The backdrop to the clash given Kylian Mbappe’s persistent drama may be chaotic, but it does add flavour to Sunday night’s Le Classique derby, in its 103rd installment, between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille to be hosted at the Parc des Prince in the French capital.
Despite being held to a goalless draw with Reims in the previous weekend, the defending French champions continue to top the table with 26 points in 10 matches and are yet to lose a game this season. On the other hand, Marseille have slipped to the fourth place in the Ligue 1 table after suffering a shocking 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ajaccio.
It is hardly surprising to state that PSG are a club which has a self-destructive tendency and hardly a month goes by when scandals and controversies do not rock the club from the French capital. The melodrama has picked up once again with several outlets including L’Equipe and Fabrizio Romano claiming that Mbappe’s relationship with the club is broken and that he wants to move elsewhere as quickly as possible.
Of course, club officials and sporting director Luis Campos came out to rubbish these claims that Mbappe wants to leave months after signing a fat, lucrative contract that not only made him the richest footballer on the planet but also gave him significant control over sporting matters, but the damage has already been done.
The new batch of reports over the 23-year-old’s future came just before he notched a record 31st Champions League goal for Les Parisiens in a 1-1 draw with Benfica, which represented a third stalemate in a row for Christophe Galtier’s men after they were previously thwarted by Reims and their Portuguese opponents.
The other side of the drama saw PSG being accused of concocting baseless claims on social media in order to smear Mbappe’s name given his indifferent start to the season. The French superstar’s on-field exploits have hardly been the talking point over the last couple of months given his turbulent relationships with his teammates as well as the club itself.
Heading into what could be an explosive Le Classique affair with Marseille, Les Parisiens will need their 23-year-old star to keep his head clear and focus on the job at hand in order to maintain their grip at the top of the table.
The defending French champions are actually level on points with Lorient who have won eight matches and have drawn twice while losing another game. They have played an extra match compared to the Parisian giants but any slip-up here and Lorient will fancy themselves to make the heavyweights pay for their mistakes.
The fact that they dropped points against Reims in a match where Sergio Ramos saw yet another red card in his glorious collection over the years will be playing over the minds of the PSG players. However, a return to their passionate ultras and supporters at the Parc des Princes fortress can help alleviate the sour mood stemming from Paris.
Indeed, PSG have prevailed in four of their last five top-flight fixtures in front of their own fans and are unbeaten in 26 matches since a 1-0 defeat to Lille in April 2021, but in contrast to the hosts, Marseille were able to recover from a shock domestic setback in ideal fashion this week.
Olympique Marseille’s fixture with Ajaccio carried a certain sense of dread and shock by the end of 90 minutes after they failed to defeat their opposition and instead succumbed to a 2-1 loss at the Orange Velodrome. However, Igor Tudor had the perfect response for that unexpected defeat when they returned to European competition in the middle of the week.
After suffering opening defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Eintracht Frankfurt, Marseille recovered their Champions League knockout hopes. They are now well-placed to make it to the last 16 following back-to-back wins over Sporting Lisbon, with Matteo Guendouzi and Alexis Sanchez getting on target in Wednesday’s 2-0 triumph.
Given that the Portuguese side had to end the match with nine men after two of their players were sent off certainly did help Marseille, who will be able to move level on points with PSG should they prevail in Sunday’s Classique, but their unexpected loss to Ajaccio presented Lorient and Lens with the chance to leapfrog them into second and third places.
With seven wins, two draws and a loss, Marseille are now fourth in the Ligue 1 table, three behind their eternal rivals Paris Saint-Germain.
Prior to that calamity they suffered at home against Ajaccio, Tudor’s side had stitched together a 10-game unbeaten run in Ligue 1. They have been especially good away from home this season and have won each of their last three matches on the road against Nice, Auxerre and Angers without conceding a single goal.
Since stunning PSG 1-0 at the Parc des Princes to win Le Classique way back in September 2020, Marseille have now gone four derbies in all competitions without victory against the capital giants. However, Tudor will remind his men that the time is nigh for Les Olympiens to end that hoodoo with the champions in disarray.
PSG vs MAR, Ligue 1 2022/23
Date: 17th October, 2022
Time: 12:15 AM IST
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris
Paris Saint Germain Ligue 1 form:
Paris Saint Germain form (all competitions):
Marseille Ligue 1 form:
Marseille form (all competitions):
Paris Saint Germain wins: 46
Marseille wins: 33
Paris Saint Germain Team News:
Paris Saint Germain are already without the services of central defender Presnel Kimpembe after his hamstring injury and they have also lost veteran Sergio Ramos following his straight red against Reims last weekend. Ramos will serve the first of his two-match suspensions here, and as a result, Galtier may line up with a backline of Marquinhos, Nodri Mukiele and Danilo Pereira.
PSG’s downturn in form has coincided with Lionel Messi’s absence, but the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is now back in training after his calf injury, and Renato Sanches’s groin issue is expected to render him unavailable too.
Nuno Mendes will also be out for a little while longer after sustaining a muscular problem against Benfica, and Mbappe is sure to lead the line as he aims to do his talking on the pitch, most likely with Messi and Neymar in support.
In the middle of the park, Juan Bernat is expected to offer support to Marco Verratti and Vitinha.
Marseille Team News:
As far as Marseille are concerned, they will have to deal with just a single injury absence in the form of Sead Kolasinac whose thigh injury will keep him sidelined for another couple of weeks. Besides him, there are no other absentee concerns for Marseille at the moment.
Pau Lopez recovered the gloves back from Ruben Blanco in midweek after the latter was given the nod for the loss to Ajaccio, and manager Tudor will have to make some big decisions to make in the final third.
Amine Harit earned high praise from his manager for setting up Sanchez and Guendouzi against Sporting, but whether the 25-year-old has done enough to warrant a start alongside Dimitri Payet is another question entirely.
Paris Saint Germain possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Mukiele, Marquinhos, Pereira; Hakimi, Verratti, Vitinha, Bernat; Messi, Mbappe, Neymar
Marseille possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Mbemba, Balerdi, Gigot; Clauss, Guendouzi, Rongier, Tavares; Payet, Harit; Sanchez
It won’t be surprising if the result of Le Classique this time around hinges down to Lionel Messi’s availability for Paris Saint Germain. The Argentine superstar has run the show in midfield and in the final third and has been the orchestrator-in-chief for Les Parisiens. If he is unable to feature in this clash, the result may be disruptive for PSG.
As eye-catching as Marseille’s wins over Sporting were, they must be taken with a great pinch of salt given their opponents’ lack of discipline, and a depleted Galtier defence can still hold firm to maintain their grip on first place. Fans can expect a narrow win for the defending French champions here at home.