Verdict: Neymar to score
Best odds: 59/50
Paris Saint-Germain and Lille are set to do battle at the Parc des Princes in the French capital on Friday evening, as part of the 12th round of the Ligue 1 season. It will be a clash between the team that won the title in France eight times in the last decade and the team that took the crown away from them last term.
Having signed Lionel Messi on a free transfer from Barcelona this summer, all eyes at the club are now on the Champions League, the most prestigious trophy in club football that is still proving elusive, despite the enormous funds invested in the team. Nonetheless, regaining the domestic title is also among the priorities for the season for Mauricio Pochettino and his team.
PSG top the Ligue 1 table at the moment with nine wins, one draw and one defeat so far, a record which puts 28 points to their name. They’ve opened up a seven-point lead ahead of Lens in second place, eight ahead of OGC Nice in third, and nine ahead of Olympique Marseille in fourth.
Over in the Champions League, PSG top Group A with seven points after three rounds, ahead of Manchester City with six, Club Brugge with four, and RB Leipzig who are yet to win a point despite not looking too bad on the pitch.
In all competitions, PSG won four, drew one and lost one of the last six matches. First they beat Montpellier at home by 2-0, then Manchester City in the Champions League also 2-0 at home, then came the only defeat of the season, 2-0 away to Rennes, a 2-1 win at home over Angers, a 3-2 triumph at home over Leipzig, and a goalless draw in the Le Classique played in Marseille on Sunday.
Their efforts in that game were severely hampered by Achraf Hakimi receiving a straight red card in the 57th minute, his first ever, for a push on Marseille’s Cengiz Under who would’ve otherwise been clear on goal. Neymar at one end and Arkadiusz Milik at the other had a goal ruled out by VAR for offside.
Pochettino delivered some woeful news (from a PSG point of view) in his press conference ahead of this match. Kylian Mbappe has been ruled out through illness, and Messi is a major doubt after missing the last training session with a muscle problem. The Argentinian superstar will, however, yet be assessed before kickoff.
Naturally, Hakimi won’t be able to play through red card suspension, and the same goes for former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos who is yet to make his debut for the club due to a very persistent calf issue. According to latest reports, it will still be a while before the 35-year-old defender is ready to play. Midfielder Marco Veratti is out as well, having taken a knock in Marseille.
Mauro Icardi seems the likeliest choice to replace Mbappe in the starting XI. Angel Di Maria should start too, especially if Messi isn’t declared fit in time. Veratti’s role in the middle of the park should be taken on by Georginio Wijnaldum, and the former Liverpool man should have either Danilo Pereira or Idrissa Gana Gueye by his side.
Having surprised the football world by winning the Ligue 1 title last season, Lille’s defence of the trophy isn’t going too well. In fact, it seems their chances of repeating the feat are practically non-existent already, even though we haven’t yet set foot into November. At the moment, Jocelyn Gourvennec’s team are in 10th place in the league, 13 points off PSG at the top. Getting into Europe will likely prove challenge enough.
Lille could hardly have hoped for a more favourable draw for the group stage of the Champions League, where they’re competing against RB Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg. However, things don’t look too good there either, though nothing is lost yet. At the moment, they are third with two points, the same tally as Wolfsburg at the bottom, five less than Salzburg in the lead but just one behind Sevilla in second place. A string of good results in the remaining three rounds could see them qualify for the knockout stages.
As for Lille’s current form, their last-six record in all competitions consists of a 1-2 win away to Strasbourg, a 2-1 defeat to Salzburg, a 2-0 win over Marseille at home, a 1-0 defeat away to Clermont Foot, a goalless draw at home against Sevilla, and a 1-1 draw at home against Brest on Saturday. Jonathan David broke the deadlock in the 19th minute of that match, but Romain Faivre equalized for the visitors 13 minutes later.
Midfielder Benjamin Andre is suspended for the PSG clash through an accumulation of yellow cards, and Portugal international Renato Sanches is likely to take his place in the starting XI. Defender Sven Botman is out (groin), as is goalkeeper Leo Jardim (neck).
With Ivo Grbic in goal, experienced centre-back Jose Fonte is set to command the back line. Angel Gomes will likely be alongside Sanches in the middle of the park, and at the age of 36, Burak Yilmaz should partner 21-year-old David upfront.
This star-studded PSG team has been known to disappoint, but they really shouldn’t have too much difficulty against Lille on Friday.
Interestingly enough, Neymar’s only goal of the season came against Olympique Lyon back in September, and the Brazilian is bound to start finding the back of the net on a more regular basis soon. Without Mbappe and Messi a doubt, this match could well be a good starting point.
Verdict: Neymar to score
Best odds: 59/50
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