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PSG unable to take eye off ball in Ligue 1 before Man City return

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PSG players celebrate after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League first leg semi-final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on April 28, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Locked in what is now a three-way fight for the Ligue 1 title with four games remaining, Paris Saint-Germain cannot afford to relax this weekend ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City.

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Mauricio Pochettino’s side go to Manchester on Tuesday needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit in order to reach a second consecutive Champions League final.

However, while conquering Europe is the dream for the Qatar-owned club, the Ligue 1 title that has been theirs in seven of the last eight seasons is in danger of slipping away.

AFP Sport looks at the state of play in the French title race going into the final weeks of the campaign.

Lille: First, 73 points
Lille showcased their remarkable resilience by coming from two goals down to win 3-2 at Lyon last weekend, effectively knocking their opponents out of the title race in the process.

Had they lost, Lille would have slipped to fourth, but instead, a Burak Yilmaz-inspired comeback allowed them to hold first place, a point ahead of PSG and two clear of Monaco.

Now Christophe Galtier’s side host mid-table Nice knowing a first title since 2011 is in reach, but while their away form has been superb their home form has been mediocre, with just one win in five.

“We are in front, the players are holding onto something and they have to do everything to make sure nobody takes it off them,” said Galtier on Thursday.

“Like a dog with a bone in its mouth. They have it. Nobody can come and take it from them. That is what they need to have in mind.”

Paris Saint-Germain: Second, 72 points
Given their phenomenal resources, it is incredible that PSG has already lost eight times in Ligue 1 this season, including five defeats at home.

Title rivals Lille, Monaco and Lyon have all won at the Parc des Princes, as have Marseille. Now they face Lens, who are in form and on course to qualify for Europe.

Lens also beat PSG at home in September and will hope to catch the Parisians off guard with this match coming just 72 hours before the Manchester City return. Another slip-up for Pochettino’s side could be disastrous.

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Monaco: Third, 71 points
Monaco have been the best team in Ligue 1 in 2021, with 44 points from a possible 51 propelling Niko Kovac’s side towards the summit.

They could still win a domestic double having knocked out Lyon in the French Cup quarter-finals, but securing a top-three place and Champions League qualification remains the priority as they face Lyon again on Sunday.

A win over Lyon at the Stade Louis II would leave them seven points ahead of their fourth-placed opponents with only nine to play for, thereby all but confirming that Champions League berth.

Player to watch: Memphis Depay
Lyon could do with a big performance from their Dutch captain as they try to rescue their season. They need a win in Monaco just to keep alive their hopes of Champions League qualification, before Depay departs at the end of the campaign when his contract expires.

It is a scenario reminiscent of the final day in 2017/18, when Lyon needed to win their last match against Nice to finish in the top three and duly came from behind to do so thanks to Depay’s hat-trick.

Another big performance from the ex-Manchester United man on the Cote d’Azur would revive OL’s top-three bid.

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Key stats
13 – Lens are unbeaten in 13 games

12 – The number of Ligue 1 goals scored by Lille’s 35-year-old Turkish striker Yilmaz

15 – Lyon are unbeaten in 15 away league games

Fixtures (GMT)
Friday

Marseille v Strasbourg (1900)

Saturday

Paris Saint-Germain v Lens (1500), Lille v Nice (1900)

Sunday

Bordeaux v Rennes (1100), Brest v Nantes, Dijon v Metz, Lorient v Angers, Nimes v Reims (all 1300), Montpellier v Saint-Etienne (1505), Monaco v Lyon (1900)

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