PSG entertain Lorient with Neymar and Messi in the spotlight

An old fashioned centime for the thoughts of the executives running Paris Saint-Germain. Twelve points clear in the division with nine games to go and the talk is: crisis.

Only at PSG could such domestic supremacy be rewired as lumpen.

A couple of months from the end of the 2021/2022 season and the chatter at PSG is … chop, change and cheerlessness.

Lorient enter the psychodrama of the Parc des Princes on Sunday night. How the Bretons would relish such first world problems.

Christophe Pélissier’s side have only won two games on their travels this season and have managed five draws. Eleven out of a possible 45 points.

And a mere 28 in total after 29 games to hover one point above the relegation play-off place. The wintry blasts of Ligue 2 swirl ominously for them. Voilà crisis.

“Each match for us will be a moment of truth,” said Pélissier ahead of Sunday night’s game.

“Each match will have its complications during the run-in until the end of the season.”

Plissier, of course, was highlighting his own team’s travails. But the comments could also apply to the perma-trauma at PSG where the uberbosses appear to derive little joy from Ligue 1.

The monied hosts should be licking their lips at the prospect of three easy pieces and a step closer to an eighth domestic crown in 10 years.

But their misery is positively Shakespearean. Theirs is woe, woe and thrice woe for they want the Champions League – European club football’s most prestigious bauble.

Such silver shines so brightly it blinds the achievements in Ligue 1 to the point of self-defeat.

The latest attempt to obtain the Champions League trophy was obliterated at the Santiago Bernabeu from a position of strength.

PSG were 2-0 up on aggregate and then Karim Benzema hit a hat trick to send Real Madrid through to the quarter-final and the PSG entity away to lick its wounds and set about deep-state navel gazing.

What has been discovered inside? Lionel Messi – last summer’s star acquisition – was comprehensively booed on 13 March during the first game at the Parc des Princes after the debacle.

After such ignominy against Bordeaux, the Argentine was absent due to illness for the 3-0 defeat at Monaco on 20 March.

And should he feature on Sunday night, his reception will be one of the intriguing subplots of the occasion. Will fans jeer Neymar as well? 

The 30-year-old Brazilian was also deemed to have been an under-performer during the defeat to Madrid.

What is a poor coach to do? Two of the best footballers on the planet either side of Kylian Mbappé – arguably even better than the South Americans – and still no big prize.

Mauricio Pochettino was not hired as Thomas Tuchel’s replacement to orchestrate such a fiasco. He was supposed to harness the troika’s wonderfulness.

Rumours are swirling that the 50-year-old Argentine might head off to the relative calm of Manchester United for next season. 

But the new boss in Paris will face the same issues of an unbalanced side that has relied on Mbappé’s potency. 

If the France international does not take his lustrous talents off to Real Madrid, the same sclerosis. Neymar, Messi and Mbappé did not work in 2021/2022.

How might it work in 2022/23 with another coach?
That soap opera could start from the summer. For the moment though it’s the Pochettino show.

And he was upbeat and affirmative ahead of the clash with Lorient.

“The break for internationals gave the players a change of environment and a different kind of feeling,” he insisted.

“Now they have come back and I think we have a group with better morale … much better than the week after the game against Monaco.

“Against Lorient, we think we will be ready. It will be important to win and to find that good morale to finish the season.”

It should be a waltz to the end. With no Champions League to fret about, the players can focus on the only winnable trophy.

If they see off Marseille in what has been dubbed Le Classique on 17 April, PSG should be home and dry.

But before then the home atmosphere is likely to be hot and feverish.

The diehard fan groups are foaming. The Collectif Ultras Paris want club president Nasser al-Khelaifi to resign while others such as the Liberté pour les abonnés and Le Combat Continue have switched their ardour to the women’s team.

A stadium pockmarked by empty seats for a team on the way to the title and threats of a poor reception for the players. And these same fans want Mbappé to resist the lure of Madrid?

“We’ve all got to stick together, that’s the most important thing now,” said Pochettino.

“The goal is to lift a 10th title for PSG and with the fans behind us it will be that much easier.

“Disappointments and bad feelings have got to be put aside,” he added.

A reasonable plea but probably a futile hope. A hard core of supporters appear to have lost the dimensions of football reality: lashings of money help but the sums do not guarantee the Champions League.

And then how many of the malcontents will boast in years to come: ‘I went to see PSG and booed Messi and Neymar’?

The Ligue 1 crown is – barring a meltdown more spectacular than the one in Madrid – quite near.

At any other club the prospect of its advent would unleash unalloyed joy.

To the delight of rival fans, such lyrical happiness for PSG appears to reside in a galaxy far, far away.

Source: Modern Ghana