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Neymar ‘well worth the money’ PSG spent on him – Thomas Meunier


Neymar and Edinson Cavani’s goals late in the second half earned all three points for PSG in a home win over Troyes.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain right back Thomas Meunier hailed teammate Neymar and declared him “worth the money spent on him” after he inspired the lacklustre Ligue 1 leaders to a 2-0 home win over Troyes on Wednesday.

The Brazil international scored the opener and assisted Edinson Cavani for the second at Parc des Princes as Unai Emery’s men moved 10 points clear at the summit of Le Championnat.

Speaking after the final whistle in the mixed zone, Meunier praised Neymar and recognised his key role in the hard-fought victory and in the team since his world-record €222 million move from Barcelona this summer.

“I think that we ought to thank him after this,” the Belgium international told journalists. “Some will say that it was not the best performance of his career but he is always decisive.

“He causes a great deal of panic [for opponents]. Yeah, he is well worth the money spent on him.”

Neymar led PSG to victory over Troyes on Wednesday night.

Thiago Silva captained PSG for the 200th time against Troyes and the Brazil international was impressed by Neymar leaving the ball for Edinson Cavani to take a first-half penalty after everything that has been said recently about the pair’s relationship.

“I have not spoken about this with him,” said Silva. “I know my little brother — he has gone through a lot of difficult moments in his career.

“There has been a lot of confusion and there has been a lot said about these penalties. Neymar showed very good attitude here.

“He gave Edinson the ball — unfortunately, Edinson did not score.”

Silva, who is 33 and has a contract until 2020 after extending it almost 12 months ago is keen to play past that date after wearing the armband for the 200th time.

The former AC Milan wants to stay on at Parc des Princes, especially if the current squad remains relatively intact, and he reserved special praise for PSG chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi and former coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“I am very happy,” Silva said. “I hope that I can stay here for much longer. Especially with this current group — it is special.

“It is wonderful to wear this shirt. I would like to thank my president and especially Carlo [Ancelotti], who gave me the opportunity to wear the armband.”

As Marquinhos was rested for the Troyes success, Silva may well find himself handed a breather when PSG take on Strasbourg at Stade de la Meinau on Saturday ahead of next week’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in Germany.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Suspended Marcelo Bielsa did not attend Lille meeting – lawyer


Marcelo Bielsa will make his case to the LFP next month.

Suspended Lille coach Marcelo Bielsa did not attend a meeting with club officials on Wednesday as part of his on-going dispute with the Ligue 1 side.

Bielsa was provisionally suspended last week after Lille lost patience with the Argentine coach, who they only appointed on a two-year deal last summer, with the side stuck in the French top-flight’s relegation zone.

As part of the procedure laid down in French law, Bielsa had been scheduled to meet club officials on Wednesday, the day after the former Athletic Bilbao and Chile boss had called on the French Football League (LFP) to rule Lille had been entirely to blame for his removal.

Bielsa did not, however, attend the meeting, and his lawyer explained that they will make their case to the LFP next month.

“There was no reason to go,” his lawyer, Carlo Brusa, said of Wednesday’s meeting. “The prevailing authority is the LFP’s Disciplinary Commission, according to the professional football charter.

“On 12 December, we’ll be there to ensure Mr Bielsa’s rights are respected. We have asked that my client’s contract be terminated with LOSC exclusively at fault.”

If the LFP rule in Bielsa’s favour, Lille would be obliged to pay up the remaining months of his contract, which French media have estimated would cost the club €14-16 million.

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman



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Neymar Sr. says it is too early to discuss Real Madrid move


Ale Moreno weighs in on Lionel Messi‘s assertions that Barca are better balanced and stronger defensively without Neymar.

Neymar’s father has said it is too early to discuss the prospect of his son joining Real Madrid but stressed that there are no current plans to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar Jr. joined PSG from Barcelona in a €222 million deal in the summer but there has been speculation that the 25-year-old has not settled at the Parc des Princes.

Catalan outlet Mundo Deportivo reported last month that Madrid president Florentino Perez remained in contact with Neymar’s camp with a view to a potential move, while Sergio Ramos and Casemiro have both said they would welcome the Brazil international at the Bernabeu. 

Neymar Sr. told Fox Sports in Brazil that there are no plans for the forward to leave PSG at this stage but stopped short of ruling out a move to Madrid.

“Things change so much, you can never be sure of anything,” Neymar Sr. said.

“At the moment we are not thinking about leaving PSG. To respond to this question is to feed something which is impossible. I cannot talk about what might happen in five or six years.

“He has a long contract with PSG and has just arrived. He has been here for three months and people are talking about him leaving. It is difficult to respond to this type of thing.”

Neymar Jr. has contributed 14 goals and 10 assists in his first 15 games as Unai Emery’s side have moved top of both their Champions League group and the Ligue 1 table.

However, an on-pitch disagreement over penalty duties with teammate Edinson Cavani sparked rumours over dressing-room issues, although Neymar Jr. strongly denied suggestions he is unhappy earlier this month. 

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



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PSG boss Unai Emery on Troyes win – ‘It was a good challenge for us’


Neymar and Edinson Cavani‘s goals late in the second half earned all three points for PSG in a home win over Troyes.
Neymar’s left-footed strike from distance got PSG on the board against Troyes.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery declared his happiness at his team’s performance from an organisational point of view in the 2-0 home win over Troyes in Ligue 1 on Wednesday.

The French capital outfit left it late but Neymar and Edinson Cavani goals were the difference at Parc des Princes.

Speaking after the final whistle, Emery declared himself satisfied that ultimately the hosts’ quality shone through.

“We were up against a side that defended very well,” Emery said. “They caused us plenty of problems.

“It was a good challenge for us — we are always looking to improve. Winning matches easily can sometimes lead to false sense of security.

“Today we were tactically smart. We showed patience. We started well but just could not find that final ball. We had to answer the challenge and we did that in the end.”

Cavani’s goal means that he now has 17 from the first 15 matches in Le Championnat this season, the first time that has been done since Olympique de Marseille’s Josip Skoblar back in 1970-71.

The Uruguay international acknowledged Troyes’ disciplined and organised display but felt a rotated PSG side still merited all three points.

“The most important thing was to win this match,” Cavani said. “We have extended our lead at the top of the table.

