Paris Saint-Germain will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they take on Saint-Etienne at Parc des Princes on Saturday.
After a shocking 3-1 defeat at the hands of Nantes, Paris Saint-Etienne will be under pressure to perform when they play hosts to Saint-Etienne on Saturday. Given that Les Parisiens have a practically unassailable 13-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table, it is hard to imagine them slipping up and once again missing out on the league title.
However, a positive result this weekend could still be crucial as Mauricio Pochettino’s men aim to build winning momentum ahead of the two important games against OGC Nice and Real Madrid, in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.
With just 22 points on the board, Saint-Etienne have been one of the most underwhelming teams in Ligue 1 this term. They are firmly involved in the relegation scrap, especially with Troyes and Lorient breathing down their necks.
ASSE, though, have enjoyed a comeback of sorts in recent weeks. They are unbeaten in their last four encounters, winning three of them. It has pulled them out of the relegation scrap, and the Sainté Les Verts could rise further up the league table with a positive result against their esteemed opponent this weekend.
Saint-Etienne had succumbed to a 3-1 defeat when these two teams last met each other, but the game saw ASSE play with ten men throughout the second half, thanks to Timothee Kolodziejczak’s red card. The visitors will be hoping for more of an even contest this time around as they take on the French juggernaut at Parc des Princes on Saturday.
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— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 25, 2022
Mauricio Pochettino has been boosted by the return of multiple star players in recent weeks, including Neymar. However, for this encounter, he will miss out on the services of Marco Verratti due to a suspension. He is joined by Sergio Ramos and Leandro Paredes in the club’s list of absentees for this home fixture.
Verratti’s absence could be quite significant given his technical prowess in the middle of the park. While one would expect Georginio Wijnaldum or Ander Herrera to replace him in midfield, it won’t be surprising to see Julian Draxler being given the nod. The German’s ability to move forward with the ball could help PSG in transition.
Draxler, therefore, should form the three-man midfield setup for PSG, partnering with Danilo Pereira and Idrissa Gueye. Danilo could play a vital role in offering defensive cover for the backline, likely led by Marquinhos once again.
The Brazilian will demand more resistance from his teammates after conceding thrice against Nantes. But on a positive note, both Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes are likely to return to the side as the full-backs, which could significantly strengthen PSG’s defence, but, more importantly, add more thrust going forward.
Hakimi’s combination with Lionel Messi could potentially be lethal for the opposition. Mendes, too, will be hoping for a similar partnership with Neymar on the opposite flank, whereas Kylian Mbappe should be tasked with the responsibility of spearheading the PSG frontline. It will be interesting to see how the ‘MNM’ partnership fares this time around after struggling to break the shackles of the Nantes defence last weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Mendes; Gueye, Danilo, Draxler; Messi, Mbappe, Neymar
Saint-Etienne are missing a host of key players heading into this contest, including Joris Gnagnon, Saidou Sow, Enzo Crivelli and Yvann Macon. Wahbi Khazri and Zaydou Youssouf remain doubts as well, although we expect both the players to be in contention against PSG.
? "Quelques fois, il y a des surprises !"
— AS Saint-Étienne (@ASSEofficiel) February 24, 2022
After a disappointing start to his Saint-Etienne career, new coach Pascal Dupraz has enjoyed a lot of success lately, especially after reverting to a back-three system that is likely to be employed against PSG this weekend.
While the wing-backs Sada Thioub and Timothee Kolodziejczak are usually expected to provide the width going forward, their main objective will be to nullify the attacking runs made by the PSG full-backs. As such, ASSE could operate with a situational back five more often than not, with Falaye Sacko, Eliaquim Mangala and Mickael Nade once again likely to form the central defensive trio.
In midfield, the onus will be on Youssouf and Mahdi Camara to break up PSG’s play in the middle of the park and deny them the opportunity to transition the ball forward. Their job could be made easier by the absence of Verratti, but it might be a steep task, nonetheless.
As for the attacking unit, the ASSE frontline is set to be spearheaded by the offensive duo of Khazri and Denis Bouanga, with Ryad Boudebouz offering support from the number ten role.
Probable Linup (3-4-1-2): Bernardoni; Sacko, Mangala, Nade; Thioub, Youssouf, Camara, Kolodziejczak; Boudebouz; Bouanga, Khazri
- PSG have won 42 of their 80 Ligue 1 games against Saint-Etienne, only winning more games against Metz in the top-flight.
- In all competitions, PSG are unbeaten in their last 25 games against Saint-Etienne and could equal their longest unbeaten streak in their history against an opponent (26 against Angers, an ongoing run since December 1976).
- Defeated in their last Ligue 1 game after a 15-game unbeaten run, Paris Saint-Germain have won just five of their last ten games in the top flight.
- Saint-Etienne have not lost any of their last four Ligue 1 games after having lost each of their previous seven.
- PSG have not lost any of their last 15 Ligue 1 home games, the best current run in the league. Nice were the only team to deny them a win over this period.
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No player in Europe's top five leagues has registered more assists than Lionel Messi (4) in 2022 ? pic.twitter.com/WpenRgTCVq
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 22, 2022
Lionel Messi has been the centre of attention in recent weeks after putting out a few promising performances. After a disastrous start to his life in France, the Argentine is slowly starting to recover his numbers, having racked up seven goals and nine assists in all competitions so far.
Four of his assists have come in the last four Ligue 1 games, which means no player in Europe’s top five leagues has registered as many assists as the PSG superstar. Messi will be hoping to maintain that run against a resurgent Saint-Etienne side that are expected to double down on him whenever he receives the ball in the final third.
Fortunately for Messi, the return of Neymar has given him some extra breathing space in the final third. So it will be interesting to see how the Argentine manages to utilise those spaces and break the shackles of the ASSE defence this weekend.
PSG 2-0 Saint-Etienne
Saint-Etienne have enjoyed a promising run of form lately and have shown to be quite devastating on the counter. However, with PSG enjoying the return of several star players, including Neymar, Hakimi and Wijnaldum, coupled with Messi’s slow return to form, it is hard to imagine anything other than yet another comfortable victory for Les Parisiens this weekend.