PSG in the relegation zone as they search for first win of the season against Metz

Look at the Ligue 1 table, you may have to take a double look or even a triple look before you believe your eyes and see that PSG are in 17th place.

The champions have lost their first two games of the season for the first time in 42 years. Defeats against Lens 1-0 on the opening weekend of the season and then a 1-0 loss to Marseille in Paris last weekend means that they come into this game on zero points with zero goals.

Metz who are expected to struggle this season are on the same page as PSG, how rare is that? The club have also lost their opening two games, but that was expected, PSG’s wasn’t.

Of course the champions begun the season depleted with up to 7 players affected with the Coronavirus after the club allowed the team to go on holiday to Ibiza a week after they lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich. There was still some quality in the PSG team that faced Lens though, but they were still defeated.

Against Marseille, some came back including Neymar and PSG played some good football but it was their rivals that scored the only goal of the game and then the melee at the end saw 5 players sent off, including Neymar which rules him out of this game.

PSG will be the huge odds on favourites to get it right against Metz though and the game is in Paris, this should be the match to break the duck for the club, if it isn’t there will be serious questions launched at them even if they have had some problems in preparing for the new league season.

Thomas Tuchel the PSG coach will be under pressure when the game takes place tonight and he had this to say, “Everyone thinks there is a results crisis, and in fact that’s the case. We have lost three in a row [counting the Champions League final, against Bayern Munich] and we’re not used to that. But we’ve had some good matches and I was surprised to see how we played against OM. We controlled the match. There were one or two classes of difference between the two teams. Complete domination, but you can lose a match like that.”

As for Metz they will try and go for the win playing the counter attack and will hope to score a goal at least and give PSG a game. Players such as Marquinhos and Mauro Icardi will be back for the champions, but Kylian Mbappe is still missing.

 

Under Niko Kovac can Monaco bounce back and become challengers once more?

It’s incredible to think that it was only in 2017 when Monaco won Ligue 1 and wrestled the title from PSG’s hands. Since 2012 only PSG have been champions of France apart from Monaco’s saving grace three years ago. But it is a fact that it remains incredible given how Monaco fell to pieces soon after.

Twice since then the club have almost been relegated and had to fight for everything. Much of this was not down to Leonardo Jardim their long time and suffering coach who actually had two spells at the club in a quite chaotic time. Jardim made miracles happen, but the owners were intent on buying cheap and selling for profit and Monaco soon became the stock exchange of European football.

There has been so much brilliant talent come out of the side in the past 3 years with the creme de la creme being the emergence of Kylian Mbappe who predictably was snapped up by PSG. Monaco have done amazing financial business but it has hit them. One suspects that the club are looking in a different direction as they try to become challengers once again.

They have employed Niko Kovac, ex Bayern Munich coach who won the German Bundesliga with them. He comes with some experience, and there was certainly hope last season as Monaco finished in the top half of the table after a decent run.

The signing of Wissam Ben Yedder from Sevilla has been some of the best business seen in Europe- Ben Yedder scores goals and wins games. He scored 19 goals in all competitions for Monaco last season from just 30 games, and is a natural striker.

This feels like the first summer where you look at who Monaco have sold and there are no gasps- they have actually kept their best players. Much of their transfers in have remained officially undisclosed but they have still brought in some interesting players for the new season ahead. These include Kevin Volland from Bayer Leverkusen and Caio Henrique from Atletico Madrid both quality players.

But what really catches the eye if you follow French football is that they have also bought Axel Disasi from Reims, Disasi was probably Reims best player last season and this is a really great capture.

As for this season Monaco have started with 4 points from 2 games. They drew 2-2 with Reims at home which felt like a poor result but given that they were trailing by 2 goals it was actually a good point. They then beat Metz 1-0 the week after. Monaco will be looking to challenge strong in the league this season. Whilst winning the league seems too much of a stretch this season there is every chance they can claim a Champions League place and be back on the football scene once more.

Neymar, Mbappe and 5 other PSG players have Coronavirus as league campaign due to start in chaos

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. PSG have confirmed at least 6 of their players have the Coronavirus ahead of the new season, and largely it is the clubs fault.

Most of the players involved were authorised to go on a special holiday to Ibiza, even during a pandemic after the disappointment of losing the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Because of course when you lose, you go and on holiday and have a great time. But the risks have been very clear in the past few months, and photos of the players relaxing showed them arm in arm.

