manage the likes of winger Memphis Depay, midfielder Houssem Aouar and forward Karl Toko Ekambi. Their backline still seems to be feeling the effects of losing an excellent center back in Wesley Fofana. However, they need to find an answer to the gaping whole he left in defense, or else it’s going to be a long season.  

Lyon sit sixth in the table with 14 points, while Saint-Étienne sit 13th with 10 points.   

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