After having three additional weeks off from Ligue 1 football, Paris Saint-Germain kicked off their domestic season on Thursday night in Lens. The biggest news heading into the game – and this weekend’s derby with Marseille – is that seven first-team players are ruled out with coronavirus. Thomas Tuchel is scrapping the bottom of the barrel to get fit players.
With seven mega-stars missing, Paris Saint-Germain go into the granddaddy of them all in France extremely weakened. Le Classique is France’s equivalent of Liverpool versus Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, and Real Madrid against Barcelona. The derby rarely disappoints and with Marseille closing the gap last season on the league leaders in a shortened season, this could be their year to put in a real title challenge.
Andre Villas-Boas' team started the Ligue 1 season late as well. Positive COVID-19 tests in the squad forced them to postpone matchday 1. OM claimed a 3-2 win at Brest in an exciting game that wasn’t as close as the scoreline suggested. Still, Marseille showed defensive frailties at time.
Can Marseille send Paris Saint-Germain to a second straight defeat in the same week?
Paris Saint-Germain may have been given extra time off the domestic season due to their Champions League exploits in August, however, they must now play catch up. That catch must be done without Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Angel Di Maria, Mauro Icardi, Keylor Navas and more players. All tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the Lens game in midweek.
Tuchel had to use a number of reserves and youngsters for the game. On one hand, Paris Saint-Germain should have still rolled over newly-promoted Lens. However, they struggled for the full 90 minutes and put just one shot on target despite 79% possession. Rookie goalkeeper Marcin Bulka’s second-half passing error led to Lens’ winning goal.
The rivalry between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille is the strongest in France. According to reports, when Paris Saint-Germain lost the Champions League Final, Marseille supporters celebrated as if OM had won the game. Villas-Boas' team have not been good against Paris Saint-Germain in recent campaigns. If Marseille want to fight for the Ligue 1 title in 2020-21, they must take points off of the Parisians this weekend.
Paris Saint-Germain are on a 20-match unbeaten run versus Marseille. It is an incredible figure as Marseille haven’t beaten the Parisians since the 2011-12 season at the Stade Velodrome. Will this season be any different?
According to reports in France, the rules on COVID-19 and matches have changed. At the start of the season, the rule stated that a team with four positive tests would have their game postponed. Ligue 1 heads realised a lot of games would be postponed, so the rules were modified. As long as a team have 20 of their 30-man squad testing negative for COVID-19, the games will be played.
That isn’t good news to Paris Saint-Germain. Seven players are to miss this weekend with COVID-19 including Mbappe and Neymar. Mbappe contracted COVID-19 on UEFA Nations League duty with France. Several players were left out of the French squad due to testing positive. Neymar contracted COVID-19 on holiday post-Champions League Final. His decision to travel to Ibiza on holiday rather than prepare for the Ligue 1 season has now hurt the squad.
Icardi, Navas, and Di Maria are also expected to miss out. This leaves Tuchel with Jese and Pablo Sarabia to play in attack. Neither did anything against Lens.
Marseille are a far stronger team than Lens. The south coast club are likely to put Paris Saint-Germain under pressure far more often. Dmitri Payet missed Marseille’s opener versus Brest due to COVID-19. He could be fit for the game after quarantining for 14 days.
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Paris Saint-Germain were poor in attack against Lens. Facing a stronger team, last season’s Ligue 1 runners-up, they should continue to struggle to cut through the final third. Marseille scored twice in the opening 27 minutes versus Brest to kick off the season. Florian Thauvin’s brilliant solo run and effort got OM the opener in the 20th minute. With Paris Saint-Germain struggling with COVID-19, expect Marseille to start on the front foot.
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Sunday night’s game could be very close and cagey. The two teams will be desperate for a win. Marseille have not beaten Paris Saint-Germain in their last 20 attempts. If Villas-Boas' team want to fight for the Ligue 1 title, they have to play well defensively and take points off of Paris Saint-Germain. Paris Saint-Germain rode their defence against Lens. They needed some last-ditch tackles and the post to save them before finally conceding. Will it be a similar performance versus arch-rival Marseille?
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Thauvin missed practically all of the 2019-20 season due to a serious knee injury. Reports claim he could be sold this summer with an array of clubs including Bayer Leverkusen, Atalanta, and Leicester City all linked to him. For now, Thauvin is one of the most important players at OM. If the south coast club win against Paris Saint-Germain, they may reconsider any sale of the winger. Marseille still have until October 5 to get their squad in order and Villas-Boas is in the hunt to sign more players.
Thauvin’s numbers thus far in 2020-21 are brilliant. Sure, he played one game but he tallied one goal and two assists. He managed just 1.00 shots per 90 minutes Thauvin also made five key passes that led to shots during the 90 minutes against Brest. He will be key this weekend.
Paris Saint-Germain are in trouble. If they lose another three points, it makes their matchday 4 game against Nice even bigger. Marseille should get points against Paris Saint-Germain – as long as COVID-19 continues to wreck the Parisians. Expect a close, cagey Marseille win.
Parc de princes will host Sunday's Ligue 1 match between PSG and Marseille.
PSG vs Marseille kicks-off at 20:00 on Sunday 13 September.