Indeed let’s go back to the medal presentation at the final itself where UEFA staff including the president Aleksander Ceferin freely shook all of the players hands, and of course no masks were involved. Time and again it seems mistakes have been made and now PSG are paying for this.

The club have not confirmed all the players that have tested positive, but L’equipe, France’s main sports paper, says that Marquinhos and Neymar are amongst the players affected. Both have been omitted from PSG’s first game of the season against Lens tomorrow. Kylian Mbappe was exposed as another who tested positive much to the anger of the club, with that news getting out. However what difference does it make?

This is a bad moment for PSG who will be weakened by this news for at least the first 2 games of the new season. They have already started 2 games behind the other clubs, although they will be heavy favourites to win the league once again.

The story exposes just how bad certain things have been planned between players and safety and of course it would be wrong to point the finger solely at PSG, Montpellier and Rennes have been hit too and in France the cases are increasing especially around the Paris area.

But maybe to have star players who have fallen ill to the virus will be a slight embarrassment to the club just as role models, and it is evident that they haven’t been following strict protocol. The news now of course is to wish every player the best with their health and see them on the pitch once again. And it goes to show just how easy it is to get the virus.

Lens who have been newly promoted this season will be boosted not by the virus of course but by some key players being left out of the game tomorrow, and they will feel they have a real chance to get some points in that game.

 

 

Ligue 1: Player of the Weekend: Memphis Depay

There were quite a lot of challenges to Memphis Depay for Ligue 1 player of the weekend, with players scoring braces of goals and defenders getting the winner in Monaco’s case and keeping a clean sheet. But Depay gets the nod after he scored a hat trick.

Lyon beat Dijon 4-1 and that was important for three reasons: The first was eradicating how poor the club had started last season which gave them no chance of challenging PSG for the league title. The second was that this game, their first of the season came just days after losing at the semi-final stage of the Champions League, naturally the club would be feeling down, so this win back in the domestic league is a great sign. The final reason was getting one up, at least psychologically on PSG, as the champions will not play a game until September 10th. They were given an extra 10 days rest given that they had reached the Champions League final.

Back to Depay who has always remained a quality purchase for Lyon. Last season he was very important for the club and amassed 40 points. He scored 9 goals and also assisted in a further two. That was probably his weakest link last season not setting up more goals.

However Depay has started the season in brilliant style by scoring a hat trick. Lyon were 1-0 down when they were awarded a penalty with just six minutes left of the first half which Depay converted. But even more good news was to come when Depay scored again right on half time. That goal had put Lyon 2-1 up at half time from a losing position and that was key to Dijon losing their hearts in the game. Depay wasn’t finished though and completed his hat trick after his side were awarded another penalty in the second half. The other Lyon goal came through an own goal. The only blemish for Depay was that he was booked during the game.

Despite the man of the match performance and a blistering start from Depay there was a downside to what he said after the game speculating on his future, Depay said: “I do not see the future, I do not know if I will do the full season here. I have been here for four years, I became captain. After you have to look at your career, there is no Champions League. At the moment I don’t know.”

And that could be key for Depay’s future at Lyon. He wants a move to possibly Barcelona and certainly wants to play in the Champions League. For now Lyon are happy to have Depay, but is Depay happy to be at Lyon?

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How good is Neymar when it matters most?

We all know Neymar is an amazing football player, but is he one of the greats?

Is he really good enough to be mentioned as one of the best next to Messi and Ronaldo?

Another season is on the books and the highest paid player in history once again failed to deliver the decisive blow when it mattered the most for his squad – PSG lost to Bayern in the Champions League final last Sunday and their star player had one of his worst performances of the season.

The Brazilian striker failed to register a key pass and completed only four dribbles, all in areas that didn’t concern Bayern. After his great performances against Atalanta and Leipzig it was expected that the 28-year old would finally show his tremendous talent on the biggest stage but he was stopped in his tracks by Joshua Kimmich and co. leaving his PSG squad without the trophy they spent a small fortune chasing.

And this wasn’t the first time Neymar didn’t meet the expectations.

After four seasons with Barcelona and winning his only Champions league trophy, Neymar wanted to get out of a team built around Lionel Messi, and show everyone that he is ready to lead a squad to the glory on his own.

He moved to PSG for a record €222 million and showed his magic in the French Ligue 1. He scored 47 goals in 52 matches which seem impressive but the fans from the French capital have seen top performances domestically before, notably from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. The only way Neymar could meet the expectations and make the investment of the Qatari owners worthwhile was by bringing the Champions League trophy, something he hasn’t managed to do in the past three seasons.

