Verdict: Kylian Mbappe to score
Best odds: 7/10
Montpellier are set to play host to Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade de la Mosson on Wednesday evening, in a match within the 21st round of the 2022/23 season in Ligue 1. It will be a contest of two teams very far from each other in terms of quality and table placement, and consequently, in terms of their respective goals for the campaign.
Romain Pitau’s side are not exactly in the relegation zone, sitting in 14th place with 20 points, but the gap of just five between them and the zone halfway through the season doesn’t exactly spell comfort in that sense. There is still a cushion consisting of Troyes in 15th place with 19 points and Brest in 16th with 18, but even that seems rather thin with so many matches to be played still. This is certainly not the situation Montpellier will want to be in when the campaign enters its final several rounds, having avoided the drop rather comfortably by 11 points last term.
They should be able to focus on improving their league standings from now on, after dropping out of the French Cup at the hands of Ligue 2 side Pau.
Montpellier’s recent form has been a mixed case, with their last-six run in all competitions consisting of a 0-2 win away to Lorient, a 1-2 home defeat to Olympique Marseille, the 2-1 Cup defeat away to Pau, a 6-1 thrashing suffered away to Nice, a 0-3 loss at home to Nantes, and a 0-2 victory away to struggling Auxerre. It was winger Stephy Mavididi who struck twice in the second half of that game to earn his team fresh three points.
Pitau will be without the services of strikers Wahbi Khazri and Elye Wahi for the second game in a row. Both of them got straight red cards in the Nantes defeat and are consequently suspended, which leaves Valere Germain as the likeliest option upfront.
Midfielder Jordan Peru has recovered from a flu and should be ready to play, as should centre-back Pedro Mendes after a hamstring issue, but the coach is not very likely to make any changes after beating Auxerre.
That would mean Benjamin Lecomte between the posts, Maxime Esteve and Christopher Jullien as the centre-back pair, Faitout Maouassa on the left and Enzo Gianni Tchato Mbiayi on the right, Leo Leroy and Joris Chotard in the middle of the park, and the trio of Mavididi, Teji Tedy Savanier and Arnaud Nordin supporting Germain in attack.
The defending champions will be looking to conduct business as many expect of such a star-studded team in Montpellier, particularly in view of a couple of disappointing results in recent matches. Their last-six run counting only competitive matches consists of a 3-1 defeat away to Lens, a 1-3 win away to Chateauroux in the French Cup round of 64, a 2-0 home win over Angers, a 1-0 defeat away to Rennes, a 0-7 win over sixth-tier side Pays de Cassel, and a 1-1 draw at home against Stade de Reims.
That last match was a particularly hard one to take, with midfielder Marco Veratti sent off after an hour and Neymar’s 51st-minute opener getting cancelled out in the sixth minute of stoppage time by Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun.
It should also be mentioned that PSG recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, where they played a friendly match against an all-star Riyadh XI which featured former Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, from which they returned with a victory of 4-5.
PSG unsurprisingly top the Ligue 1 table still, with 48 points to their name, just three more than second-place Lens who are emerging as proper title contenders, five more than Marseille in third, and 10 more than AS Monaco in fourth.
Veratti is, of course, unavailable through suspension. Defenders Nordi Mukiele and Presnel Kimpembe are injured, and Neymar is reportedly set to join them on the sidelines through muscle fatigue. Defender Nuno Mendes has, on the other hand, returned to team training after recovering from an injury of his own.
Gianluigi Donnarumma will be between the posts, with Sergio Ramos and Marquinhos forming the centre-back partnership, flanked by Achraf Hakimi on the right and Juan Bernat on the left. Danilo Pereira should join Fabian Ruiz and Renato Sanches in the middle of the park, and with no Neymar, striker Hugo Ekitike should get the nod with the extremely formidable duo of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe on either side.
No disrespect meant towards Montpellier, but it’s very difficult to imagine the home side getting anything from this match. It will likely be a dominant performance from the champions, rewarded with vital three points as they fight to keep their crown. Mbappe will likely find the back of the opposition net at least once.
Verdict: Kylian Mbappe to score
Best odds: 7/10
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