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Leagues: Ligue Un

PSG a point away from 10th French title as Champions League fight heats up


Paris (AFP) – Kylian Mbappe and Paris Saint-Germain are poised to clinch the Ligue 1 title this weekend when they require just a point at home to Lens, but behind them the race for France’s other Champions League places is intensifying.

PSG’s season will ultimately be best remembered for their exit from the Champions League in the last 16 following a remarkable collapse against Real Madrid, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side have been cruising towards the domestic title for months.

Already nine points clear by the end of September, the Qatar-owned club now have an advantage of 15 points over Marseille in second with just five games of the campaign remaining.

They could have been confirmed as champions for a record-equalling 10th time in their history on Wednesday, when Mbappe scored as they defeated Angers 3-0 away.

However, Marseille beat Nantes 3-2 at the same time and so PSG were forced to keep the celebratory champagne on ice.

This time it does not matter what their rivals do, as a point will suffice against seventh-placed Lens at the Parc des Princes, where PSG have won every league game this season with the exception of a solitary goalless draw with Nice in December.

“It would be an immense source of joy for me to be involved in winning the club’s 10th league title,” said Pochettino this week.

However, it remains to be seen how PSG supporters will respond to winning the league after certain elements of their fanbase opted to remain silent in recent home games in protest at the team’s European exit and at the club’s management.

Having missed out to Lille for the title last year, PSG have never looked like being caught this time, but behind them there is a fierce battle being waged for European qualification.

Marseille are six points clear of the chasing pack in second and are therefore well placed to take France’s only other automatic qualifying berth for next season’s Champions League.

After that Rennes, Strasbourg and Monaco are all level on points with Nice two points further adrift and Lens another point back.

Strasbourg beat Rennes in midweek to move level on points with the Brittany club, while Monaco defeated Cote d’Azur rivals Nice to claim a fifth straight win.

The principality side are hoping to at least match last season’s third-place finish, which gives access to the Champions League third qualifying round.

Fourth goes into the Europa League while fifth will play in next season’s Europa Conference League.

“If everyone stays focused and keeps their feet on the ground, good things will come to us,” said Monaco coach Philippe Clement, who took over halfway through a season which began with the team losing to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League play-offs.

Player to watch: Vanderson

The 20-year-old Brazilian full-back joined Monaco in January from Gremio and his introduction into the starting line-up playing further forward on the right wing has coincided with his team’s upturn in form.

Monaco have won five and lost just one of the eight league matches he has started. Last weekend he scored one and set up another as Clement’s side won 3-2 at Rennes, and on Wednesday it was his cross that led to Aleksandr Golovin’s winner against Nice.

Key stats

10 – PSG are set to win their 10th French title and equal the overall record for most titles held by Saint-Etienne, who were last champions in 1981 

113 – Kylian Mbappe has scored 113 Ligue 1 goals for PSG, the same number as Zlatan Ibrahimovic

79 – The number of goals conceded by Bordeaux. There are still five games to play, but since the year 2000 only once has a team finished a season having conceded more goals — Troyes let in 83 in 2015/16

Fixtures (times GMT)

Saturday

Lyon v Montpellier (1500), Saint-Etienne v Monaco (1700), Paris Saint-Germain v Lens (1900)

Sunday

Rennes v Lorient (1100), Clermont v Angers, Metz v Brest, Nantes v Bordeaux, Nice v Troyes (all 1300), Lille v Strasbourg (1505), Reims v Marseille (1845)

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