In his first season with the PSG, they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Real Madrid. He didn’t score on Santiago Bernabeu and he didn’t play in the return match due to an injury. He was solid in the group stage the following year, but missed the clash against Manchester United in the first elimination round due to leg pain.

The argument that he was not made for big games carries even more weight when his performance for Brazilian national team is taken into consideration. As is the case for his club when he is the main-man against Granada or Bilbao, Bordeaux or Montpellier, so it is the case in the national team against Ecuador or Bolivia, but when his whole nation expects the glory, he has not been able to perform. At the 2014 World Cup, he played well only in the group, after which he got injured. Two years ago, he was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Belgium.

At the Copa America in 2011, Neymar and Brazil were stopped in the quarterfinals against Paraguay and the same happened four years later. To make the paradox bigger, Brazil became the champion of South America last summer, but Neymar didn’t even participate in the competition due to a ligament damage injury.

Unlike his fellow countrymen Pele or Ronaldo, who brought joy to Brazil with goals in the World Cup finals or the greatest players in his time, Messi and Ronaldo who always deliver, Neymar still hasn’t got even close to them and the only way to do so is to score when it really matters.

Bayern Munich win 6th Champions League title after they beat PSG

Bayern Munich have joined Liverpool to win their 6th Champions League title after they beat PSG 1-0 in Lisbon.

The final was the opposite of what many thought it would be; full of goals and excitement. After all there were arguably 3 of the deadliest strikers in Europe on the pitch in the form of PSG’s Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. All three threatened to score, but none of them did.

In truth the final was a turgid affair which was riddled with mistakes, unforgivable for the quality that was on the pitch. Time and again both sets of teams made the wrong choices of pass and easily lost possession, that can happen but when it is under no pressure from the opposing team it feels like fatal viewing.

Bayern played much like they did against Lyon in the semi-finals, tactically aware as the game went on but not forcing themselves on the game. They are a team who are the best in Europe but under Hansi Flick also a team that do not feel comfortable in the game until they get that first goal. That is why it was unfortunate that PSG was not able to open the scoring and through Neymar they really should have. Manuel Neuer made a superb double save instead, in a rare golden chance for the French champions.

For much of the game Lewandowski traded goal mouth chances with falling over- some fouls looked genuine, others did not and he was not the only one feigning injury, or at least going over too easy. Neymar regrettably did the same towards the end of the game in which all of those ingredients that have made a passing fan loathe his style of play at times were highlighted. This was unfortunate given that every football fan was watching him on his stage as opposed to Ligue 1 football.

It was still an awesome sight at times to see both Neymar and Mbappe running at the Bayern defence. That’s £400m worth of talent there- a tornado about to engulf the Bayern defence, but we only ended up seeing this genuine attacking play on three occasions. Mostly in the first half.

On the hour mark Bayern got their goal and the one that would end up winning it. No Lewandowski heroics, though he had hit the post earlier in the game after a trademark spin, no Thomas Muller searing away with that smile either. Instead it was Kingsley Coman a PSG fan since a boy and the youngster prized away from Juventus a few seasons ago. Bayern coach Hansi Flick had mostly used Coman as a super sub, this time he gave him the nod to start the final. It paid dividends. A good forceful header was enough to beat Kaylor Navas and the game dearly needed a goal.

At that and with 30 minutes to go one would have thought PSG would have been relentless, instead it was Bayern on the attack looking to kill the game with a 2nd goal. Indeed Bayern for the large majority of the remaining time contained the threat of PSG. By this time Neymar, the golden boy looked tired. Mbappe the only golden boy did make some daring runs into the Bayern area with his quick feet and looked like he had been fouled for a penalty late on. The problem was that the referee waved it on given that Mbappe had made a meal of earlier fouls.

Angel Di Maria had moments of brilliance one involved a beautiful unseen pass, that reminded older football fans of Fernando Redondo’s exquisite move for Real Madrid to open up Manchester United 20 years ago. That move ended in a goal unlike Di Maria’s.

It was hard to take for PSG, Mbappe’s first half miss in front of goal when he appeared to pass back to Neuer rather than shoot isn’t easy to swallow for anyone considering the money he cost the club. But that shot summed up PSG’s evening, they were turgid and hollow.

Bayern in the end did enough and some of their defensive work as the game went on was superb. It was hardly a vintage display by the all conquering champions and yet it was something to be afraid of. Here we have a Bayern Munich side who can turn it on with goals and devastating attacking play, just ask Barcelona. But we also have a team that appear to have a plan b, one that can change the pace of the game to suit themselves and retreat with confidence when they have too.

