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Red-hot PSG relishing in-form OM challenge in Ligue 1

FILE - Paris Saint-Germain's Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in action during a Ligue 1 game. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

FILE - Paris Saint-Germain's Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in action during a Ligue 1 game. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Published Apr 16, 2022

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Paris — Paris St-Germain's attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar have struggled to get into their stride but seem to be clicking in time for the most important game of the Ligue 1 season at home to in-form Olympique de Marseille on Sunday.

A win would put PSG 15 points ahead of second-placed Marseille with six games left and leave the capital club with one hand on a 10th league title.

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The Ligue 1 trophy is the only objective left for PSG since they were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in the last 16 after another embarrassing meltdown in the return leg which they lost 3-1.

It was followed by an appalling 3-0 defeat at Monaco but since then PSG have bounced back in brutal fashion.

In their last two games, they thrashed visiting Lorient 5-1 and Clermont 6-1 away with Mbappe scoring five and setting up four, Neymar netting five goals with one assist while Lionel Messi scored one and added three assists.

All three forwards will be expected to deliver against OM at the Parc des Princes.

"The goal is to win the league so obviously we want to win this classic," coach Mauricio Pochettino told a news conference on Saturday.

"It's a special game. I had a chance to play it as a team captain 20 years ago and now as a coach. It's a fixture that has a special flavour. It's more than three points at stake," the former PSG defender added.

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Pochettino is hoping the fans will get behind their team after several games with lukewarm support following the Champions League exit.

"Our team is always better with the fans behind them, it's always an advantage," the Argentine said.

WINNING RUN

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Their support will be all the more significant as Marseille head into the game having won their last eight competitive games - a feat they had not achieved since Marcelo Bielsa's men claimed eight staight victories in the 2014-15 season.

"It (winning run) is important for the team. Personally, I think the statistics help the team keep hope," OM coach Jorge Sampaoli told a news conference.

"But statistics do not matter if we don't reach our objective to play the Champions League next year."

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The top three in Ligue 1 qualify for the Champions League, with Marseille on 59 points - three ahead of third-placed Rennes and six in front of Monaco in fourth - with a game in hand.

OM might have to cope without striker Arkadiusz Milik, who missed the Europa Conference League quarter-final win at PAOK that clinched a place in the semis on Thursday with a thigh injury.

"He is doing better but I still have a doubt," said Sampaoli, who is probably even more worried by the opposition's strike force.

He added that his team would need to deliver a great "collective performance" to stop Mbappe, the Ligue 1 top scorer this season with 20 goals.

"He makes the difference with his dribbling, his passes, his speed and his finish. We'll need to play very well as a team to stop him," he said.

Reuters

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