“It was a very tough game because Troyes were tactically perfect. It is a great win for us that will help us improve.

“The entire squad is ready to do their bit for the team but it is also normal that certain players lack a bit of rhythm when you are not playing regularly.”

Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp was one of those fringe players lacking a bit of match fitness, but he still kept a clean sheet and made a few impressive saves in the process.

“I was very happy to be back on the pitch but the most important thing was that the team won,” the Germany international said. “It was a very difficult match.

“Troyes defended very deep and very well. It was not easy to find a way through but in the end, our attacking quality won the day.

“It is an important result. Now we have a 10-point lead over Marseille in second place.”

Giovani Lo Celso also got a chance to impress in midfield and although the combination of him, Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore did not work that well, the Argentina international was thankful for his chance.

“It was a really hard-fought win over a side that afforded us very little space,” Lo Celso said. “They had some very quick players in attack so we had to be careful.

“We did not manage to score early and the longer it went on, the harder it got. We opened the scoring with a beautiful goal.

“The most important thing is that the team won. I am one of the players knocking on the door for a starting role. I was lucky enough to play tonight and I tried to give my best for the team.”

Next up for PSG is a trip to Strasbourg, where Emery is expected to rotate his squad again before Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League next week.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Mariano Diaz: In-form Lyon forward says no Real Madrid buyback clause


Mariano Diaz has starred for Lyon since his arrival.

In-form Lyon forward Mariano Diaz has denied he could be set for a quick return to his former club Real Madrid.

Mariano has scored 11 goals in 18 games for the Ligue 1 club, who he joined for €8 million in the summer.

With Madrid forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema having had mixed starts to the season, coach Zinedine Zidane has not ruled out a move for a reinforcement.

But speaking at a news conference, Mariano said the deal that took him to France had not included a buy-back clause.

“I signed a five-year contract without a clause,” he said. “Lyon have all my rights and I am very happy to be here, and to score goals for my club.

“It was a great opportunity to sign for Lyon, and [that is] something I realise every day. I have chosen well and I hope things keep going like this.”

Mariano had been way down the pecking order at Madrid last season, and said earlier this month that Zidane had advised him to look for more playing time elsewhere.

His fine form in France has led to speculation that he could be called up by Spain for next summer’s World Cup finals.

He is eligible to represent them despite being born in Dominican Republic.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



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Lille ‘respecting procedures’ over suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa


Lille manager Marcelo Bielsa only arrived at the Ligue 1 club in the summer.

Lille have said they “respected and will respect the applicable procedures” on ending suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa’s tenure.

Bielsa is due to meet Lille officials on Wednesday as part of the procedure laid down by French law that is likely to see him relieved of the role he took on full-time in the summer.

The former Argentina and Chile coach was provisionally suspended last week after a disastrous start to the season left Lille second from bottom of Ligue 1 after 14 games.

After spending around €60 million over the summer to build the squad Bielsa wanted, the club’s new owners lost patience with their coach.

He responded on Tuesday by asking the French Football League (LFP) to look into the matter and placing the blame on Lille.

The club, who reports claim are seeking to avoid paying the estimated €14-16 million required to pay off the remaining 18 months of Bielsa’s contract, said on Tuesday that they “owe it to ourselves to make certain precisions regarding the ongoing procedure.”

A statement said: “LOSC and its directors would like to confirm they have respected and will respect the applicable rules and procedures in this matter.”

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman



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Neymar illuminates gloomy Parisian night by leading PSG to win vs. Troyes


Neymar and Edinson Cavani’s goals late in the second half earned all three points for PSG in a home win over Troyes.

PARIS — Neymar’s brilliance was the difference as Paris Saint-Germain left it late to take all three points in a 2-0 win over Troyes on Wednesday. The Brazilian superstar broke the deadlock at Parc des Princes with a lovely left-footed effort from distance after 73 minutes and unselfishly teed up strike partner Edinson Cavani for a late second.

Positives

Without Neymar, PSG may well have failed to break Troyes’ resistance. The former Barcelona man was the hosts’ best player by far and illuminated the gloomy Parisian night with a goal and an assist, as well as some trick and flicks to keep the supporters warm throughout an otherwise tedious encounter.

Aside from Neymar, the result was the most important thing. Unai Emery was able to rotate many of his regular starters and Les Parisiens still came away with all three points despite not being at their collective best.

However, if Neymar made the difference in attack, then Kevin Trapp definitely made a big contribution at the back. The Germany international made two very good saves to keep Troyes at bay and was otherwise solid.

Negatives

Although it was important to rotate many of his regular starters, Emery’s choices largely failed. The midfield three of Marco Verratti, Javier Pastore and Giovani Lo Celso was horrible, while Angel Di Maria played like a man who knows his time with the capital club is rapidly coming to an end.

The other big negative was the awful atmosphere inside Parc des Princes. PSG’s ultras bring so much life to even the most mundane of matches that a rare game without them was a stark reminder of what they bring to the table. Aside from the empty seats because of the stand closure inflicted on them by the league, the eerie ambiance created by the lack of noise must have unnerved the players a bit.

Manager rating out of 10

6 — Ultimately, Emery’s starting XI and substitutions got the job done. However, it was far from convincing and some of the Spaniard’s rotation decisions backfired.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Kevin Trapp, 7 — Given a rare chance to impress in place of Alphonse Areola, the German shot stopper grabbed it with both hands — literally — and pulled off a few impressive reflex saves to keep Troyes out.

DF Thomas Meunier, 5 — The Belgium international replaced Dani Alves in the starting XI but produced one of his worst performances of the season and should not expect to put the Brazilian under too much pressure with that sort of outing.

DF Thiago Silva, 6 — The captain was solid enough at the heart of the defence but was not required to be too commanding.

DF Presnel Kimpembe, 6 — The youth academy graduate was calm alongside Silva but like his Brazilian teammate, was not required to work too hard over the 90 minutes.

Neymar
Neymar led PSG to a 2-0 win over Troyes on Wednesday by providing a goal and an assist.

DF Layvin Kurzawa, 4 — The France international kept his place over Yuri Berchiche and perhaps that was a mistake from Emery as Kurzawa produced the latest in a string of underwhelming displays.

MF Marco Verratti, 6 — The Italy international combined with Pastore and Lo Celso, not to mention played in a deep-lying role, did not work at all. Once Adrien Rabiot was introduced, though, the Azzurri star was a lot more at ease.

