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Tension gets to Tuchel at crunch point in season for PSG


Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain are in their usual position on top of Ligue 1 but, with their Champions League hopes still in the balance, their coach Thomas Tuchel has been letting the tension get to him.

The German appeared particularly agitated as he spoke after PSG’s 1-0 win over RB Leipzig on Tuesday, a crucial victory in the context of their European campaign but one that came in another unconvincing performance from last season’s Champions League runners-up.

“You always ask me the same thing. If you have the balls to do that, why don’t you go into the dressing room and say it to the players,” an angry Tuchel said in response to one question about the quality of PSG’s display against the Germans.

“I am tired of always having to answer to these expectations.”

Tuchel’s exasperation is partly understandable, given PSG still have qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League in their hands and are two points clear at the top of Ligue 1 despite being plagued by injuries, suspensions and coronavirus infections this season.

The run to last season’s Champions League final also makes him a difficult man to sack, but he is out of contract after this campaign and any chance of him signing a new deal appears slim.

It needed a soft penalty converted by Neymar, and poor finishing from their opponents, for PSG to beat Leipzig, but they face Manchester United at Old Trafford next Wednesday and a defeat there could still leave them staring at a group-stage exit from the Champions League for the first time since the Qatari takeover of 2011.

Given the nature of their performances recently, it is not easy to imagine them winning that game, and their domestic displays could even offer a glimmer of hope to the teams below them.

The reigning champions lost 3-2 at Monaco last weekend and they are two points above second-placed Lille before hosting mid-table Bordeaux on Saturday.

Marco Verratti could get a run-out for Paris after injury with a view to the Italian featuring at Old Trafford, but the likes of Juan Bernat, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Julian Draxler are all still injured.

Player to watch: Boulaye Dia

The story goes that as a kid Dia was on his way to a trial at Saint-Etienne when his father’s car broke down, while Lyon rejected him for being too small.

He seemed to have given up on a football career as he worked as an electrician, while a trial in Wales did not work out. But Dia signed his first professional deal with Reims in 2018 and, having recently turned 24, he has developed into one of the stars of the Ligue 1 season so far.

Dia, who was born in France but recently made his international debut for Senegal, has eight goals in nine league games for Reims.

All of his goals have come away from home, and on Sunday he goes back to Lyon as a player now very much in the spotlight.

Key stats

3 – PSG have suffered three defeats in their first 11 Ligue 1 games this season, their most at this stage of a season since the Qatari takeover of 2011 that transformed the club.

50 – Neymar’s next Ligue 1 goal will be his 50th. He has so far scored 49 times in 57 Ligue 1 games for PSG. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is currently the quickest PSG player to get to 50, having done so in 59 matches.

13 – Marseille this week set a new record for the most consecutive defeats in the Champions League. Their 2-0 home loss to Porto made it 13 losses in a row stretching over three campaigns.

Fixtures (Kick-offs GMT)

Friday

Strasbourg v Rennes (2000)

Saturday

Marseille v Nantes (1600), Paris Saint-Germain v Bordeaux (2000)

Sunday

Lyon v Reims (1200), Lens v Angers, Lorient v Montpellier, Metz v Brest, Monaco v Nimes (all 1400), Nice v Dijon (1600), Saint-Etienne v Lille (2000)

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