PSG put record to test as French ride crest of wave
After a week in which the national team's qualification for the World Cup provided a huge boost to French football, Paris Saint-Germain will bid to extend their long unbeaten run as Ligue 1 returns.
The capital club, who come into the weekend four points clear of Lille at the top of the table, travel to Champagne country to face Reims on Saturday afternoon.
They have a score to settle with Hubert Fournier's side after losing 1-0 at the Stade Auguste-Delaune last season, although remarkably they have not lost in the league since that match on March 2, a run of 24 games.
Indeed, the capital club have not lost any of their 18 matches in all competitions this season, but Saturday's opponents are in formidable form themselves.
Reims have lost just once in 13 matches, a run that has seen them beat Lille, Lyon and Marseille, and draw with Monaco, while they also knocked the principality club out of the League Cup.
They come into the weekend in sixth position and Fournier is hoping his side can spring another surprise.
"We need to make sure we have no regrets at the end of the game," he said. "If a little window opens, we need to enter it. We must believe we can cause an upset."
Their chances of doing so may be helped by the fact PSG's preparations have been hindered by the late return from international duty of numerous players.
Record signing Edinson Cavani was not due to return to France until Friday morning after helping Uruguay qualify for the World Cup in a play-off against Jordan and coach Laurent Blanc admitted that he is likely to be rested.
While some members of his squad -- including Blaise Matuidi, who helped France beat Ukraine in remarkable fashion in their decisive World Cup play-off -- will be on a high, others had a less enjoyable experience playing for their countries.
That was the case for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose Sweden side missed out on a place in Brazil after losing to Portugal.
"I would have been happier had Zlatan qualified for the World Cup with Sweden, (but) now we need to try to fulfil our objectives at club level, and I know that Zlatan's personal aims are high. That will help ease his disappointment," Blanc said.
"You can expect changes to the team," he added. "(But) those who have stayed here during the international break do not necessarily have a greater chance of playing the next game."
Conditions are likely to be tricky, with temperatures in France having plummeted in recent days, and Blanc is not taking anything for granted.
"They will be especially motivated and we expect a difficult game. We have not been able to prepare in the best possible manner.
"I am afraid of them, just as I am afraid of any team. Another thing that concerns me at the moment is the weather because pitches are not going to be in great condition. Our philosophy is based on playing football, and to do that we need a good pitch."
Elsewhere, second-placed Lille entertain Toulouse on Sunday looking to extend a run of eight games without losing or even conceding a goal, while Nantes, in fourth, face third-placed Monaco.
Two of France's most famous clubs, both were promoted back to Ligue 1 in the summer, but while big-spending Monaco were expected to compete near the top of the table, Nantes have surprised observers with their impressive form.
Les Canaris have lost just once in seven outings and a win will see them leapfrog Monaco on goal difference, with Claudio Ranieri's men having won just one of their last four.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1900 GMT unless stated)
Ajaccio v Marseille (1930 GMT)
Reims v Paris Saint-Germain (1600 GMT), Evian-Thonon-Gaillard v Lorient, Lyon v Valenciennes, Montpellier v Guingamp, Rennes v Bordeaux, Sochaux v Bastia
Lille v Toulouse (1300 GMT), Nice v Saint-Etienne (1600 GMT), Nantes v Monaco (2000 GMT)
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