PSG out for points and reassurance in Brest
By I. Holyman
Paris Saint-Germain will seek to strenghthen their hold on top spot in Ligue 1 Conforama and recover from last week's stumble when they take on Stade Brestois 29 on Saturday.
Stade Brestois 29 - Paris Saint-Germain
PSG have a seven-point lead at the top of the table, but were fortunate not to see the chasing pack make significant inroads into their advantage as they slipped to a shock 2-1 defeat at Dijon FCO last time out.
It means that, for all their superstars, the league leaders have lost three of their opening 12 games in a league season for the first time since before Qatar Sport Investments revolutionised the club with their takeover in 2011.
"It's when you're not getting stuck into tackles, the physical battle," said Brazil international Marquinhos to explain the surprise loss the reigning French champions suffered in Burgundy. "We have quality, but we were lacking a lot out there. We can't keep playing this way."
WATCH: PSG come unstuck at Dijon
"Everyone was saying that were were in a different league, that it's easy for us to score three, four or five goals, and this is the result," added coach Thomas Tuchel. "Now we have to start over again and improve. If we can do that, it'll be good."
A 1-0 victory against Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday only partially redressed the balance, though crucially did clinch PSG's spot in the knockout stages of the competition with two games to spare.
Navas spot on
The only goal of the game came from Mauro Icardi, whose burgeoning understanding with Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappé is bearing fruit. However, Tuchel's men were also indebted to a penalty save from Keylor Navas — criticised after the Dijon game — for the victory that took them through.
"The important thing is that hard work pays off. We work hard every day for these moments. Brugge worked very hard, like we saw them do in the other group games. The main thing is that we won tonight. We are very happy," said Di Maria, who has been involved in 24 league goals in 2019, a tally bettered only by the phenomenal Mbappé.
"Well done Keylor Navas! His penalty save gave us a lot of confidence and he helped us avoid the draw. We are going to keep working hard to play well and try and win matches. We are not focusing on the standings, but trying to play as well as possible."
WATCH: PSG's last visit to Brest
While the Dijon loss raises questions about PSG's ability to lift themselves against the less glamourous teams in the division, their record in Brittany does suggest anything less than an away win is unlikely.
PSG have not lost to Brest in their last 16 league meetings and they triumphed 3-0 on their last visit to the Stade Francis Le Ble in a game in which they were captained by David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the scoresheet.
On the positive side for the hosts, Brest are — along with LOSC Lille — the only side in the division yet to lose at home this season, and coach Olivier Dall'Oglio is aware that though his team face a wounded beast, PSG are wounded for a reason.
"It's perhaps not the best time to come up against them because they're a little frustrated and annoyed," acknowledged the ex-Dijon coach. "We have to be up to the challenge. We're a newly promoted side up against the league leaders, but everything is possible, of course, even if they are far superior to us."
Brest: Larsonneur - Belaud (c), Chardonnet, Castelletto, Baal - Belkebla, Diallo, Lasne - Grandsir, Mendy, Court
PSG: Navas - Dagba, Thiago Silva (c), Kimpembé, Bernat - Verratti, Marquinhos, Gueye - Di Maria, Icardi, Mbappé