It was inevitable at the final whistle that Neymar burst into tears as his dream of winning the competition with PSG was left in tatters. But Neymar will shine once more on his stage. There was perhaps more sympathy awarded to Thomas Tuchel the PSG coach who looked in genuine pain on his crutches following his foot injury a few weeks before, pain and disappointment is always going to be a toxic mix.

Attentions will turn to who will pick up the world player of the year in a season that has been strange to say the least. One could do little wrong in surely handing that trophy over to Manuel Neuer.

 

PSG’s new maturity fires them to their first ever Champions League final

It’s finally happened after 8 years of trying PSG have reached their first ever Champions League final after they beat RB Leipzig 3-0.

PSG were beginning to be known as the team who kept bottling it when it really mattered. Over the years the French champions had been dumped out of the competition by the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, two teams that they want to aspire to be like. There was the infamous Barcelona defeat where they were 4-1 up from the 1st leg and still got knocked out.

But the dream has been set in stone now. The team have had to beat Borussia Dortmund, Atalanta and RB Leipzig to reach the final and some cynical eyes will look at that and say that they haven’t really been tested. And yet with the changing shift of European football they have.

Dortmund remained a threat in the German Bunsdesliga to Bayern Munich for much of the season, it was only Bayern’s superb form since the restart that gave Dortmund little chance in the end.

Atalanta have had their best season in a generation, even at one time making a challenge for Serie A. They didn’t quite have enough in the tanks but the club have been very good now for the past 2 seasons and their attacking force at times this season has been superb. The Italians also took the lead over PSG before a stunning last minute comeback by the Ligue 1 side.

Finally RB Leipzig have really grown into a quality side and their future looks bright. Never to be taken lightly although their semi final game with PSG just looked like it came too early for them, they were caught out and then add to that the quality within the PSG team and it was lights out. Sadly for Leipzig it was a game to forget and it ended up passing them by.

But there is a new found maturity for this PSG side who have often been called out for being too individualistic. Yes the quality of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe is there to be seen- but at the end of the day these players have not exactly dominated the knockout games of their Champions League encounters. Instead others have risen up like Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria who is arguably the most consistent signing that PSG have ever made.

Win or lose in the final this has to be seen as a building block for the club for bigger things. It is interesting that it took Chelsea about 8 years to win the competition after they were taken over and injected with money. For Manchester City they seem to be behind schedule in that respect.

Have PSG arrived at their destination? We will know soon enough when the Champions League final takes place on August 23rd.

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Neymar v Mbappe who is the best player at PSG?

PSG have in theory the deadliest strike force in the world. Neymar is the Brazilian superstar who scores goals, is a proven winner and has some of the most silkiest skills known to any football player. He is a star, he glitters and remains Brazil’s hope for any international trophies.

Then the champions have Kylian Mbappe, a player who won the World Cup at 19, is a goal scoring machine, looks awesome and fearsome and awesome coming forward, did we say awesome? Well because he is, and the fun part is that he is so young and we still have so many years to praise him. The Frenchman certainly is the real deal.

It’s good that the two superstars get along too- the same can’t be said of Neymar and Edinson Cavani who have had plenty of run ins in the past. But for the most part Neymar and Mbappe have been able to put their egos aside and work together.

It is mind boggling when you think that they are the two biggest world transfers in history- and play for the same team. They have cost PSG nearly 400m euros and let’s not even get started on their wages.

So with the tail of the tape over, do the players come out equal? Is one better than the other? Who has had the best season for example? Who scores more goals and creates the most assists? If PSG had to lose one player which do you think they would prefer to lose and sell?

Since joining PSG in 2017 Neymar has played 82 games in all competitions and has scored 70 goals, that is an incredible return. In the league he has played 52 times and scored 47 goals. Neymar’s consistency has been fantastic. True this past season he was dogged with injuries and a controversial want away move to Barcelona which upset the fans. But each time he came back into the team he ended up being the difference and getting the winning goals and has ultimately helped PSG to an historic treble this season.

Mbappe joined Neymar in the same season although his first one was through a loan. In his debut season he scored 13 goals but it was in his 2nd season where he broke through netting an incredible 33 in the league. In league games he has scored 64 goals from 76 games and overall he has netted 90 goals in just 121 appearances. Mbappe is just 21 and has already won 10 major trophies.

