PSG and RC Lens are set to clash in what could be a title decider in the race for the Ligue 1 crown.
Defending champions PSG will welcome second-placed RC Lens to the Parc des Princes in a clash that could very well end up deciding where the Ligue 1 trophy ends up this season.
A poor run of form since the new year has seen Christophe Galtier’s side lose five of their 14 league games, chipping away at their tally at the top of the table. Just six points separate both sides with eight games left. A win on the night should more or less see PSG retain the title, while a loss will blow the race wide open, making it a three-point difference.
Having already come out on top 3-1 in the reverse fixture earlier this year, the visitors will be confident of their chances of doing the double over their more illustrious opponents. In fact, PSG have failed to beat Lens in 2021/22 and now so far in 2022/23, the only French top-flight side to avoid that fate.
Galtier is already reeling given that PSG have nothing apart from the league to play for this season. His complaining about black and Muslim players is unlikely to win him any fans, especially at a club owned by middle-east oligarchs. It would be an understatement to say that the Frenchman is already on thin ice.
Franck Haise has done a commendable job at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis and could earn yet another feather in his cap by dethroning PSG. The Parc des Princes is not the fortress it once was and were breached handily by Rennes and Lyon in PSG’s previous two home games. Surely Lens are better placed to make it an unwanted hat-trick for Galtier and his wards.
Arriving on the back of a four-game winning streak, Lens will not be short of confidence. Given what is on the line for both sides, it promises to be an exciting contest where no quarter is given. The Hard Tackle takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
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Christophe Galtier visited the PSGTV studio ahead of #PSGRCL. 🎙️⤵️ pic.twitter.com/4olNFiVHPe
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) April 14, 2023
The French giants were already crippled by the losses of Neymar and Presnel Kimpembe for the remainder of the campaign. The task has not gotten any easier with Nordi Mukiele also joining them having to undergo hamstring surgery.
Midfielder Renato Sanches picked up yet another injury, ruling him out for the next few weeks. Juan Bernat is also a doubt for the game with an ankle knock while Kylian Mbappe appears to be battling a hip injury. Marco Verratti is deemed unfit to feature following a muscular injury, adding to Galtier’s problems
Gianluigi Donnarumma is a shoo-in to start in goal behind the back three of Danilo Pereira, Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos. Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes will start at wing-back, with them responsible for both attacking and defensive actions on the flanks.
With Verratti absent and Sanches unfit, Fabian Ruiz is likely to return to the lineup. He should be aided by the duo of Carlos Soler and Vitinha in central midfield. Lionel Messi has taken stick from fans in recent weeks but remains PSG’s best option going forward. He is likely to operate both as a forward and as a number 10, with Kylian Mbappe deployed as the topmost attacker.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Donnarumma; Pereira, Marquinhos, Ramos; Hakimi, Soler, Vitinha, Ruiz, Mendes; Messi, Mbappe
Franck Haise will be without long-term absentees Jimmy Cabot and Wuilker Farinez. Julien Le Cardinal and Adam Buksa are struggling with knee issues while Steven Fortes is yet to recover from an ankle injury. The trio’s participation for the weekend is largely unlikely.
Lens have conceded just 22 goals in Ligue 1 this season, the least of any side in the French top flight. Given that PSG have lacked bite in recent weeks, the tie could not have come at a better time for the title hopefuls.
Haise is expected to line his side up in a 3-4-2-1 formation that should help nullify PSG’s upper hand in terms of quality in the middle of the park. The formation has also worked well in recent weeks and has proven itself amenable to tinkering with when needed.
Brice Samba is expected to start in goal behind a back three of Jonathan Gradit, Kevin Danso and Facundo Medina. The trio have proven themselves to be formidable and with Mbappe struggling for him, could be in for a good night. With three clean sheets in their last four games, there is momentum going in their favour.
J-1 avant #PSGRCL 🔥
Voici les 2⃣0⃣ joueurs convoqués par Franck Haise pour affronter le Paris SG demain 👊
🔙 Le latéral @boura_ismael fait son retour dans le groupe lensois.#FierDEtreLensois pic.twitter.com/kpMOxbakhy
— Racing Club de Lens (@RCLens) April 14, 2023
Florian Sotoca and Przemysław Frankowski will be tasked with creating width, while Salis Abdul Samed and Seko Fofana will be tasked with keeping the PSG midfield silent in the central areas. The central midfield battle is likely to decide which way the cookie crumbles on the night.
Adrien Thomasson and Angelo Fulgini will flank striker Lois Openda upfront. The duo could enjoy much success if they can get behind Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes, both of who like to get forward often. Doing so will also stretch Danilo Pereira and Sergio Ramos out wide, leaving space open for Openda to run into.
PSG are not riding high on confidence at the moment and Lens will do well to take advantage of it. An early goal will surely set alarm bells ringing in Paris and perhaps even hasten the end of Galtier as PSG boss.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Samba; Gradit, Danso, Medina; Sotoca, Abdul Samed, Fofana, Frankowski; Thomasson, Fulgini; Openda
- PSG have not beaten Lens over their last three Ligue 1 games. The visitors remain the only side not to taste defeat against the defending champions since the 2021-22 season began.
- Scoring on the night will see Lens make PSG their 13th Ligue 1 opponent against whom they will have scored 100 or more goals.
- In the last seven games against second-placed teams, PSG (starting off as the top-placed side) have alternated between defeats and wins. A similar tie saw Lens defeat them 3-1 earlier in January. PSG have drawn just three times in Ligue 1 all season, the lowest of any side in the league along with Ajaccio.
- Lens’s return of 63 points in 30 games is their best return at this stage of the season.
- Kylian Mbappe is just one goal away from becoming PSG’s all-time leading goalscorer in Ligue 1.
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Messi has been a lone ray of sunlight in an otherwise abject PSG side over the last few weeks. He scored and assisted in the 2-0 win over OGC Nice last weekend, snapping PSG’s two-game losing streak. While he is still far from his best, the Argentine continues to be the home side’s best hope of making a difference.
Mbappe is struggling with a hip issue and also appears to have mislaid his shooting boots. With the Frenchman off-colour and Neymar absent, the onus will once again fall on Messi to step up and take charge. As long as Lens can shackle the veteran superstar, they will be taking the fizz out of the PSG attack.
Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 RC Lens
PSG are no more a juggernaut and look as vulnerable as they have ever been in recent months. The win over Nice last time around at best papered over some cracks and Lens will be aware of it.
Franck Haise’s men have the form and initiative to take the game to their opponents and should make life difficult for Christophe Galtier’s men, especially with Verratti also absent. In a game with much on the line, the Hard Tackle believes Lens will come away with all three points. It should certainly make the title race interesting in the coming weeks.
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