Neymar, Cavani near comebacks as stuttering PSG try to wrap up title
Having run away with the league for most of the season, PSG has so far squandered three chances to retain the French crown this month, each time in quite remarkable fashion.
Thomas Tuchel’s team could have become champions in record-equalling time had they beaten Strasbourg on April 7, but Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s unbelievable miss from on the goal line cost them in a 2-2 draw.
Last weekend they lost 5-1 at second-placed Lille, the first time they had conceded five in a league game since 2000, and on Wednesday, with a seriously weakened side, another chance was passed up in a 3-2 loss at Nantes.
Three games, one point and 10 goals conceded. PSG had not suffered back-to-back league defeats since November 2011.
Nevertheless, they are still 17 points ahead of Lille, and will be crowned champions before kick-off against Monaco on Sunday should Lille fail to win at Toulouse.
Otherwise, they will need to beat the 2017 champions to secure the title, just as they did a year ago with a 7-1 win over the same opponents.
While Tuchel complains about not having enough players, the good news here is that Angel di Maria and Marquinhos are set to return from injuries, while Juan Bernat and Marco Verratti are available after suspension.
Kylian Mbappe will play against his former team after being rested at Nantes, a decision which Tuchel was later forced to defend: “It is my decision, my management, there is no explanation,” he said.
Meanwhile, sports daily L’Equipe reported on Friday that Edinson Cavani could play some part after spending most of the last two months on the sidelines with a hip injury.
In addition, Neymar has stepped up his recovery having been out since late January with a foot injury.
The motivation for the Brazilian is a return to the squad for next weekend’s French Cup final against Rennes at the Stade de France.
Despite all their problems, PSG — who will wear a special shirt as a tribute to the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris that suffered terrible damage in a fire on Monday — could therefore secure two trophies in seven days.
Monaco, meanwhile, travel to the Parc des Princes still not quite safe from the threat of relegation after a tumultuous campaign, having ended last weekend seven points clear of the bottom three.
They took 10 points from the first 12 available after Leonardo Jardim returned to replace the sacked Thierry Henry, but have just one win in six since then.
Stevan Jovetic is the only player to score for the principality side in their last three matches, but he suffered ruptured cruciate knee ligaments last weekend and faces a long absence.
Cesc Fabregas will also miss this game due to a calf injury.
“Of course there is still danger. If the teams at the bottom put together a run of wins, they could quickly climb the table,” said Jardim.
“We have picked up more points per game in the second half of the season but we still need to be careful in order to stay up.”
Among the weekend’s other games in France, Saint-Etienne head to Reims looking to keep the pressure on Lyon in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Dijon v Rennes (1700), Lyon v Angers (1845)
Guingamp v Marseille (1500), Nice v Caen, Nimes v Bordeaux, Strasbourg v Montpellier (all 1800)
Nantes v Amiens, Toulouse v Lille (both 1300), Reims v Saint-Etienne (1500), Paris Saint-Germain v Monaco (1900)
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