PSG back to French league routine against Saint-Etienne
PARIS (AP) After a frustrating European night at the Parc des Princes, Paris Saint-Germain returns to business as usual in a French league where the three-time defending champions have no rival.
PSG’s ambition to win the Champions League might take a long time to be fulfilled, as Laurent Blanc’s players were reminded by a depleted Real Madrid side that still controlled the game in their 0-0 draw on Wednesday.
But in France, PSG is unstoppable.
After 10 league games, PSG has already opened a 10-point gap over Lyon and leads surprise packages Angers and Caen by five points ahead of Sunday’s home game against Saint-Etienne.
Struggling Marseille travels to Lille looking to end a five-match winless streak while Nice, the league’s best attacking team, is at Ajaccio.
Here are some things to know ahead of this weekend’s matches.
Among all the reasons for PSG’s inability to shake off the injury-hit Madrid squad that traveled to the French capital, there is one frequently cited in the French media: the club’s lack of pedigree.
Although PSG has already proved itself with prestigious wins over Barcelona and Chelsea since Qatari investors took over the club back in 2011 to build a star-studded team, there is always the sense that the French capital side does not belong to the European elite.
”It’s always difficult to play against such a great team, we have lot of respect for them,” said Lucas Moura, while Serge Aurier did not hide his joy of taking part to ”a prestigious match.”
For 10-time European champion Madrid, it was nothing more than a routine group match.
”The aim for the club remains to win the Champions League, but you have to remember the project is only four years old,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said.
In the big European leagues, only Bayern Munich has scored more goals than Nice this season.
On the back of four consecutive wins and with Hatem Ben Arfa back to his old best, Nice climbed to fifth place in the league standings with a match in hand to the four teams above it.
With seven goals in just nine league matches, Ben Arfa has inspired Nice to an unexpected level of success while resurrecting his ailing career.
With its 40-million euro budget, Nice can’t attract top players. But for what it lacks in money, the southern club makes up for with a smart recruitment policy and the quality of its training academy. Eleven players from the current professional squad have been nurtured at the club.
”We want to keep it up and continue the adventure,” said Nice coach Claude Puel. ”We’ll see where it leads us.”
FEKIR’S ABSENCE FATAL TO LYON
Winless in the Champions League after three matches and already lagging 10 points behind PSG in the league, Lyon is at a low point these days.
According to club president Jean-Michel Aulas, Nabil Fekir’s injury is the source of his players’ problems.
”I can guarantee you that with Nabil we would be on the league’s podium and that we would have six more points in the Champions League,” Aulas said in an interview with L’Equipe newspaper.
The problem for Lyon is that Fekir is unlikely to play again before next spring after rupturing his right knee ligaments playing for France last month.
DER ZAKARIAN’s DIZZY SPELL
Nantes coach Michel Der Zakarian was unable to direct Wednesday’s training session after fainting upon arrival at the club’s facilities.
Der Zakarian was briefly hospitalized with severe headache and could be replaced by deputy coach Bruno Baronchelli for Saturday’s trip to third-place Caen.