Kylian Mbappé "has a smile on his face" but will take some time to get over his FIFA World Cup disappointment, says coach Christophe Galtier, as he prepares for Paris Saint-Germain's tricky trip to nearest challengers Lens on New Year's Day (kick-off 8:45pm).
Mbappé started Wednesday's 2-1 win over Strasbourg only some nine days after losing the FIFA World Cup final to Argentina on penalties. The France forward scored a match-winning spot-kick in injury time at the Parc des Princes to move to 13 league goals in just 15 appearances.
But despite everything going swimmingly at club level, the striker's international disappointment in Qatar is not likely to be quickly forgotten.
"I think he's going to take some time to get over the fact he didn't win a second World Cup. The fact that he came back quickly, showing such desire to lead the team to victory, is great. He's very dynamic, has a smile on his face and is very committed to his role: that of a player who is improving week after week and match after match," said Galtier, whose side are now a handsome seven points clear of Lens following the northerners' goalless draw at Nice on Thursday.
"We're managing to win games, but they're very often difficult. Against Strasbourg, for example, we snatched the win after struggling, which is a good scenario for a squad to go through. Wins are things that we'll have to fight to earn."
Hugo Ekitike took a blow to a knee in the win over Strasbourg and did not train with his teammates on Friday. The youngster is likely to be replaced by Pablo Sarabia alongside Mbappé, who is set to take a short post-World Cup break next week. Neymar, who was sent off in Wednesday's victory, will watch from the sidelines with Carlos Soler given the Brazilian's prompting role behind the front two as PSG seek to extend their unbeaten away-day run to 13 league matches.
"It's a great match-up to start the new year off with, in an extraordinary atmosphere and with our fans there. It'll be a free-flowing, full-blooded game," said Galtier, who will likely employ Nordi Mukiele as a makeshift left-back with Juan Bernat still sidelined. Lionel Messi is also missing as he continues his post-World Cup recovery.
"We're going to continue to perform well on the road, but Lens are formidable at home. They concede very few goals and are getting better with every season. It'll be a physical game, and my players are aware of how important it is."
WATCH: Mbappé secures win over Strasbourg
David Pereira da Costa could feature for the hosts despite a shoulder injury sustained at Nice, while Facundo Medina should play after shaking off an adductor problem that saw him removed prematurely from the fray on the Côte d'Azur. Alexis Claude-Maurice, who was unavailable to face his parent club due to a clause in his loan deal, will play with Lens aiming to close the gap on the league leaders with a club record-equalling ninth successive home win.
Despite an exceptional 2022, there will be no celebrations from Franck Haise's squad as the new year is ushered in with their focus laser-sharp on the task in hand.
"I think that's normal," said captain Seko Fofana. "I'm focussed on the game. I'm not thinking about New Year's Eve. My telephone will be off. I'm going to be able to sleep and think about the game. Everyone is professional. There's something at stake. We have to rest, prepare well and try to win it."
PSG: Donnarumma; Hakimi, Ramos, Marquinhos (c), Mukiele; Vitinha, Verratti, Danilo (or Ruiz); Soler; Sarabia, Mbappé
Lens: Samba; Medina, Danso, Gradit; Frankowski, Abdul Samed, Fofana (c), Onana, Machado; Sotoca, Openda.
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