By Tim Stannard
Lionel Messi knows how to pick his moments to make history. Sunday’s Le Classique would be a prime choice for the Argentinean’s first Ligue 1 goal for PSG, as it would be against the fierce rivals of Marseille in the Velodrome. The local fans will not enjoy that experience.
Le Classique is back in full throttle and will be played for the first time in front of fans in Ligue 1 for almost two years due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the Velodrome so the volume will be turned up to a Spinal Tap-style 11.
While PSG are now the undisputed title favorites with a nine-point lead at the top of the table, Marseille can gain some ground with a victory on Sunday and a win over Nice in a catch-up Ligue 1 game on Wednesday.
Marseille certainly have the players to do it if they can come through Thursday’s Europa League game against Lazio unscathed.
Dmitri Payet is having a career-best season with five goals and four assists already. Polish striker, Arkadiusz Milik, is back from injury and scored last weekend against Lorient in his first start of the season.
Matteo Guendouzi has been a force of nature in midfield while USMNT winger, Konrad de la Fuente will be hoping for a reunion with a familiar face from his Barcelona days - Lionel Messi.
Everything is in place for an epic Sunday in the south of France.
💥🔥 Marseille vs. PSG - Live on beIN SPORTS on Sunday from 2PM ET / 11AM PT 👀
Lille need win to reverse “rock bottom” form
Having won the previous three Ligue 1 matches in a row, Lille's rather limp defeat to newly-promoted Clermont last weekend was a bit of a shock to say the least and rocked the reigning champions back on their heels.
Indeed, Lille's president, Olivier Letang was rather blunt with a not-so-veiled warning to new manager, Jocelyn Gourvennec, noting that "it doesn’t call everything into question, but today we’ve hit rock bottom.”
Lille stabilized a little on Wednesday with a goalless draw against Sevilla in the Champions League to keep hopes of qualifying for the next round. Lille now need the same reaction in Ligue 1 with an absolute 120% must-win, pressure-pot home game against Brest, who are in the relegation zone and without a victory this season.
Lille have already lost four Ligue 1 games from 10 this season which is one more than the entirety of last year. The big boss warned that Lille had hit rock bottom, they need to make sure that they don't start digging even deeper on Saturday.
⚽️🇫🇷 Lille vs. Brest - Live on beIN SPORTS on Saturday at 2:50PM ET / 11:50AM PT. 📺🔥
Paqueta packing a punch for Lyon
There are a billion reasons to rise early on Sunday to catch this clash of Ligue 1 heavyweights including catching Nice’s Amine Gouiri up front. But watching Lucas Paqueta in imperious form is a treat.
The Brazilian playmaker had been in action for Brazil in the early hours of the Friday morning in France last week, a continent away. Yet Paqueta’s commitment to the cause saw him jet over the Atlantic, land, catch a bit of sleep and play again just over 24-hours later to drive Lyon to a big 2-0 win against Monaco.
“Lucas Paqueta is one of the best players in the league and he shows it every weekend,” was the praise from teammate, Karl Took Ekambi, “he’s a soldier.”
👉💥 Nice vs. Lyon - Live on beIN SPORTS on Sunday at 7AM ET / 4AM PT 👀
A job-saving match for Saint Etienne and Claude Puel
“Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in.” That must have been the thought going through the mind of Saint Etienne coach, Claude Puel, last weekend after watching his team being hammered 5-1 by Strasbourg. The previous match had seen his team battling for a 1-1 draw against Lyon in a passionate local derby to show signs of a better future.
Unfortunately, that loss sent Saint Etienne back onto the dark timeline with rumors of Puel’s imminent sacking this week. It looks as if the veteran coach is going to make it to Friday’s Ligue 1 weekend opener against Angers. It’s hard to see him staying on if Saint Etienne make it 13 Ligue 1 games in a row without a victory - a record that sees this historic side at the bottom of the standings with just four points, the least amount of goals scored and the most conceded.