Julian Draxler believes Paris Saint-Germain are yet to hit top form this season as the league leaders prepare to head south to face Montpellier Hérault SC on Saturday.
Montpellier Hérault SC - Paris Saint-Germain
PSG hold a five-point lead at the top of the table following their 2-0 win at home to FC Nantes on Wednesday night, and the defending French champions have a game in hand on second-placed Olympique de Marseille.
While OM have had to string together a run of five successive victories just to get within sight of their arch-rivals, PSG are leading the charge despite having suffered a number of injuries to key players this term, and Marquinhos, Marco Verrati, Ander Herrera and Edinson Cavani all miss the trip south for a variety of reasons.
The Nantes match was the first league game Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappé — both of whom scored — have started together this season leaving Draxler, who has only just returned to the side after a spell in the treatment room himself, to conclude that the team will improve as they play with each other more often.
"You're never at your best when a new season starts. And in my opinion, we're still not there yet. Some people have been injured and out for some time, and are still not 100%. The coach has had to adapt a lot to those absences," the Germany international told his club's official website. "We have some big games after Christmas, and we hope the injuries are behind us. I prefer to have them in the first half of the season to be at our best in January."
They will need to step up in class if they are to secure what would be a fourth successive league win when they visit the home of the 2011/12 champions. Montpellier have lost just seven of their 27 league encounters at home to PSG, and came from 2-1 down to win 3-2 with two goals in the last ten minutes when they met last season.
"I'm starting to really get to know the teams, their style of play, the stadiums...It's always difficult at Montpellier," said Draxler, who joined PSG from Wolfsburg in January 2017. "We've had some problems in recent years. I know it's difficult to play there, but it's another chance for us to show that we can play games in difficult stadiums too. Let's hope everything comes together for us to put in a great performance."
Montpellier — on current form — will surely make life difficult for a PSG side that faces a hectic schedule either side of the painfully short winter break. Michel Der Zakarian's side have lost just two of their last 13 outings in all competitions, and come into Week 17 in sixth place and only two points shy of third-placed Girondins de Bordeaux.
After missing the opening nine matches of the season through injury, summer signing Téji Savanier is starting to show the sort of form that made him the division's top goal-provider with Nîmes Olympique last term, and he found the net for the second time in four league games in the midweek draw at Dijon.
"I am disappointed with the result, even though it could have gone either way at the end," said Der Zakarian, whose side were pegged back by a late equaliser. "There were too many discrepancies between our first and second half. You don't win the game at half-time. We didn't play right after the break. That's our problem this season. We're having trouble delivering a full match. This is what allowed Dijon to come back."
Montpellier: Rulli - Mendes, Hilton (c), Congré - Souquet, Le Tallec, Chotard, Savanier, Oyongo - Laborde, Delort
PSG: Navas - Meunier, Thiago Silva (c), Diallo, Bernat - Gueye, Paredes, Draxler - Di Maria, Mbappé, Neymar