Auxerre-PSG preview: Title in sight for Paris
AJ Auxerre – Paris Saint-Germain Sunday at 2045 CET (1845 GMT)
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The second half of the season has not been plain sailing for PSG but they are almost across the finish line now as they aim to retain the Ligue 1 Uber Eats crown and celebrate silverware after a campaign marked by more European disappointment and an early exit from the Coupe de France.
Christophe Galtier’s men ended last weekend six points clear of closest challengers RC Lens with three matches remaining. That means a Lens win away to FC Lorient a little earlier on Sunday will deny the Parisians the chance to officially clinch the title in Round 36. However, a Lens slip-up in Brittany will mean PSG can become champions with a win when they take to the field in Auxerre.
Should Lens lose and Olympique de Marseille fail to win against LOSC Lille on Saturday, a draw will be enough for Paris to secure the title. But even if Lens win their game, victory for PSG would leave them still six points ahead with six points to play for, and their goal difference is so superior that they would be able to start celebrating.
There have been points in 2023 when it looked like PSG could be pipped to the title, with the Qatar-owned club losing six of their 19 league outings in the calendar year while also going out of the UEFA Champions League in the last 16 to Bayern Munich and the French Cup at the same stage to Marseille.
Watch: PSG outclass Ajaccio
‘Desire to be champions’
PSG have taken fewer points than both Marseille and Lens since the turn of the year, but ultimately their form prior to the World Cup meant it was always going to be difficult for anyone to stop them claiming another championship and moving ahead of the record of 10 titles set by AS Saint-Etienne in 1981.
The capital club won 14 and drew two of their first 16 league games this season, scoring 45 goals in the process. They scored three goals or more in eight different Ligue 1 games prior to the World Cup, including in a 5-0 demolition of Auxerre in their final outing before the season was interrupted.
There was an identical outcome last weekend, when Paris crushed AC Ajaccio 5-0 at the Parc des Princes with Kylian Mbappé scoring twice to move onto 26 league goals for the campaign. For all their recent troubles, that was a fifth win in their last six matches.
“We have had a difficult period, especially at home. There have been mitigating circumstances for our below-par performances, although that does not excuse them. But I can see the desire the players have to be champions of France. Lens are not giving up and we are still within reach for them. One slip-up could put us under pressure,” Galtier said after beating Ajaccio.
PSG certainly should not expect any favours from Auxerre, the 1996 French champions who are scrapping to avoid relegation in their first season back in the top flight after a decade away. Christophe Pélissier’s team ended last weekend one point clear of FC Nantes in 17th spot with three games left.
Watch: Auxerre beaten by Brest
Auxerre look to upset the odds
It was always going to be a long, hard campaign for Auxerre and they spent much of it in the drop zone before an upturn in results in the early spring raised hopes that they could survive. AJA lost just once in 11 league games from early February to late April, with five wins in that time.
That was after Auxerre won just three of their first 22 matches. However, they have failed to win in four games now since beating Nantes 2-1 on April 16. Last weekend they rarely looked like scoring in a 1-0 defeat away to Stade Brestois 29. Auxerre’s home form does provide some cause for optimism as they prepare to finish the season by welcoming Paris and Lens to the Abbé-Deschamps either side of a trip to Toulouse – Pélissier’s men are unbeaten in seven in front of their own fans in the league.
“There are three matches left. Football is not mathematics. Everyone is looking at the fixtures we have left and saying we are going down to Ligue 2, so it is up to us to upset the odds,” Pélissier said after the Brest defeat.
Auxerre will hope to have M’Baye Niang – their joint-top scorer this season in all competitions with six goals – back after he missed last week’s game. Achraf Hakimi is suspended for Paris after being sent off against Ajaccio.
Auxerre: Radu; Raveloson, Jeanvier, Jubal, Isaak Touré, Mensah; Birama Touré (c), Massengo; Hein; Niang, Da Costa
Paris SG: Donnarumma; Danilo Pereira, Marquinhos (c), Ramos; Zaïre-Emery, Ruiz, Verratti, Bernat; Messi, Ekitiké, Mbappé
>> FOCUS: Auxerre’s Isaak Touré ready for Messi, Mbappé?