French football

PSG switch to flexing muscle in Rennes after Champions League show of strength

Will Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino field his star troika of Lionel Messi, Neymar (centre) and Kylian Mbappé (right) in Sunday's Ligue 1 match at Rennes?
Will Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino field his star troika of Lionel Messi, Neymar (centre) and Kylian Mbappé (right) in Sunday's Ligue 1 match at Rennes? FRANCK FIFE AFP

Five days after winning the "petro-dollar derby" against Manchester City in the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain will take on Rennes on Sunday afternoon trying to make it nine wins out of nine in ligue 1.


Mauricio Pochettino's men go into the clash at the Roazhon Park nine points ahead of second-placed Lens.

That lead would be cut to seven points if Marseille win their game in hand.

But even if PSG's eternal rivals reduce the deficit, it would take a remarkable collapse for PSG not to collect their eighth title in 10 years.

That accumulation of championships ever since the Qatar-based QSI group bought the club in 2011 has been adorned with six triumphs in the Coupe de la Ligue and six Coupe de  France trophies.


But the pile-up of domestic trinkets only exposes the absence of the shiniest jewel - the Champions League.

Cue the schadenfreude flowing as lavishly as the money into the club.

And why not? The German word describing a sense of pleasure at the misfortune of others seems so very apt.

Thomas Tuchel, the German who took PSG to their first Champions League final before his dismissal four months after the defeat, rose again in west London to steer Chelsea to the 2021 Champions League at the expense of Manchester City who beat PSG in the semi-finals of the competition.

Most pundits believe Tuchel only won the final because the City boss Pep Guardiola decided to be Guardiolaesque and overthink his team formation.


Last Saturday in the Premier League, City beat Chelsea 1-0 - revenge of sorts for Guardiola and his Abu Dhabi bosses.

Three days later, the cycle of retribution continued as PSG put down a marker with a 2-0 victory over City at the Parc des Princes. Lionel Messi scored the second in the 74th minute to open his account after his move from Barcelona.

"We did everything but we could not score," said Guardiola. "We defended well but PSG are so dangerous on the counterattack and we know it's impossible to control Messi for 90 minutes."

The goal was sumptuous. Messi picked the ball and did his familiar forward thrust. His pass to Kylian Mbappé was flicked back into his path and without breaking stride, Messi dispatched the ball instantly on an arc into the top left hand corner of Ederson's goal.

The six-time winner of the Ballon d'Or set off on an open-armed celebration of another wonder strike to coo over in the Messi archives.

The goal sealed the three points to take PSG to the top of Group A with four points after two games.


What a difference two weeks makes.

After a 1-1 draw at Club Bruges on 15 September in the opening Group A game, Pochettino was in trouble. His deployment of Messi with Neymar and Mbappé had failed to yield the requisite pyrotechnics.

Even when the Argentine added Angel Di Maria for the Ligue 1 match against Lyon on 19 September, the so-called fantastic four did not produce marvellous things.

It was late substitute Mauro Icardi who snatched the winner in stoppage-time after Di Maria and Messi had both been substituted.

Montpellier were dispatched on 25 September but only late in the game.

On Sunday afternoon at a side lying 13th, Pochettino might not need all of his star destroyers  to crush Bruno Genesio's inconsistent team who played on Thursday night in the Europa Conference League.

"We put in a lot of effort last season to qualify for European competition," said Genesio ahead of the tie at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands.

"So there is no question of not taking the match seriously. We will have a competitive team at Vitesse and there will be one again on Sunday against PSG."

That game will kick off at 1pm - 62 hours after the end of the match against Vitesse while PSG will have had two days more to rest their limbs following their exertions against Manchester City.

It seems a tad unfair on Rennes in the prelude to facing the fantastic four and the others. But then, no one gave them a hope against PSG in the Coupe de France final in 2019.

The men from Rennes though took the spoils.

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