Week 33 review: Mbappé stars as PSG seal title
Paris Saint-Germain finally wrapped up their eighth Ligue 1 Conforama title in Week 33, with Kylian Mbappé roaring back to form as Neymar Jr. made his long-awaited return for the capital club.
With second-place LOSC held to a goalless draw by Toulouse FC on Sunday afternoon, PSG were already French champions for the sixth time in seven seasons by the time they kicked off against AS Monaco at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night.
Mbappé on fire
Not that Thomas Tuchel's men rested on their laurels. Mbappé was at his effervescent best, scoring a hat-trick against his former employers to wrap up a 3-1 win whilst moving onto 30 goals for the season. He is the first French player to reach that tally since Jean-Pierre Papin for Olympique de Marseille in 1990, and the youngest of any nationality ever to do so.
"I'm happy the season isn't finished so I can score more," said the 20-year-old at full-time, full of focus. "We wanted to win the title and we stuttered a few times recently. This is good preparation for the cup final [against Stade Rennais FC on Saturday]. I want to chase every record."
Also positive for the capital club was the return of Neymar. The Brazil captain had been out since January with a metatarsal injury, but came through the second half unscathed after replacing Layvin Kurzawa at half-time.
Lille remain second, and favourites in joining PSG in qualifying automatically for next season's UEFA Champions League, but the chasing pack are keeping them honest, with closest pursuers Olympique Lyonnais, AS Saint-Etienne and Marseille each picking up wins over the weekend.
Lyon find their bite
Lyon were first up, beating Angers SCO 2-1 on Friday. The pressure had been beginning to mount on Le Gones, who had lost their previous two league games, and there was an audible sigh of relief to go with the ecstasy following first-half goals from Memphis Depay and Martin Terrier. Lucas Tousart scored an own goal late on but the win was never really in doubt.
"We needed to end our bad run and that's never easy," said coach Bruno Génésio at his post-match press conference. "I asked the players to run, to keep it simple and make themselves available. I also wanted to see a team united despite our difficulties and that's what I saw. I saw some really good things."
Saint-ering into Europe?
OL's Derby du Rhône rivals Saint-Etienne are just three points back in fourth after sealing their fourth win in five, beating Stade de Reims 2-0 at the Stade Auguste Delaune. European Cup finalists in 1976, Sainté's last continental sojourn took them to the last 32 of the UEFA Europe League in 2015/16, and coach Jean-Louis Gasset is refusing to get carried away.
"We have 56 points and we're among the six or seven clubs who are targeting Europe," he said, before turning his attention to the game. "A lot of teams have lost here and Lille only managed a draw. We knew we'd have to put in a great game in order to get the three points. We were in control from a technical standpoint and built from the back with no panic."
No Balotelli, no problem
Marseille were without the suspended Mario Balotelli at struggling EA Guingamp, meanwhile, but Rudi Garcia's men dispatched the Bretons with little fuss, Luiz Gustavo, Lucas Ocampos and Valère Germain finding the target in a 3-1 win.
"We controlled the game in the first half and were clinical," explained the OM coach. "That's important, especially away from home. Three goals away from home allowed us to watch in peace at the other results."
Guingamp's loss was SM Caen's gain. The Normandy club squeaked past Patrick Vieira's OGC Nice 1-0 at the Allianz Riviera. Alexander Djiku got the goal, but goalkeeper Brice Samba was the star of the show, making eight saves on the way to victory. Caen are now two points better off than Guingamp, but safety is not assured.
"We're aware that not everything's perfect," said coach Fabien Mercadal. "But the boys showed desire and showed that they want the club to survive. Now we play Dijon and Guingamp, the teams we're fighting against to stay up. It's important to have a good goalkeeper."
Dijon cut the mustard
Caen versus Dijon FCO is a veritable relegation six-pointer next Sunday, but Antoine Kombouaré's men will also bounce into that clash on a high after beating Paris's Coupe de France final dance partners Rennes 3-2. Les Rouges took the lead three times at the Stade Gaston Gérard, with Wesley Saïd's late strike ultimately enough for all three points.
Elsewhere, Montpellier Hérault SC remain within touching distance of the European places, their 3-1 win at Coupe de la Ligue winners RC Strasbourg Alsace - thanks in no small part to an Andy Delort brace - leaving them just three points back from Marseille, who are fifth.
Maya-be next time
In mid-table, Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as FC Nantes picked up their third consecutive home win with a 3-2 victory over Amiens SC, while Josh Maya became the first English player to score in Ligue 1 Conforama since Joe Cole in April 2012, but it was not enough for Girondins de Bordeaux, who were beaten 2-1 by Nîmes Olympique.