Crunch week for PSG and Ancelotti
PARIS (AFP) –
Paris Saint-Germain face a massive test of their championship pedigree this week as they tackle fifth-placed Valenciennes before a crunch top-of-the-table clash at home to pace-setting Lyon on Sunday.
From Tuesday, the fixtures come thick and fast in Ligue One as the winter break approaches. Lyon’s fine away win at Saint-Etienne gave them a five-point cushion over PSG and Marseille at the top.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic increased his league-leading goal tally to 14 for PSG, as he began the 4-0 rout over Evian, but Valenciennes, who have never won the first division title have been one of the big surprises this season and are unbeaten at home after eight matches, including five wins.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti has prevented his Qatari bosses from pulling the rug from under him, with a run of three straight victories including winning their Champions League pool.
But with a decisive week ahead, it could be sink or swim for the 53-year-old Italian by the time the final whistle blows on Sunday night.
Lyon coach Remi Garde has fashioned the kind of platform necessary to bring the championship back to the Stade Gerland for the first time since 2008 with 22 points from 24 picked up at home and solid away form that has seen them lose just once in eight outings.
Rock bottom Nancy are the opposition on Wednesday and Garde knows only maximum points are acceptable with the trip to Parc des Princes looming.
“It’s always a good operation to take three points,” explained Garde after the win at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
“Now we have to confirm our form on Wednesday. In my mind, we have still not opened up a decisive gap in the standings and we are not going to get carried away because if we don’t follow up with more good results, it will all be for nothing.”
“It is not the time yet to think about the match at Parc des Princes. The team is progressing but for the moment we are just focussed on Wednesday.” continued the 46-year-old who won the French Cup in his first year as coach.
Marseille are also five points adrift after the 38th minute red card shown to Charles Kabore crippled their chances against a Lorient side who won only their second away match in eight games and dented the spirits of the Velodrome faithful.
Bastia who last played on Friday when they held Toulouse to a 0-0 draw away from home, await Elie Baup’s men, but they have already lost three games at home this season in seven matches which will give the Marseille side optimism of returning to winning ways.
Sixth-placed Bordeaux lost ground on the leaders as they could only manage a 0-0 draw at lowly Reims, just days after winning their Europa League group with a win over Newcastle and they host a wounded Saint-Etienne side on Thursday in a crucial match for both teams in their bid to keep in touch with the European places.
Elsewhere, Nice host Rennes and Toulouse travel to Lille in the other Tuesday ties, while Lorient entertain Sochaux, defending champions Montpellier are in Brest, Evian entertain Troyes and Ajaccio take on Reims in Corsica.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Nice v Rennes (1800), Valenciennes v Paris Saint-Germain (1800), Lille v Toulouse (2000)
Lyon v Nancy (1800), Lorient v Sochaux (1800), Brest v Montpellier (1800), Evian v Troyes (1800), Ajaccio v Reims (1800), Bastia v Marseille (2000)
Bordeaux v Saint-Etienne (2000)