Ligue 1 preview: PSG visit Lyon as COVID-19 rocks French football
Paris, Jan 7, 2022 (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain return to Ligue 1 action this weekend at struggling Lyon, with Mauricio Pochettino's men building towards their Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
But most of the spotlight at the capital giants is focused off the pitch, with Kylian Mbappe's future more uncertain than ever, Lionel Messi still returning from a positive Covid test and Neymar receiving injury treatment in Brazil.
PSG already boast a seemingly insurmountable 13-point lead over second-placed Nice in Ligue 1, but will want their star front three fit and firing for the last-16 first leg against Real on February 15.
Mbappe will be able to leave Paris on a free transfer this summer if he does not sign a new contract, but Pochettino believes the constant rumours over a possible move will not affect the World Cup winner's performances.
"The performance of Kylian (Mbappe) is not affected by his contractual situation," the PSG coach said after a 4-0 French Cup win at Vannes on Monday, when Mbappe netted a hat-trick.
"He is a top player in the world. He played well. We enjoyed watching the team. His goals were the icing on the cake."
Messi tested positive for Covid in his native Argentina last week but is back in Paris, although PSG are yet to say if he will be available for Sunday's game against Lyon following the Ligue 1 winter break.
PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, defender Juan Bernat and midfielders Danilo Pereira, Julian Draxler and Angel Di Maria have all also tested positive for the virus.
Even if seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is absent, the runaway leaders will still be heavy favourites against a Lyon side languishing 13th in the table and on a five-match winless run.
Covid forces postponements
The French top flight has followed its European counterparts in Germany, Italy and England in seeing games delayed due to Covid.
Reigning champions Lille's match against Lorient scheduled for Saturday has joined the Angers v Saint-Etienne game in being postponed.
There could be further cancellations, with Troyes requesting their visit to Montpellier is called off after registering 13 cases.
Bordeaux are slated to host Marseille on Friday, but the Girondins have suffered 21 positive test results among players and staff. However, Bordeaux were forced to play their French Cup game last weekend, which they lost 3-0 at Brest.
"Among the players who resumed training on Wednesday, six are still positive and have symptoms," said Bordeaux sporting director Admar Lopes.
"According to league protocol, they can play, but according to our doctor they are not physically able to."
According to an AFP count, at least 100 Ligue 1 players have tested positive for Covid since December 25.
Player to watch: Arnaud Kalimuendo
The 19-year-old has enjoyed an excellent second season on loan at Lens from PSG so far, scoring six goals in 14 league matches.
Kalimuendo, who has been dubbed "one of the greatest French attacking talents of his generation" by Lens chief executive Arnaud Pouille, also made two brief substitute appearances for PSG earlier this term.
He will be hoping to help Lens revive their push for Europe against fourth-placed Rennes on Saturday.
150: Goals scored for PSG by Kylian Mbappe.
30: Years since Bordeaux played outside the top division. They are currently 17th, just one point clear of the bottom two.
6: Points separating second-placed Nice from ninth-placed Lens in the race for a top-three finish and Champions League qualification.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Bordeaux vs. Marseille (2000)
Lens vs. Rennes (2000)
Brest vs. Nice (1200), Clermont vs. Reims, Metz vs. Strasbourg, Montpellier vs. Troyes (1400), Nantes vs. Monaco (1605), Lyon vs. Paris Saint-Germain (1945)