MF Javier Pastore, 5 — The Argentina international has complained recently about his lack of regular starts but on the evidence, should keep quiet, wait for his next opportunity and then actually do something with it.

MF Giovani Lo Celso, 5 — The promising Argentinian tried hard to be influential but for one reason or another, the combination of him, Verratti and Pastore was a lamentable one. He will probably have to wait a while for another opportunity like that to impress.

FW Angel Di Maria, 4 — The Argentina international played like a man who feels insulted by his drop in status and wants to show it at every possible moment. El Fideo clearly felt above playing against the likes of Troyes, while superstar Neymar put him to shame by actually taking Jean-Louis Garcia’s men seriously.

FW Edinson Cavani, 5 — It was not the Uruguay international’s best match in front of goal but he still finished with one — thanks to Neymar — and has chipped away at Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s all-time club record, while also becoming the first player since Josip Skoblar back in 1970-71 to score 17 times from 15 matches. Despite all of that, El Matador will be hurting that Mamadou Samassa saved his first-half penalty — the Troyes goalkeeper was well off his line — but at the same time touched by the supporters’ desire to see him take the spot kick he had won ahead of Neymar.

FW Neymar, 8 — In a throwback to the Ibrahimovic era, the Brazilian delivered a talismanic performance. Not only did he score one goal and tee up another, he shone brightest for PSG over the 90 minutes. The hosts’ No. 10 also showed maturity to listen to the Parc des Princes crowd when they got behind Cavani for the penalty — even though he clearly wanted it for himself.

Substitutes

FW Kylian Mbappe, 6 — Sent on in place of Di Maria after 69 minutes, the France international injected some much-needed pace and directness.

MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 — Once the Frenchman replaced Lo Celso for the final 21 minutes, the midfield took on greater structure.

MF Christopher Nkunku, NR — The youth academy graduate needed more than the three minutes he got in place of Pastore but still had the chance to contribute in attack but wasted the moment.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Steve Mandanda: I may have kicked Marseille fan like Patrice Evra too


Marseille players were involved in ugly scenes with fans ahead of their Europa League match with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal.
Shaka Hislop says Patrice Evra’s lengthy seven month ban is warranted, but understands the frustrations he faced.

Marseille captain Steve Mandanda has suggested to beIN SPORTS that he too might have kung-fu kicked an abusive fan like Patrice Evra, telling his former teammate he has no reason to apologise for losing his cool.

Evra’s contract with Marseille was terminated earlier this month after he was banned until the end of the season by UEFA having aimed a head-high kick at one of his club’s fans ahead of the Europa League tie at Guimaraes. The former France international claimed the supporter had been abusing him during the warm-up.

Mandanda, who has played alongside Evra for both club and country, did not condone the defender’s actions, but hinted he too might have reacted in a similarly violent fashion.

“He’s not had the chance to talk to the squad, but I know he’s going to do it. He told me on the phone and he’s counting on coming and saying goodbye. He’ll do it,” Mandanda said.

Patrice Evra had his Marseille contract terminated after he aimed a kick at one of the club’s supporters.

“Honestly, he surely has regrets. I put myself in his position, but I don’t defend it because you mustn’t do that.

“But I’m not certain I would have reacted any differently. We’re only human.

“At a certain time, there are reactions, things you don’t necessarily control. I don’t think he has to apologise for that.”

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman



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Paris Saint-Germain vs. Troyes – Football Match Report – November 29, 2017


Neymar‘s fine strike helped Paris St Germain secure a 2-0 win over Troyes to move 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1.

Both Lyon, who lost at relegation-battlers Lille, and Monaco, beaten away by Nantes, had failed to make up any ground in Wednesday’s earlier kick-offs.

It looked set to be a frustrating night for Unai Emery’s men as Troyes, who saw a goal ruled out for offside, produced an organised display at Parc des Princes before Edinson Cavani had his penalty saved.

Neymar, though, continued to live up to his world-record transfer fee when the Brazil forward lashed in a low, angled effort from just outside the box to finally break the deadlock on 73 minutes, before Cavani added a late second.

PSG, who had won away at champions Monaco over the weekend, started brightly.

Javier Pastore’s shot was blocked before Cavani fired over after being played in by a quickly-taken free kick.

Troyes just about cleared their lines after Angel Di Maria had raced clear, but was closed down by the Troyes keeper before Cavani’s pass failed to pick out Neymar with the goal unguarded.

The visitors, looking to build on the 3-0 win over Angers and keep moving up the table, almost snatched a shock goal after half an hour when Samuel Grandsir got clear to force a good reaction stop from Kevin Trapp.

When Grandsir did have the ball in the net soon afterwards with a close-range finish, the goal was ruled out for offside in the build-up.

PSG had the chance to take the lead five minutes before half-time when Cavani was tugged back by Karim Azamoum and fell to the floor.

However, goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa guessed right to make a fine low save as Troyes went into the break on level terms.

PSG continued to probe after the restart, but were again left unrewarded as Neymar flashed a 20-yard effort wide.

The Brazilian, though, managed to breakthrough in the 73rd minute when picking the ball up on the left, some 25 yards out, before powering forward and unleashing an angled drive across the keeper and into the far corner.

Troyes substitute Suk Hyun-Jun send a close-range header goalwards, which Trapp pushed away before again being tested by the South Korean.

Any hopes of a dramatic comeback, though, were ended a minute from time when Cavani latched onto a pass from Neymar, who broke down the left and cut into the penalty area, to slot past Samassa and continue PSG’s impressive form.



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Nantes vs. AS Monaco – Football Match Report – November 29, 2017



Brazilian defender Lima scored a dramatic winner deep into stoppage-time as Monaco fell 1-0 to Nantes on Wednesday.

The loss dropped the defending Ligue 1 champions — who were beaten by current leaders PSG at the weekend — to fourth place.

Meanwhile, Nantes, who are fifth in Ligue 1, ended a run of two straight league defeats with a battling display at Stade de la Beaujoire.

As the game looked set to end in a draw, Lima scored just ahead of the final whistle — the defender powering his shot into the far corner after a set piece situation.



