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Crocodile hunters - PSG set sights on Nîmes

Publish on 22/02/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Paris Saint-Germain are bidding to cap a good week on and off the field when the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders play host to mid-table Nîmes Olympique at the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon.

Paris Saint-Germain  -  Nîmes Olympique

Thomas Tuchel's side have further extended their huge lead at the top of the table in the last week, following a 1-0 win at AS Saint-Etienne with a ruthless 5-1 victory at home to Montpellier Hérault SC on Wednesday. That put them a massive 15 points clear of second-placed LOSC, with a game in hand, before the northerners travelled to RC Strasbourg Alsace on Friday night.

PSG have won their last five games on the bounce and have claimed nine wins in their last 10 games in all competitions, while at home it is now 13 wins out of 13 in the league in the capital, with 47 goals scored and only five conceded.

All is rosy on the field just now, and there was a boost for the club off the pitch too on Thursday with the announcement of a lucrative new shirt sponsorship deal with the French hotel chain Accor. Paris will carry the logo of ALL, Accor's loyalty programme, on their shirts from next season in a deal that is believed to be worth considerably more financially than their long-standing agreement with Fly Emirates, which is not being renewed after this season.

In the meantime, Tuchel's focus is on getting a small squad through a busy schedule of fixtures ahead of the UEFA Champions League last 16, second leg at home to Manchester United on March 6. After the visit of Nîmes, Paris host Dijon FCO in the Coupe de France quarter-finals on Tuesday and then travel to SM Caen next weekend before they can turn their thoughts fully to Europe again.

Silva, Paredes, Meunier and Bernat back

There is hope that Edinson Cavani might be back fit in time for that match, while Neymar Jr. has returned to Brazil to continue treatment on his metatarsal injury. Meanwhile, Adrien Rabiot remains frozen out, and Lassana Diarra this week rescinded his contract with the club and announced his retirement.

At least Thomas Meunier and Juán Bernat will be back fit to face the Crocodiles, who PSG beat 4-2 at the Stade des Costières back in September, when Kylian Mbappé scored but was later sent off. Mbappé is currently fresh from scoring in each of PSG's last two outings, taking his tally to 20 in 19 Ligue 1 Conforama appearances, and 25 goals in all competitions.

Mbappé: No limits

"I don't set myself any limits. I try to score in every match. If I do that until the end of the season, I will end up with a nice little total. I just try to leave my mark on every game I play," he said after the Montpellier match.

Whether Tuchel thinks this might be a prudent moment to rest the 20-year-old France superstar remains to be seen, but this match will see Thiago Silva return after suspension and Leandro Paredes can come back in after being ineligible for the midweek game because he had not been signed when the fixture was initially supposed to be played in December.

For Nîmes, this is a first visit to the Parc des Princes in the top flight since October 1992, when they won 3-2 with Philippe Vercruysse, the former France international, scoring twice. However, nobody is expecting a repeat performance from a club with one of the smallest budgets in the top flight.

Bernard Blaquart's side travel north with the pressure off though, having taken seven points from a possible nine so far in February. They come into the weekend in 10th place in the table, closer to the European places than the relegation zone.

Already safe?

Last weekend they won 2-0 at home to Dijon FCO with Téji Savanier and Antonin Bobichon both scoring stunning long-range goals for the Crocodiles, leaving Blaquart to admit that his team are now as good as safe from the threat of relegation already having reached 36 points.

"Thirty-six points might be enough this year. It won't be enough every year, but perhaps this year it will and there are still plenty of matches left to get more points so our safety is almost assured," said the 61-year-old last week.

The visitors have defensive problems for the game, with Fethi Harek ruled out due to a hamstring problem, while Florian Miguel (back) and on-loan Stade Rennais FC wide man Faitout Maouassa (adductor) are both doubts.

Probable teams

Paris SG: Aréola; Dagba, Silva (c), Kimpembe, Bernat; Verratti, Paredes; Di María, Draxler, Diaby; Choupo-Moting

Nîmes: Bernardoni; Alakouch, Briançon (c), Landre, Maouassa; Ferri, Savanier, Bobichon; Thioub, Ripart, Bouanga