Paris: An impatient Kylian Mbappe is set to make his first start for Paris Saint-Germain in two months this weekend after a blistering return to form off the bench in the Champions League.
The French champions host Marseille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night in what is no longer much of a rivalry on the field but remains one of the great grudge matches in European football.
How Marseille would love to claim a first win over their bitter foes in almost a decade, but they will not look forward to the prospect of facing a fit-again Mbappe.
The 20-year-old World Cup winner came on as a substitute and scored a rapid blistering hat-trick in PSG’s 5-0 demolition of Club Brugge in Belgium on Tuesday.
He doubled his goals tally for the season in the process and showed why he felt he deserved to start for the first time since pulling up with a hamstring injury in a game against Toulouse in late August. “I wanted to start. The coach made his decision and you have to accept it,” Mbappe said.
“I just wanted to come on and show that it is difficult to leave me out of the side.”
Tuchel insisted he did not choose Mbappe in his starting line-up because he was protecting his star forward, who was this week named among the 30 nominees for this year’s Ballon d’Or — unlike his perennially injured teammate Neymar. “I always want to play with him in the team. He knows it,” said Tuchel. “But he could only play for as long as we gave him.”
The only doubt surrounds who will play alongside Mbappe in the PSG attack, although it certainly won’t be Neymar — he is out until mid-November. Angel Di Maria will be there after setting up four of his team’s five goals in midweek, while Mauro Icardi could again be preferred to Edinson Cavani after notching five goals in four games. ‘Le Classique’ took top billing in France in the 1990s when pay TV giant Canal Plus bought PSG and turned them into a competitor to the era’s dominant Marseille whose stars included Chris Waddle and Jean-Pierre Papin.
That helped boost viewing figures in a league which Canal Plus broadcast. These days Ligue 1 is utterly dominated by the now Qatar-owned club from the capital. Marseille, along with everyone else, trail in their wake. — AFP
One to watch: Dimitri Payet If Marseille are to spring a major surprise and record a rare win in Paris, then they will need Dimitri Payet to be on his game.
The 32-year-old should certainly be fresh — he has been out for a month while serving a four-match suspension but makes a timely return, although Villas-Boas has played down his team’s prospects, saying Paris belongs “in a different league”.
“That is my opinion, given how much they have invested in recent years. The ‘Clasico’ is a thing of the past.”
Key stats 8 – The number of years since Marseille last beat PSG. They won 3-0 at the Velodrome in November 2011.
19 – PSG are unbeaten in 19 meetings with Marseille since then, winning 16 and drawing three.
13 – The number of goals scored by Monaco’s prolific strike pairing of Wissam Ben Yedder (8) and Islam Slimani (5) this season. They face second-placed Nantes on Friday.
Fixtures (all kick-offs GMT)
Nantes v Monaco (1845)
Lille v Bordeaux (1630), Brest v Dijon, Lyon v Metz, Montpellier v Angers, Reims v Nimes, Strasbourg v Nice (all 1800)
Rennes v Toulouse (1300), Saint-Etienne v Amiens (1500), Paris Saint-Germain v Marseille (1900)