In the days before the international break, the message would have been ‘move along, stop dithering, nothing to see here’ in terms of the Ligue 1 title race. But then PSG contrived to lose at home to Rennes in a stupefyingly somnambulant display that would have given Coach Christophe Galtier (very ironically) sleepless nights.
Since that day, Lionel Messi has been handed yet more awards and accolades in Argentina’s post-World Cup party, while Kylian Mbappe has been made captain of France.
The question now is what frame of mind either player is going to be in for the last leg of the season on their return to the French capital. Then there’s the issue of the unending injury problems PSG have suffered in the backline.
PSG’s lead over Marseille in the standings is still a healthy seven points with 10 games to go. What’s more, Marseille are not the most reliable in terms of consistency with the team winning just half of their 14 league games in what should be Fortress Velodrome.
The Ligue 1 title race is very much there for PSG to lose. But don’t assume that it will be crème fraiche and crispy croissants on the way to the finishing line.
The European Places
The second spot in Ligue 1 affords a clear passage to the UEFA Champions League group stage, which means that it is very much sought after, rather than having to go through a qualifying phase, which awaits the team finishing in third.
Marseille are in pole position but the ever-impressive Lens are still hanging on in there and could prevail if Marseille’s disastrous home form continues to cost them. Monaco have an outside chance of a Champions League finish but look more likely for a top-5 place, which affords entry into the Europa League or the Conference League. Rennes, Lille and maybe even Nice will also be in the tussle for a Top-5 ticket.
Relegation from Ligue 1 is particularly brutal this year with four teams going straight down, as the league shrinks in size to 18 for next year. No playoffs, no second chances, no pity. And as Saint Etienne have found this season, bouncing back is not guaranteed.
A spectacularly awful Angers have tied up one spot but there are five others in the fight to be one of the three facing an agonizing exile. That line-up includes Strasbourg who were in the fight for a European place last season but have been having a much tougher time this time around.
The Top Scorer
Kylian Mbappe is not having this particular race his own way this season. The PSG poacher is top of the rankings with 19 Ligue 1 goals but is tied with Canada and Lille striker, Jonathan David.
Some classic names of French soccer are breathing down their necks with Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette turning back time with 17 goals along with the ever-present Wissam Ben Yedder.
Look out for Reims striker, Folarin Balogun, who has scored 17 during a highly successful loan spell from Arsenal and has spent the international break dropping big hints that he might end up in the colors of the USMNT in the near future.
Round 29 Highlights
Friday 31st March: 2:50PM ET - Marseille vs. Montpellier
Saturday 1st April: 2:50PM ET - Rennes vs. Lens
Sunday 2nd April: 2:30PM ET - PSG vs. Lyon