This season Mbappe did play more games than Neymar and scored 18 goals and assisted in 5 goals. Neymar assisted in 6. The stats go to prove that PSG have spent their money wisely, these two are genuinely brilliant players. There really is very little separating them.

A draw is probably the best outcome as to who is the best right now, we have had 3 seasons to figure them out and still there s nothing in it, let’s hope Neymar stays and we get a 4th season. Or perhaps one of them will come to the fore in the Champions League and make all the difference for PSG to pick up their first European Cup later this month. For now PSG should be glad that they have both of these incredible talents in their team at the same time. Fans sure are.

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What now for PSG star Neymar after the fall out of Covid-19 has hit football?

Neymar has returned to Paris for training and played on a football pitch for the first time in 3 months. And seeing images of him brings up the story of what exactly will happen to Neymar post Covid-19?

Had the pandemic never happened many people believe that this was going to be Neymar’s last season with PSG. It was inevitable that after he would rejoin Barcelona. There have been many rumours that the Brazilian is craving to go back to his former job and hook up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Whilst Neymar has been a success at PSG he has also missed some key games due to injury and there is a feeling of unfinished business in Paris. After all PSG didn’t make Neymar the world’s most expensive player at over 200 million euros just to win a series of Ligue 1 titles? they were doing that well before he joined.

For PSG recruiting Neymar, much like what Juventus have done with Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to be the key, the final puzzle and the missing link in winning the Champions League. In that PSG have been unlucky given Neymar’s usual injury flare ups have come at a time when they have been playing in the quarter finals of the competition only to be missing him and getting dumped out of it.

This year seems very different. Many expected Borussia Dortmund to get the better of PSG, not so and PSG were able to knock the German team out and reach the last 8 of the competition. Now all eyes are on PSG, and yet that is when the Covid-19 really struck.

The good news is that football is back and the Champions League will resume in Lisbon, with all games played there in August. And what about PSG and Neymar, they have had lots of time off, can Neymar provide PSG with what they really want and need? What a send off it would be, if Neymar is to leave the club. But no win and he might find himself playing another season in Paris. Win and it is possible to think that PSG and Barcelona could come to an arrangement.

Forget about Barcelona breaking the bank to get him, that won’t happen. And football will be financially affected for years. True big money purchases are still going to be made between the big clubs, but we can and should expect transfers to drop significantly.

Right now Neymar seems a happy person and in a happy frame of mind, that couldn’t be said at the beginning of the season. What we do know is that the next two months will be dedicated to PSG. He has two cup finals to play and then the return of the Champions League- will the fire still be in his eyes?

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French Cup finals to go ahead and fans will be present as Ligue 1 announces new season details

Out of all the major European leagues only the French Ligue 1 was cancelled due to Coronavirus. The season had to end abruptly as it was agreed upon that it could not be completed in time. This said even though the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A have found a way.

So it will be to everyone’s surprise to see that the French football federation in line with government plans have announced that fans will be allowed to watch the two French cup finals that will take place in July.

As it stands fans will be allowed to any sporting event in France from July 11th, the maximum will be 5,000.

The irony of course is how the league season was ended so quickly whilst other major leagues tried to work through the obstacles to get their seasons finished- and some fans in France may feel rightly annoyed by that given that the cup finals- the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue (which is the final one to take place) will not only be played but played with some fans.

The idea in France is to start small at 5,000 in stadiums that hold at least 50,000, so 10% capacity. If that goes well there will be another review in August. The new French Ligue 1 season is due to kick off on August 22nd, which would be at least four weeks before England, Spain, Italy and Germany who will have to postpone the new season as their seasons won’t end until late July.

With the Champions League due to take place in the month of August this could mean that PSG won’t play a game until September if they go far in the competition.

The FFF will be hoping to increase capacity by 10% each month, if that is a success then stadums could be full again in France by March 2021. Though many games only averaged between 60-70% full so everything could be back to normal in Ligue 1 much sooner.

The news is certainly a twist given France’s direct approach to the pandemic, but certain fans will be very happy by it- at least the ones that get to attend the cup finals.

In the Coupe de France final PSG will play Saint Etienne and in the Coupe de la Ligue final PSG will play Lyon. Both matches are scheduled to take place at the Stade de France in Paris which holds 80,000 fans, so 5,000 would still feel very empty.

Certainly if PSG were to win both games it would give the club a nice boost and another two trophies. The dates for the finals are still being arranged but look likely to take place sometime in July.

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