Turn your dial to Ligue 1 action coming this Sunday at 19:00 CET/3:00 PM ET: Paris Saint-Germain vs. Lyon.
Both teams are tied at 17 points with identical records: 5 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss, 14 goals for, 7 goals against. But both teams could not have been more different in the way they came to be considered joint favourites for the Ligue 1 title. On one side, Lyon built from within its ranks with obvious big purchases. On the other, a PSG team and organisation that has drunk from the fountain of youth called Qatar Sports International and led in its soccer operations by charismatic manager Leonardo.
Lyon is much more homogeneous squad with a solid back line with two young centre backs, Dejan Lovren and Bakary Koné. Their midfield is able to produce rhythm through slick passing, strong physical presence and smart positioning. Maxime Gonalons, Kim Kalstrom and newcomer Gueida Fofana have been able to correctly defend and feed their offensive teammates with purpose. With Michel Bastos, Bafetimbi Gomis and Jimmy Briand all having strong seasons so far, Lyon's offence is on fire, a trident that excels through the game, especially on the counterattack. The front three receives a great deal of support from their right and left backs, respectively Anthony Reveillere and Aly Cissokho. Top of all that of with a winning mentality that has been instilled since the first days of club president/owner, Jean-Michel Aulas and you have a recipe for a very dangerous team.
PSG is coming off a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Athletic Bilbao in Europa League action this week. Players were criticized for a lacklustre performance and lack of drive as the whole team came out flat. But this defeat shouldn't overshadow PSG 3-0 stomping of Montpellier in the previous Ligue 1 round.
Unlike Lyon, PSG cannot really claim a clear team chemistry but their last Ligue 1 win has helped to smooth over some of their weaknesses. Led by Argentine sensation Javier ''El Flaco'' Pastore, the Parisian team seems to be able to match Lyon's strengths on paper except for its defence. PSG's offensive trident features Jeremy Menez, Nene and Kevin Gameiro. The latter is an excellent striker with smart runs and impeccable finishing. Nene and Menez will need to feed Gameiro who will have his work cut-off while surrounded by Lovren and Koné. I have my doubts on Nene's commitment to team play as he has this disturbing trend to over-dribble and keep the ball too long, often making Gameiro waiting for a ball that he will never get and frustrated.
The PSG midfield combines Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Bodmer. Their role is to stop the opponent and quickly give the ball to either Pastore, Nene or Menez. The main recipient should be Javier Pastore who has been sensational in Ligue 1: 4 goals, 2 assists in 6 games. He has brought back style, flair, timely dribbling and precise passing not only at PSG but in Ligue 1. He seems to prove wrong the nay-sayers who continuously pointed at his transfer price (€43m) before playing one minute in Ligue 1.
PSG's defense is what we can call suspect but brave. Their weak point is a lack of chemistry between their centre backs, Diego Lugano and Zoumana Camara, and a very weak left side covered by Siaka Tiene. I would watch for Bastos and Briand switching wings often enough to try to test PSG's fullbacks, especially our friend Tiene.
There isn't much to say as per goalkeepers. Hugo Lloris is arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world and Italian new-comer Salvatore Sirigu has made timely-saves with great positioning, a typically Italian tradition.
I am not good at predicting the score but will make an attempt in calling a 3-3 draw. No matter the result, I sense a tense, physical game that will open up very quickly.