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PSG to rest Marquinhos for midweek game against Troyes


Edinson Cavani and Neymar scored to lead PSG past Monaco, while Kylian Mbappe struggled against his former club.
PSG’s Thiago Silva insists Neymar may continue to share penalty taking responsibilities with Edison Cavani because he ‘has a great heart’.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain will rest defender Marquinhos when they take on Troyes in Ligue 1 on Wednesday.

Marquinhos is given a break by coach Unai Emery, who is without midfielder Thiago Motta as he continues his recovery from a knee operation.

But the Ligue 1 leaders are otherwise at full strength, with the star “MCN” attacking line of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar all included.

Presnel Kimpembe is likely to take Marquinhos’ place alongside captain Thiago Silva in central defence, while Adrien Rabiot is set to continue in deep-lying midfield in a team that may be rotated to accommodate Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore.

Lucas Moura, who has been told he can leave in January, has been left out of Emery’s 18-man squad along with Hatem Ben Arfa.

Asked about the futures of players such as Lucas during his prematch news conference on Tuesday, Emery said all peripheral figures knew where they stood and had done since the summer.

“This summer, we bought some new players to give the team more and it is now harder to play regularly with this sort of competition,” he added.

“Every single player knew their situation right from the off. Everybody in the squad has had a chance to play. However, it is difficult now because competition for places is greater than it has ever been.”

Youth academy graduates Alec Georgen and Remy Descamps have been listed in reserve.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Paris Saint-Germain vs. Troyes – Football Match Preview – November 29, 2017


Paris St Germain boss Unai Emery has shrugged off inevitable rumours about the winter transfer window and challenged his players to “seize their opportunities” in the ongoing Ligue 1 campaign.
Emery’s side took another huge stride towards regaining their domestic crown at the weekend with a victory at defending champions Monaco which took them nine points clear at the top of the table.
And they are heavily favoured to extend a winning run to eight games in all competitions when they take on mid-table Troyes in the capital on Wednesday night.
Emery told a press conference: “I’m happy with all the players – those who play and those who play less.
“There are still many matches left to play, and there will be a lot of opportunities to be seized. Those who play less will have some game time, so we need them.
“I’m not thinking about the transfer window yet. There are a lot of rumours and we have a lot of players who other clubs would like to sign.
“But the most important thing for us is to try to prepare well for the matches that will come before the end of the year.”
Emery does not expect to have any new injuries for the game against Troyes, but he confirmed that Thiago Motta is still ruled out.
Opponents Troyes have made a reasonable start to their Ligue 1 season and will look to build on their weekend win over Angers with a strong performance.
Head coach Jean-Louis Garcia said he hoped his players would make the most of their experience and “earn respect” from their star-studded opponents.
Garcia told a press conference: “We will try to play with boldness, being rigorous and combative and generous with our effort.
“We will put out our best team because it is a pleasure to be involved in games like this. I hope we can leave a good impression and gain a little respect from PSG.”
ends



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Barca stronger defensively without Neymar?


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Nabil Fekir Lyon answer to Messi leads Ligue 1 hopefuls into contention


A fine 3-0 win over Everton has formed part of Lyon’s stunning run of form.
A fine 3-0 win over Everton has formed part of Lyon’s stunning run of form.

They’ve gone 12 matches unbeaten, scored 24 goals in their last seven games, are on a club record 651 minutes with conceding, and have won 5-0 in each of their last three away trips. They also have a front three which has scored more league goals than any other front three in Europe.

So, who are they: Barcelona? Paris Saint-Germain? Bayern Munich? No. The answer is Lyon.

Since Nabil Fekir’s last minute free kick sealed a 3-2 win over Monaco in mid-October, they have been unstoppable.

Things would have probably been much different for Les Gones and their manager Bruno Genesio had that game finished 2-2, though. Genesio was under a lot of pressure, struggling to get the best out of a young but very talented squad, and at the time, Lyon were only eighth in the table with just 13 points which included three wins, four draws and one defeat away to PSG. They were six points behind Monaco in second and nine behind the leaders. Genesio, it was said, had five games to save his job.

First came Monaco, and the coach and his team built on that miraculous 3-2 victory with seven wins from eight in all competitions.

Fekir has been immense, with 11 goals in 11 matches in Ligue 1. Last season, the team played in a 4-3-3 formation perfectly suited to striker Alexandre Lacazette, who left for Arsenal in the summer. This season, Lyon play in a 4-2-3-1 system made for Fekir, who has a free role as a second striker.

For most of the campaign, the 24-year-old has had to do a lot on his own: carrying the team, creating, scoring and leading. He has been Lyon’s equivalent of Lionel Messi for Barcelona. In recent weeks, however, the rest of the team have stepped up and raised their game as well.

Nabil Fekir is a star in the making but Lyon have also been boosted by a collective effort in recent weeks.

Memphis Depay, who was dropped earlier in the season, now has seven goals and two assists in his last seven matches in all competitions. Mariano Diaz, the striker signed from Real Madrid in the summer having never started in La Liga for the Spanish giants, has been efficient with 10 Ligue 1 goals and he has now started to play more with his teammates.

Between them, Fekir (11), Depay (eight) and Diaz (10) have scored 29 league goals so far, one more than the famed “MCN” of Mbappe, Cavani and Neymar at PSG, and four more than Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling at Manchester City.

The most unexpected improvement, however, is the defensive solidity found by the team. After conceding 14 goals in the first 10 matches of the season — keeping just two clean sheets — they have only conceded three in their last nine, with seven straight clean sheets in all competitions.

Marcelo, recruited from Besiktas in the summer, is a very important part of it. The 30-year-old Brazilian defender is not the quickest or the most mobile but his experience and reading of the game have been precious. He is the boss — whether he has Jeremy Morel or Mouctar Diakhaby next to him, Kenny Tete or Rafael on the right, and Ferland Mendy or Marcal on the left, any back four Lyon have is now very solid. As a unit, the players realised they had to do more individually to defend better collectively.

It is no surprise Lyon’s run also coincides with the rise of Houssem Aouar. At 19, the French midfielder is the new gem to come out of the club’s renowned Lyon academy. He is an amazing talent with a great future ahead of him. So much of what he does is clever, precise and inspired; his partnerships with Lucas Tousart, 20, in a midfield two — or with Tousart and Tanguy Ndombele, also 20, in a three when Fekir is out — protect the defence and inspire the attack. Aouar can also play wide as an attacking midfielder or even as a No. 10 — his through ball for Diaz in Sunday’s 5-0 win at Nice was magnificent.

