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Pochettino says PSG have both eyes on Rennes revenge


Paris (AFP) – Even with a huge lead in Ligue 1 and the Champions League looming, Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino said Thursday his team has a basic motivation to beat Rennes – “revenge”.

With Real Madrid visiting Parc des Princes on Tuesday, PSG kick off the weekend’s Ligue 1 action at home to Rennes on Friday night.

It may be first against fifth, but the gulf is huge. PSG lead second-place Marseille by 13 points with 15 games to play. Rennes are a further six points back.

But Rennes were the last team to beat PSG in the league, winning 2-0 way back on October 3.

Pochettino said he wanted “sporting revenge” and taking it would be good for his team. 

“We need to play 100 per cent against a team that has beaten us,” Pochettino told a press conference. “The Champions League game is important but the most important is to give 100 per cent tomorrow.”

PSG crushed reigning champions Lille 5-1 last Sunday. Pochettino wants to maintain that form in their first home game since the latest round of Covid attendance restrictions were lifted on February 2. 

“Football is a game of emotions, when you have created those positive emotions it is much easier to prepare for and perform in the next game,” Pochettino said. “The healthiest way to prepare for the Champions League game is to win tomorrow.”

PSG are on course to win their domestic league for an eighth time in 10 seasons, but the best they have done in the Champions League is reach the final, once.

“It’s a competition everyone at this club dreams of,” Pochettino said.

Pochettino is easing several players back from injury.

Neymar and Sergio Ramos both trained on Thursday but will not play on Friday.

Neymar sprained his left ankle in late November.

“His progress is very good,” said Pochettino.  

Since his arrival in 2017, Neymar has missed five of his team’s eight Champions League last 16 appearances due to various injuries, including the double-header against Barcelona last season.

“All the great players want to play the big games. He has the experience and maturity to manage himself, and channel his energy, to arrive in the best conditions when he can play,” said Pochettino.

Nice, who slipped to third after losing at home to lowly Clermont last weekend, face Lyon.

Lyon might only be eighth but club president Jean-Michel Aulas made clear on Wednesday that he views the top three and a Champions league spot as their target.

“To finish on the podium we need to win.” he said on Wednesday.

One to watch: Pape Gueye

PSG will rest Abdou Diallo and Idrissa Gana Gueye, but elsewhere players who helped Senegal win a first Africa Cup of Nations could return. None will be more relieved than Pape Gueye, the Marseille midfielder who played the last 54 minutes of the final against Egypt. At the start of the tournament, he was suspended by FIFA in a dispute between Marseille and Watford over his 2020 transfer. The Court of Arbitration for Sport freed him to play until it heard his case. If he faces Metz, it will be his first club appearance since December 12.

Key stats

382 – Minutes since PSG last conceded at home, in the 68th minute of a Champions League game they led 3-0 against Bruges on Dec 7. That run does include a French Cup defeat on penalties to Nice. 

3 – Most goals scored in a league game by last-place Saint-Etienne this season. They did it last weekend as they won 3-1 at home to Montpellier and they did it in November at home to the team they visit on Sunday, Clermont.

Fixtures (GMT)

Friday

Paris Saint-Germain v Rennes (2000)

Saturday

Montpellier v Lille (1600), Lyon v Nice (2000)

Sunday

Monaco v Lorient (1200), Nantes v Reims, Clermont v Saint-Etienne, Brest v Troyes, Angers v Strasbourg (all 1400), Lens v Bordeaux (1605),  Metz v Marseille (1945)

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