Will there actually be a title race in France this season? That was asked to give hope to rivals at the halfway point of the season after Paris Saint-Germain suffered their second defeat of 2023 on Sunday. This is a question.
At the beginning of the season, the question arose whether his PSG of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar could enter the league unbeaten all season.
They went undefeated in their first 16 games, but that run ended when they met their closest rivals, Lens, on New Year’s Day.
While Messi was still resting after the World Cup, PSG were blown away by the intimidating atmosphere in northern France and lost the match 3-1.
Despite Messi, Mbappe and Neymar appearing together on the pitch for the first time since the World Cup, they suffered a second straight away defeat on Sunday, losing 1-0 to Champions League chasers Rennes.
Renz and Rennes are two of France’s best-performing clubs and two of the strongest at home, so it’s no shame to lose to these opponents.
But what worries manager Christophe Galtier is the way PSG were beaten.
His team has yet to find its form before the World Cup season was paused. An exciting Champions League Round of 16 against Bayern Munich is on the horizon. His first leg in Paris will take place on February 14th.
“If it’s just a matter of time, it’s urgent. We’ve found thousands of excuses and players have been scattered for weeks. But the World Cup is over,” Galtier said after Sunday’s game.
PSG’s season will ultimately be decided by what happens in Europe, and another Champions League elimination in the round of 16 against Bayern is a loss for Gaultier, a year after losing to Real Madrid in the same stage. It could prove to be very expensive. But the big points gap in Europe means they are likely to drop points in Ligue 1, as they did when they reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2021 and missed the domestic title with Lille. There is likely to be.
This is the third unfinished season as champions since Qatar won in 2011.
~ Lens and Marseille chase ~
At halftime this season, PSG are three points ahead of Lens and five points ahead of Marseille.
Having won his only league title to date in 1998, Lens has had a remarkable season under manager Frank Hyes.
Steeped in the working-class traditions of the coal mining district, Reims is a world away from the bright lights and glamor of Paris.
The club’s budget is modest and they had to sell some key players last season, but they are a shining example for other mid-tier French sides of what can be achieved. Marseille have put off a painful Champions League exit in early November and have won all six league games since.
Croatia’s Igor Under his Tudor manager, they played with intensity and urgency, in contrast to his PSG against Lorient last weekend.
They have scored more points than the exciting Marseille side led by Marcelo Bielsa, who took the lead midway through his 2014/15 season, but were ultimately eliminated.