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PSG out to extend lead at Saint-Etienne

Publish on 13/12/2019 at 10h30

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Paris Saint-Germain will have two games in hand over Olympique de Marseille - and at least a two-point cushion at the top of the table - when they travel to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard to take on AS Saint-Etienne on Sunday.

AS Saint-Etienne - Paris Saint Germain

The capital club are in intimidating form as well as being well-rested, with their postponed Week 15 clash with AS Monaco contributing to the near full-strength squad coach Thomas Tuchel can now draw upon.

He started each of Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappé and Mauri Icardi against Galatasary SK on Wednesday. All were on target as PSG routed the Turkish outfit 5-0 to conclude their UEFA Champions League Group A campaign with 16 of a possible 18 points.

Bridges built

Second-half substitute Edinson Cavani capped off the scoring with a late penalty, Neymar stepping aside to let the Uruguayan take it in what was a welcome mirror image of their spat in September 2017, when they argued over spot-kick duties during a 2-0 win over Olympique Lyonnais.

Whether Cavani has done enough to earn a start remains to be seen, but Tuchel was complimentary of the player who has scored 136 goals in 194 games for the club since signing from SSC Napoli in 2013 at his post-match press conference.

"It wouldn't have been possible to pick up 16 points or score 17 or only concede two if we hadn't played as a team," he said. "I'm convinced that these players can show the best of themselves again and again. Cavani? I've always said that I need him, but there are no words that can give as much confidence to an attacker as goals can."

Di Maria in the mix?

Angel Di Maria is back in training after a recent hamstring complaint to further add to Tuchel's options in the final third. Presnel Kimpembe and Ander Herrera are absent for the journey south, however.

Marseille will close the gap to the league leaders to two points if they can beat FC Metz on Saturday, but PSG are unbeaten in 13 games stretching back to November 2012 against Saint-Etienne, and will be confident of extending their run against a team still licking their wounds.

Rich history

Sainté have been Ligue 1 Conforama champions 10 times, twice more than PSG, but recent history has been less kind to the side who last won the French title in 1981. Claude Puel's side have lost two of their last three league games, and bowed out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday with a 1-0 loss to VfL Wolfsburg.

Captain Loïc Perrin and star goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier were among those rested for the trip to Germany, although Sergi Palencia's performance might mean Mathieu Debuchy's place in the team is under more threat than was previously the case.

Romain Hamouma (calf) and Jean-Eudes Aholou (groin) picked up knocks against Wolfsburg, joining a long injury list which already included the likes of Wahbi Khazri and William Saliba.

European chase

ASEE begin the day in eighth on 25 points - 14 worse off than PSG but only two behind Stade Rennais FC, who occupy the final European place as it stands - and Tuchel's opposite number Puel is not optimistic.

"[Hamouma and Aholou] are injured," he said. "These are two hard knocks. I don't know how string we can line up against PSG. Wolfsburg made us run hard but a match against PSG is something else. It's not going to be easy, especially with this run of fixtures."

Timothée Kolodziejczak's suspension doesn't make things much easier for Puel. With "Kolo" and Saliba missing, recent Cameroon cap Harold Moukoudi is likely to partner Perrin in a back four.

 

Possible teams

Saint-Etienne: Ruffier; Moukoudi, Fofana, Perrin (c); Debuchy, Camara, Youssouf, M'Vila, Trauco; Boudebouz, Bouanga

PSG: Navas; Meunier, Silva (c), Diallo, Bernat; Di Maria, Marquinhos, Verratti, Neymar; Mbappé, Icardi