Only seven rounds of Ligue 1 fixtures have been played, but Paris Saint-Germain already seem to have one hand on the championship trophy, having opened up an eight-point gap to their nearest rivals.
While Thomas Tuchel’s side have managed to win every game so far, they have contrived to make life difficult for themselves on occasion. Against Reims in midweek, they found themselves trailing with barely 90 seconds on the clock. Such lapses have been commonplace in virtually all their fixtures this season, yet such has been their ferocious attacking play, they have come through unharmed.
No team since the 1969-70 season has amassed so many Ligue 1 goals (24) so quickly, and ahead of Saturday’s trip to Patrick Vieira’s Nice, their forward line will only be reinforced by the return of Kylian Mbappe following a three-match ban.
Nice have proven problematic opponents to PSG in the recent past, but while they are on something of an upward trend themselves, with three wins in their last four, Vieira’s squad have shown few hints they will be able to lay a glove on the champions. With a fit and firing Mario Balotelli, perhaps it might have been a different story, but the Italian was missing officially through injury in midweek, having been criticised by club captain Dante following the 1-0 loss in Montpellier last weekend.
Elsewhere, Monaco have officially been plunged into crisis ahead of their tricky Friday night trip to Saint-Etienne. Leonardo Jardim’s side find themselves in the relegation and have looked thoroughly out of sorts lately.
The Monegasques have not won in six matches in all competitions and were the victims of a huge midweek upset as they were defeated by Angers 1-0 at home. Aleksandr Golovin did make his first start for the Stade Louis II side on that occasion, and the Russia international was one of the few positives to emerge from another chastening defeat.
While Jardim’s position does not appear to be under any immediate threat, there is no shortage of background drama. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, now apparently fully fit, is rumoured to have refused to be part of the squad in midweek as he has fallen behind Diego Benaglio in the pecking order.
All eyes on Saturday night, meanwhile, will be on Lyon, who seem to have hit their stride after a turbulent start to the season. Their victory over Manchester City has been the catalyst for a couple of impressive league victories over Marseille then Dijon, the latter of which was achieved without Nabil Fekir (injured) and Memphis Depay (rested) in their starting XI.
While there is a suspicion that Bruno Genesio’s side will have a propensity to throw in a curveball poor display throughout the season, they will start as red-hot favourites to overcome a Nantes side second from bottom in the table.
Indeed, Miguel Cardoso, the Nantes head coach, is already under fire after a start to the season that has seen his team win only one match, despite having more possession of the ball than any other Ligue 1 side with the exception of PSG and Lyon.
If there is to be a turnaround, Parc OL on Saturday would be an ideal place for it to start.
Rennes meet Toulouse and then Montpellier host Nimes in the ___ derby on Sunday, appetisers for Lille’s hosting of Marseille in a clash that pits third against fourth.
Although LOSC lost 1-0 to Bordeaux on Wednesday, it was a result that owed much to the brilliance of opposing goalkeeper Benoit Costil, who made a string of brilliant blocks to thwart Nicolas Pepe & Co.
With a perfect home record to date, they will expect to rediscover the path to goal against a Marseille side that have been great value to watch this season, partially because they have been as bad defensively as they have good going forward.
All of OM’s Ligue 1 matches this term have produced at least four goals, but after dramatically defeating Strasbourg 3-2 in stoppage time on Wednesday they should be feeling good about themselves.
After reaching the Europa League final last year, OM were quietly hoping to piece together a championship challenge. The eight-point gulf to the leaders, however, can only be demoralising. They, like France’s other big clubs, simply cannot match PSG’s consistency.