Paris (AFP) – Paris Saint-Germain are out of the Champions League and there is a danger that for once they will miss out on the French title too as they head into the weekend still trailing leaders Lille.
With three games remaining PSG are a point behind Lille, the possibility that Mauricio Pochettino could fail to deliver any major silverware in his first half-season in charge a real one.
That would not reflect well on Pochettino, especially as the man he replaced, Thomas Tuchel, has taken Chelsea to the Champions League final and the FA Cup final in little over three months at the London club.
Pochettino forged a reputation as one of the most talented coaches in football despite not winning any trophies at Espanyol, Southampton or Tottenham Hotspur.
When he lifted the Champions Trophy, the French equivalent of a Super Cup, in his third game with PSG in January, he credited Tuchel for the victory.
Yet if PSG fail to win Ligue 1 it will be seen as his responsibility, and as PSG again getting it wrong by deciding to sack a coach mid-season — the last time, in 2011/12, they were top when Antoine Kombouare was sacked in December and replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, only to finish second to Montpellier.
Nevertheless, PSG could also still end the campaign with a domestic double.
They visit Montpellier in the French Cup semi-finals next Wednesday and before that travel to Rennes on Sunday, by which time they will know the outcome of Lille’s game at Lens on Friday.
Pochettino will also hope they have got their Champions League semi-final defeat by Manchester City out of their system when they take to the field at Roazhon Park.
“Unlucky, disappointed, sad, but we have two competitions left to play. It’s difficult now to be positive but we must be positive and strong mentally,” Pochettino said in midweek.
PSG were without Kylian Mbappe due to injury against City and he will again be absent in Rennes as he serves a suspension.
This is the toughest remaining league game for the Parisians as they chase an eighth French title in nine seasons.
After Rennes they face Reims and Brest, hoping to take advantage of any slip-up by Lille.
“I think Paris will win their last three league games, so we will need to do the same if we want to stay top,” warned Lille coach Christophe Galtier.
Player to watch: Jeremy Doku
Still just 18, Doku was seen as one of the most exciting young attackers in Europe when he joined Rennes for a reported 26 million euros ($31.3m) from Anderlecht last summer. Already a full Belgian international, Doku did not have the easiest of starts but recently scored his first two Ligue 1 goals and is beginning to show why he is so highly rated.
According to Opta he has completed more dribbles than any other player in France this season, including Neymar, and he could hold the key to Rennes beating PSG on Sunday.
19 – Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan has kept the most clean sheets in Europe’s five leading leagues this season. He is reportedly on his way to AC Milan in the summer.
30 – The percentage of games Lyon have won without star man Memphis Depay in their starting line-up since the beginning of last season, according to Opta. He is suspended against Lorient on Saturday.
14 – Nantes have gone a club record 14 home games without winning. Failure to beat Bordeaux would all but condemn the eight-time champions to a bottom-three finish.
Lens v Lille (1900)
Nantes v Bordeaux (1100), Lyon v Lorient (1500)
Saint-Etienne v Marseille (1100), Angers v Dijon, Metz v Nimes, Nice v Brest, Strasbourg v Montpellier (all 1300), Reims v Monaco (1505), Rennes v Paris Saint-Germain (1900)
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