Lyon invested well last summer following a mass exodus of players — Lacazette, Corentin Tolisso and Maxime Gonalons among others — but also brought through the next generation from the academy. Aouar was joined by 18-year-old Myziane Maolida, Amine Gouiri, 17, and Willem Geubbels, a year younger. Let’s not forget either that Depay is still only 23, while Bertrand Traore, Tete and Mendy are 22 and Maxwell Cornet is 21.

Genesio’s men, who host Lille on Wednesday in Ligue 1, are in second place, ahead of Monaco on goal difference and a point clear of Marseille who are also on a great run. Those three will fight for second place behind PSG, but Lyon will be confident they can edge ahead of their rivals.

They have also impressed in Europe, qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League with the final in — you’ve guessed it — Lyon on May 16. The future is certainly bright.

Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Follow him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.



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Lille manager Marcelo Bielsa says Ligue 1 club are ‘exclusively at fault’ for his suspension


Lille manager Marcelo Bielsa only arrived at the Ligue 1 club in the summer.

Lille manager Marcelo Bielsa has called on the French Football League (LFP) to help resolve his differences with the club after the Ligue 1 outfit suspended him earlier this month.

Bielsa only arrived at Lille this summer as the marquee name to lead the ambitious project put in place by new owner Gerard Lopez, who spent some €60 million in the last transfer window to give his new coach the squad he wanted.

He was involved in a controversial incident with his players in September when he allegedly cast out 12 established first-team players after talking to them for just 45 seconds.

Bielsa’s reported difficult relationship with other people at the club — notably sporting advisor Luis Campos — was exacerbated by the team’s problems on the pitch where the former Argentina and Chile boss managed just three wins in his opening 13 league games.

With the club second-from-bottom in Ligue 1, Lille provisionally suspended Bielsa, a move set to herald a permanent removal from his position.

Marcelo Bielsa also spent time at Marseille as a manager.

French media reported Lille would seek to bring a gross negligence case against Bielsa in order to avoid paying the estimated €14-16 million they would owe him to pay up the remainder of his contract, which runs until 2019.

Bielsa, however, has now instructed lawyers to ask the LFP to take note of the termination of his contract with the club “exclusively at fault.”

In a press release sent to AFP by Bielsa’s legal advisor, Carlo Brusa, the coach specified he had “tasked professionals with the safeguarding and defence of his interests.”

In their first game after Bielsa’s suspension, Lille were beaten 3-0 at Montpellier on Saturday to remain second-from-bottom in the table, two points adrift of safety.

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman



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Busy fixture list a chance for PSG’s fringe players to stake their claim


The FC guys answer your tweets on whether PSG or Man City will make the UCL final and if Sam Allardyce can save Everton.
PSG’s Thiago Silva insists Neymar may continue to share penalty taking responsibilities with Edison Cavani because he ‘has a great heart’.

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain welcome Troyes to Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 on Wednesday to kick-off what will be a brutal run of matches between now and the winter break.

After this midweek clash, Unai Emery’s men will travel to Strasbourg in Le Championnat, Munich for the UEFA Champions League, back to Paris for Lille in the league and then on the road again in Strasbourg once more (Coupe de la Ligue this time) and Rennes in Ligue 1 before finishing 2017 at home to Caen in the French top flight.

Angel Di Maria refusing to warm up with the other substitutes before PSG’s 2-1 win away at AS Monaco last Sunday and preferring to sit on the ball and pout sums up the feelings of a few members of the PSG squad at present.

The Argentina international’s compatriot, Javier Pastore, and right-back Thomas Meunier are also lacking chances in the starting XI, while Lucas Moura is no longer even part of the squad on most match days.

With so many matches coming up in such a short space of time, it looks almost certain that the likes of Di Maria, Pastore and Meunier will get their chance in the next few weeks — deservedly in the case of the patient Belgium international — and at the right time with El Flaco “considering” his future and El Fideo appearing to be doing the same.

“The most important thing for us and for the team is to maintain a good level of competition in order to obtain the best possible performances,” Emery declared at his pre-match news conference at Camp des Loges on Tuesday. “All the players feel good, and those who are playing less are ready to seize the opportunities when they come in.

“We have been playing matches in quick succession of late and, after the match against Munich, we will have played four matches in the space of 10 days.

“The players’ physical condition is important — we have to spread the game time around to be able to perform to our best. Concerning the match against Troyes, we will make our decisions after the training session.”

With PSG looking insatiable at times going forward, it appears unlikely that Di Maria and Pastore can realistically target an attacking berth.

However, both should be looking at how Julian Draxler has reinvented himself as a central midfielder and wondering if they can do similar.

The Argentine pair have more experience than the Germany international in central midfield before he started to play there but the former Wolfsburg and Schalke man has been a revelation since he made the switch and now looks at ease.

Whether played up top or in the middle, both Di Maria and Pastore need to accept that one good performance against the likes of mid-table Troyes will not be enough to convince Emery to make a permanent change.

A series of strong showings between now and the Caen clash, though, could change the pair’s situation just before the January transfer window opens.

Emery will likely rotate elsewhere, with Marquinhos being rested and Presnel Kimpemb given a chance to impress.

Right-back Meunier may well get the nod ahead of positional rival Dani Alves, while Yuri Berchiche could come in for Layvin Kurzawa at left-back.

Angel Di Maria is one player who could potentially play himself back into a starting role with a good month of December.

Significant rotation in midfield will be difficult for Emery because of the lack of deep-lying options but Draxler and/or Marco Verratti could find themselves handed a breather.

Equally, Neymar could be allowed a bit of rest, or Edinson Cavani could get a bit of a break with Kylian Mbappe likely to start — despite his wasteful display on his Monaco return — because he was rested for the visit of Nantes just after the most recent international break.

Emery will not be able to rotate everybody but he does have options available to him and with Strasbourg and Bayern Munich particularly in mind, now is the perfect chance to rest those most deserving of it.

Troyes’ visit to Parc des Princes is significant not only because it could be another chance for PSG to add to their nine-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 but because the Auteuil end of Les Parisiens’ spiritual home will be closed as punishment for the recent use of flares during a 3-0 home win over Nice.

