By Tim Stannard
For an extravagant extrovert, famous for giving hugs and backslaps to his charges, the past ten days must have been lonely for Mauricio Pochettino. Pretty much 90% of the PSG squad was scattered around the planet, from Lionel Messi having an absolute blast with Argentina to Keylor Navas in Costa Rica.
That's quite a headache for Pochettino who has been left without nearly all of his Eiffel Powers. While Poch was talking to the press on Friday morning, Messi, Angel di Maria, and Neymar were all probably up in the air in their private jets. It was no surprise that none of the trio will make an appearance this weekend.
The big issue for PSG against Clermont Foot on Saturday therefore concerns the forward line. Kylian Mbappe returned to training on Friday after struggling with a calf injury. Mauro Icardi is likely out with a dodgy soldier. It's going to call for some creative tactical thinking from Pochettino.
The other big call to make is in goal with Pochettino admitting that he hadn't decided if Keylor Navas or Gianluigi Donnarumma will start. Midweek action across the Atlantic might be the just the excuse the PSG coach needs to give the Italian his debut.
Clermont Foot at home might look like a stroll through some daisies but the newly-promoted team is sitting in third, undefeated in four matches, with the second highest number of goals scored, thanks largely to the up and coming Guinean forward, Mohamed Bayo, who has three goals and two assists.
Saturday's match may have been comfortable for a PSG at 100%. But injuries and an international break have left the team weakened and vulnerable to the first big shock of the season.
💥 PSG vs. Clermont Foot is live on beIN SPORTS on Saturday from 10:50AM ET / 7:50AM PT. 👀
Monaco look for season reboot against Marseille
While Nice were struck full in the face by the angry book thrown by Ligue 1 for the violence against Marseille, Jorge Sampaoli's men were boosted by the game being replayed, a match they were losing 1-0 with 15-minutes to go.
Marseille are not let off completely. Dimitri Payet and Alvaro Gonzalez will both miss Saturday's huge match against Monaco through suspension. However, there could be better news with Konrad de la Fuente. The US international did not play a minute in Wednesday's win against Honduras so could be fresh for the visit to Monte Carlo and could be gambled.
ICI VOUS AVEZ LE COUPABLE // AQUI TENEIS EL CULPABLE pic.twitter.com/hOLGqpDoHj— Álvaro González (@AlvaroGonzalez_) September 8, 2021
Monaco are powering up a rebooted start to the Ligue 1 campaign. A lengthy - and unsuccessful - Champions League qualification saw the team struggling with eight games in August. It all went pear-shaped with Monaco eventually dropping into the Europa League and not picking up a Ligue 1 win until the final match before the international break.
The biggest issue for Niko Kovac has been a lack of goals from Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland who scored 36 Ligue 1 strikes between them last season. Neither have found the back of the net this year. That needs to change for Saturday's visit of Marseille.
📺 Monaco v Marseille is live on beIN SPORTS on Saturday from 2:50PM ET / 11:50AM PT. ⚽️🇫🇷
Nice's case for the defence after Marseille scandal
Ouch. Nice received a double whammy from Ligue 1 over the Nice vs. Marseille match violence with the team being deducted two points (one suspended) and having to play three more home games behind closed doors.
It has tarnished a previously bright start for Christophe Galtier's Nice which had picked up two 4-0 victories in three Ligue 1 games and had yet to concede a goal thanks to the back-two pairing of Dante and former Barcelona stopper, Jean-Clair Todibo.
In even more of a boost, it was a youthful Nice lead up front by the goals of Justin Kluivert and Amine Gouiri that beat Bordeaux in the last league game. The squad for Sunday could be boosted by the return of Kasper Dolberg and a debut for Andy Delort. The experienced Algerian forward is one of the league's top performers, scoring 15 goals and notching up nine assists for Montpellier last season.