The capital club already had a suspended sentence hanging over them from the damage done to Lyon’s Groupama Stadium during last season’s Coupe de la Ligue final, so this infraction has been punished by a one-game closure of the Auteuil end — which means no ultras.

“We love seeing all our fans turn out at the stadium,” Emery said of the sanction. “The atmosphere is magnificent. Several of my friends came last time we played at home, and they were impressed by the atmosphere. 

“There is a real fusion between the stands and the pitch. We want to see the Parc packed to the rafters every time, of course.

“We will do all we can to win for them (those absent) on Wednesday night.”

Luckily for PSG, Troyes are a side that the hosts should be able to beat without an intimidating home atmosphere.

The ultras might be missed more in Strasbourg this weekend when they boycott the trip to Stade de la Meinau to face Thierry Laurey’s struggling Racing side in protest against the Ligue de Football Professionnel’s (LFP) strict control over travelling contingents. 

First, though, Troyes.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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AS Monaco appoint Michael Emenalo as sporting director after 10 years at Chelsea


Gab Marcotti explains Michael Emenalo’s resignation as Chelsea technical director and Antonio Conte’s role in him leaving.

Ligue 1 side AS Monaco have appointed former Chelsea technical director, chief scout and assistant manager Michael Emenalo as their new sporting director.

Emenalo, one of Roman Abramovich’s most trusted advisors, resigned on Nov. 6 after 10 years at the club amid reports of tensions between head coach Antonio Conte and the club’s hierarchy.

The 52-year-old, who played for Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup, also had an alleged frosty relationship with former Chelsea and current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

Speaking to Monaco’s club website about his new role, Emenalo said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me in such a high quality project.

“AS Monaco has shown a great evolution in the past few seasons and I am convinced that the club will keep being successful.

“[AS Monaco Vice President] Vadim Vasilyev convinced me to join and I believe this is the right choice for me after my decision to leave Chelsea.”

Emenalo joins last season’s Champions League semifinalists after a successful spell at Chelsea in which time the Blues won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, the Champions League, the Europa League and the League Cup. He also oversaw the under-19s side, winning two Youth Leagues in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Vasilyev told the club’s website: “I have been following Michael Emenalo’s work for a long time and I am very happy to have him here after he chose to quit Chelsea.

“His know-how in scouting networks, as well as the technical skills he developed working in one of the most successful clubs in the world in the past few years, are the main reasons leading us to present him our ambitious challenge.

“Through this appointment, it is a further sign that we are ambitious and competitive in our model.”

Monaco next face Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes in Ligue 1 on Nov. 29 before a trip to FC Porto in the Champions League on Dec. 6.

Liam Grace is a freelance editor and covers AFC Bournemouth for ESPN FC. Twitter: @GraceyMedia



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Julian Draxler more impressive than Cristiano Ronaldo Lionel Messi and Neymar says Marquinhos


PSG’s Thiago Silva insists Neymar may continue to share penalty taking responsibilities with Edison Cavani because he ‘has a great heart’.
Edinson Cavani and Neymar scored to lead PSG past Monaco, while Kylian Mbappe struggled against his former club.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos rates teammate Julian Draxler above Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar as the most gifted player he has faced.

Speaking with Journal du Dimanche, the Brazil international said facing Draxler had left a greater impression on him than Real Madrid‘s Ronaldo, Barcelona‘s Messi and PSG teammate Neymar.

“I have faced the three current greats — Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar — but in purely technical terms, it is Julian [Draxler] who impressed me the most,” Marquinhos said. “Even if he does not have the same speed as the other three, he eliminates his opponents through his control, his touches on the ball and his intelligence of the game.”

Marquinhos added: “He is a midfielder but I also want to mention Marco [Verratti].” 

Julian Draxler
Julian Draxler joined PSG from Wolfsburg in January 2017.

However, the former Roma and Corinthians player said that his most feared opponent — before they became teammates at club level as well as internationals — was Neymar.

“The one I fear most? My bete noire is Neymar,” he said. “He always has a solution: when you go one way, he goes the other, when you get close to him, he moves away. [Neymar] anticipates things and changes ideas in a fraction of a second. He almost has too many strings for his bow, he is so fast. On top of that, we are up against each other every single day now!

“Seriously, it is a pleasure because we defenders want to face the best in matches and in training. Here we get that! Imagine, as opponents you are up against Neymar, Angel [Di Maria] and Lucas [Moura] or Kylian [Mbappe], Edinson [Cavani] and Julian.

“Sometimes it is more difficult than the actual games!”

Marquinhos and his PSG teammates moved nine points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-1 win away at Monaco on Sunday, with Neymar scoring a second-half penalty.

PSG face Troyes at home and Strasbourg away in Ligue 1 this week before next week’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in Germany.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Thiago Silva: Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar ‘has a heart of gold’


PSG’s Thiago Silva insists Neymar may continue to share penalty taking responsibilities with Edison Cavani because he ‘has a great heart’.

MONACO — PSG captain Thiago Silva suggested coach Unai Emery could alternate penalty duty between Neymar and Edinson Cavani after the win at Monaco, adding that Neymar “has a heart of gold.”

Neymar struck from the spot after Cavani had opened the scoring in the 2-1 win.

Cavani had previously been PSG’s penalty taker of choice but, after Neymar asked to take one in the 2-0 home win over Lyon in September, the new pecking order has been unclear.

Asked about it by journalists, Thiago Silva replied: “Ask the coach. Today it was Neymar, but maybe he gives it to Edinson in our next match.

“He [Neymar] has a heart of gold, you cannot begin to imagine. If he had already scored, perhaps he would have left it for Edi — maybe even Kylian [Mbappe] because he struggled to score.”

Speaking before the match, Emery was asked about the issue of the chosen penalty taker and said: “These are internal matters and they will stay that way — I have spoken with the players and I explained my decision.”

Silva said he had teased former Monaco star Mbappe about his failure to get on the scoresheet against his old club.

“I spoke with him in the dressing room and I told him that perhaps he thought he was still playing for Monaco,” he joked.

“I think the Monaco goal even took a deflection off him…

“Unfortunately, Kylian did not score against Monaco but I think he has had a great start to the season — I hope that he will continue like that, Edinson and Neymar too.”

Marquinhos also said Mbappe had been the subject of a few jokes from his teammates after the game.

But he added: “I will not tell you what was said. You get evenings like that. Most importantly, we are going home with the victory.

“We know he wanted to score, it was a special match for him and the team too, but everything is collective and the win was the most important thing.”

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri would be interested in PSG move


Jean Michael Seri was tipped to join both Barcelona and PSG in the summer window.

Jean Michael Seri has suggested he would welcome a move to Paris Saint-Germain after seeing a proposed summer switch to the Parc des Princes fall through.

Nice midfielder Seri had been expected to join Barcelona in the summer and was then tipped to move to PSG, only for neither club to be able to finalise a deal.

But he told Le Parisien that if PSG came calling, as he said they had previously through sporting director Antero Henrique, he would be interested.

“I’m not a player you take by default. I’m not interested in leaving for leaving’s sake,” the 26-year-old said.

“If I make that step, it will have to be for a team where I feel wanted and one that plays football. Paris have that philosophy to which I’m very attached. So why not?”

Had he switched to PSG in the summer he would have teamed up with Kylian Mbappe at the Parc des Princes, and he voiced his admiration for the France forward.

“He has the potential to win the Ballon d’Or,” he said.

“More than his incredible qualities, you see when he talks to the media a great intelligence and a lot of maturity. In an 18-year-old kid, it’s quite impressive.

“In his situation, I know a lot of players who would have got carried away.

“When Ousmane Dembele was in talks at an advanced stage with Barca this summer, even if we don’t know everything that happened, he started a dispute with Dortmund by refusing to train for 15 days. For a young player, that’s not a good attitude to adopt.

“When you’re not well advised, you don’t make the right decisions. After he arrived at Barcelona, he got injured. That’s not a coincidence. Without all that sulking, he wouldn’t have got injured.

“Mbappe was able to shut out everything going on around him. That’s a sign of wisdom.”

PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot, meanwhile, has said he wants the club to sign a defensive midfielder, giving him the freedom to play further forward.

France international Rabiot prefers a more attacking role — known as the No. 8 position in France — in a three-man midfield and told Telefoot: “I have a new status in the team, with more responsibility. I’m at the disposition of the coach.

“Everyone knows I’m more at ease at eight than six [a defensive midfielder], but you have to do it for the good for the team.

“I think we need another midfielder, a real No. 6. I think the club is working on it, but it’s important to recruit a six.”

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman



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Thiago Silva: Neymar has a great heart


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Kylian Mbappe struggled against old club Monaco but brighter days ahead at Paris Saint Germain


Edinson Cavani and Neymar scored to lead PSG past Monaco, while Kylian Mbappe struggled against his former club.
PSG’s Thiago Silva insists Neymar may continue to share penalty taking responsibilities with Edison Cavani because he ‘has a great heart’.

MONACO — “I know that some of you do not understand my choice and that a feeling of anger is born in you, I understand. One thing is for sure — you can be angry, hate or even whistle but you can never stop me from loving you because the truth is there, I love you.”

Those were Kylian Mbappe’s final words to Monaco’s supporters after he chose to leave the Ligue 1 champions for the team Les Monegasques had worked so hard to overthrow as Championnat kings — Paris Saint-Germain.

Sunday was the first time that the France international had returned to Stade Louis II since his departure for the capital shortly before the end of the summer transfer window and the meeting promised to be exciting for more than just Mbappe’s return to face his formative club.

PSG were six points ahead of Monaco and the defending champions needed to beat their capital city rivals in order to keep their hopes of a successful title defence alive and Unai Emery’s men had traditionally struggled in the principality, so Leonardo Jardim and his players had reason for hope.

Another intriguing aspect of the clash pre-match was what sort of reception Mbappe would get from the home supporters. ASM are not known for filling their venue regularly but with the game sold out, it was going to be their best chance to give the recently crowned Golden Boy a piece of their collective mind.

Before Mbappe joined PSG in the summer, there was a lengthy “soap opera,” as the player himself called it in his letter to the fans, about his future and whether he would stay with Monaco on improved economic terms or whether he would join PSG or Real Madrid.

Those same fans wrote to Mbappe in an open letter at that time, expressing their “stupefaction and indignation” at the sums being discussed before reminding him and his entourage “that nothing and no one is above the institution AS Monaco FC.”

“It is true, we were hurting at the time,” Paris-based Monaco fan Pierre told me before kick-off. “Our Ligue 1 title success had allowed us to dream of keeping our star players, despite the fact that the nature of the project for the best part of five years now.”

Another Monegasque supporter Nicolas, who is based in Brittany but also made the trip to Stade Louis II for the occasion, added that “Real (Madrid) would have been understandable but the idea of selling one of our best players to our closest domestic rivals was sickening.”

Despite the fact that Monaco are owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, there is still a massive gulf between PSG and their principality rivals — something that showed on the pitch on Sunday.

ASM were outclassed and lucky to only lose 2-1 to a far superior Parisien outfit that looks destined to retake the title they lost last season and it was a touch ironic that Mbappe deflected in Joao Moutinho’s free kick, which halved the deficit after Edinson Cavani and Neymar had struck.

It was an evening to forget for Mbappe — jeered by the home fans when his name was read out pre-match, he then missed a good chance early on by firing just wide after Neymar had played him in gloriously and his finishing was shaky from then on.

The 18-year-old was a threat all night to Monaco with his pace causing all sorts of problems for Jorge and veteran defender Andrea Raggi after Jardim elected to start with five defenders. 

That is, until he got in front of goal…

Mbappe missed chance after chance, particularly in the second half and the sense of occasion appeared to get to him and his determination to silence the boo boys cost him his composure.

A reported 1.63 million tuned in to watch on Canal+ and most of them will disagree with Emery’s post-match assessment that Mbappe “put in a great performance.”

However, the Spaniard did also acknowledge the overwhelming sense of the occasion and insisted that “what he went through was important, emotionally” because “the next time, he will be calmer.”

Kylian Mbappe struggled vs. old club Monaco but brighter days are ahead for the 18-year-old phenom.

Mbappe’s teammates also admitted that the sensation from the Parisian suburb of Bondy tried too hard to impress on his return, with captain Thiago Silva confessing to telling “him in the dressing room that he must have thought that he was back playing for Monaco once again!” and Marquinhos refusing to deny “some banter” after the final whistle.

Canal+ pundit Habib Beye stressed “we must not forget that he is a young player and that his strength is his insouciance in front of goal” before adding that “this is nothing alarming though.”

However, it was probably the best possible outcome for Monaco and their fans, who would have been hurt if Mbappe had come back to punish them for essentially letting him shine last campaign.

“It is difficult to feel too much resentment towards him as this is the nature of our project,” Pierre acknowledged after the game. “We must accept the negatives as well as they positives of living this way. It was a relief that he had an off night though!”

“I feel a bit bad for him” added Nicolas. “He clearly wanted to silence us but in the end, he gave us our biggest the cheer of the match by helping us to score! I do not think we would have, otherwise.”

Mbappe and PSG will continue their pursuit of glory across all fronts nine-points clear in Ligue 1 with Champions League and Coupe de la Ligue duties before the end of the year but things already look bleak for Monaco.

Out of continental competition completely and now fighting for second place with Lyon, coach Jardim has even admitted that the team are no longer fighting for the title and already looking towards next term for that.

Mbappe will likely strike against his former club sometime when the two sides meet in the future but until then, he will continue to dream bigger with his new employers.

As for Monaco, they remain on the merry-go-round of being one of Europe’s most prestigious selling clubs and know that Mbappe will probably not be the last starlet that they unearth who is then plucked by a bigger side.

Next time, though, they will be determined not to strengthen their domestic rivals again.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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Cavani wide open for PSG’s opening goal


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Adrien Rabiot strong in middle and Kylian Mbappe struggles for Paris Saint-Germain in return to Monaco


Edinson Cavani and Neymar scored to lead PSG past Monaco, while Kylian Mbappe struggled against his former club.

MONACO — Paris Saint-Germain pulled nine points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-1 win away at close rivals AS Monaco with Edinson Cavani and Neymar (a penalty) scoring in each half before Kylian Mbappe deflected a late Joao Moutinho free kick in to set up a tense finale at Stade Louis II on Sunday.

Positives

At the end of the day, the result was the most important thing and PSG merited their victory. It only finished 2-1 — when it could easily have been three, four or five — but that result might well have ended the race for this season’s Championnat title, at least as far as Monaco are concerned.

The French capital outfit were convincing and deserved their win. However, considering Mbappe’s numerous chances, as well as Julian Draxler’s and Cavani’s misses over the course of the 90 minutes in the principality, it should not have been as close as it was.

Les Monegasques were lucky with their late goal, through Moutinho’s deflected free kick and 2-0 would have been a more accurate reflection of the encounter. PSG avoided succumbing to late nerves once the deficit was halved, though, and rode out a feisty final few minutes.

Negatives

The emotion of a return to Monaco to face his formative club appeared to get to Mbappe because his finishing was poor all night. The France international was presented with three very good opportunities and he spurned them all, notably one near open goal inside the opening few minutes. However, the 18-year-old sensation was not alone in his finishing being off as Cavani and Draxler both wasted good chances.

Moutinho’s consolation strike for Leonardo Jardim’s home side flattered them and was harsh on Mbappe, who did not deserve to have salt rubbed in his wounds from a humiliating return to his old stomping ground, as well as goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who could do nothing to keep it out it once it struck his teammate.

Otherwise, there can be few real negatives taken from such an important away victory, even if PSG need to kill games like that off in the future.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Unai Emery stuck with the same squad and same starting XI that beat Celtic in the Champions League in midweek and was rewarded with a valuable, three-point haul that may well have extinguished the possibility of a Ligue 1 title race.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Alphonse Areola, 6 — There was nothing that the youth academy graduate could do after Moutinho’s free kick was deflected by Mbappe. Otherwise, the French shot stopper was solid.

DF Dani Alves, 6 — The Brazil international got forward well and was solid at the back when needed, but he picked up a late booking as tempers flared.

DF Marquinhos, 6 — The Brazilian was solid enough alongside captain Thiago Silva, but could not quite match his compatriot’s commanding presence on the night.

DF Thiago Silva, 7 — The skipper was in control of his defence from the first minute until the last and the only way that Monaco looked like they were going to score was through a slice of luck. They got that, but it was not enough and it should not detract from a solid overall effort from the backline marshalled by the Brazil international.

DF Layvin Kurzawa, 5 — The France international was once again PSG’s weak link as Jardim targeted the former Monegasque — although not to the same degree as last season. It was no surprise when Emery opted to replace Kurzawa with Yuri Berchiche after 68 minutes.

MF Adrien Rabiot, 8 — The Frenchman posted another mature performance despite being deployed in his unflavoured deep-lying midfield role. He was key in Cavani’s opener as he held the ball up for the right amount of time before feeding Draxler, who located Cavani for the finish.

MF Marco Verratti, 7 — The Italy international was part of a well-oiled midfield unit and combined well with Rabiot and Draxler to create a more dynamic trio than Monaco’s.

MF Julian Draxler, 7 — The German can be very happy with his showing in Monaco. Although he could and probably should have scored in the first half, he teed Cavani up at one end and got back to dispossess Radamel Falcao at the other.

FW Kylian Mbappe, 4 — The France international blew his big chance to impress on his return to Monaco. Perhaps guilty of trying too hard to be the star man on the night, the 18-year-old missed three good chances and was of better use to PSG when utilising his searing pace out wide and crossing in.

FW Edinson Cavani, 7 — The passionate Uruguayan again showed his big-match appetite with an opportunist finish in the first half. However, although he set up both Mbappe and Neymar with chances and saw a cross of his own turned onto the post by Jemerson, he also missed a very good second-half opportunity.

FW Neymar, 7 — The Brazilian superstar was a bit sluggish in the first half and only showed a few flashes of brilliance before getting booked — which means he will now be suspended against Lille OSC next month. The South American was much better in the second, though, and scored the penalty he won, hit the post and twisted and turned his opponents inside out once or twice.

Kylian Mbappe might have been trying too hard during his return match against his former team.

Substitutes

DF Yuri Berchiche, 5 — The Spaniard came on and added greater solidity than Kurzawa, but was booked for a rough tackle late on, which could easily have been red.

FW Angel Di Maria, NR — The Argentina international sulked during the pre-match warm-up and tried to steal PSG a late third goal once he was introduced for the final nine minutes, but was unable to.

MF Javier Pastore, NR — The Argentinian replaced Draxler after 81 minutes and showed good aggression and creativity, but needed longer on the pitch to make it count.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.



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