Christopher Galtier has learnt early in his Paris Saint Germain career that managing the club’s big name players is going to be as important as any tactical input he injects into the squad. The Qatar backed moneybags hired Lille’s title winning manager from two seasons ago with the mandate to translate the club’s domestic domination into European success and knows that to achieve his aims, he needs unity of purpose. Galtier has passed his first test with flying colours by diffusing tension between super stars Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr within days of replacing Mauricio Pochettino.
PSG accrued instant dividends when an inspired Neymar grabbed a brace and created another for Lionel Messi as the Parisians dismantled Nantes 4-0 to win the season opening French Super Cup on Sunday. Blessed with an even stronger squad, the Ligue One champions turn their guns on Clermont fully aware that they must send a message to European rivals with an equally uncompromising display. The club has backed Galtier in the transfer market with new arrivals Nordi Mukiele, Hugo Ekitike, Renato Sanchez and Vitinha.
Mukiele has been signed from RB Leipzig to provide competition for Achraf Hakim; Ekitike has arrived from Reims as a replacement for Juventus bound Angel di Maria whereas the midfield engine room has been strengthened by substituting ageing warhorses, the Everton bound Idriss Gana Gueye and Georgina Wijnaldum (AS Roma), with Vitinha and Renato Sanchez. Galtier has been left with no excuse but to perform.
France’s best supported club, Olympique Marseille, were PSG’s stiffest opposition in Ligue One last season but they’ve been weakened by repetitive fan unrest and the departure of influential manager Jorge Sampaoli, who left after a dispute over transfers. Although Mateo Guendouzi’s loan from Arsenal has been converted into a permanent deal, his regular midfield partner, Boubacar Kamara, has joined Aston Villa. It’s against such a background of disquiet that new boss Igor Tudor welcomes unpredictable Reims to the Stade Velodrome on Sunday.
Ligue One action commences on Friday night with fading giants Olympique Lyon hosting newly promoted Ajaccio. Peter Bosz’s side missed out on Champions League qualification last season after picking up form too late. The former Bayer Leverkusen manager has been heavily backed in the transfer market with the arrivals of Nicolas Tagliafico from Ajax Amsterdam, Alexander Lacazette from Arsenal and Corentin Toliso, formerly at Bayern Munich. This has made Lyon PSG’s most likely challengers.
Olympique Lyon v Ajaccio
Strasbourg v Monaco,
Clermont v Paris St Germain
Toulouse v Nice,
Angers v Nantes,
Lens v Brest,
Lille v Auxerre,
Montpellier v Troyes,
Rennes v Lorient,
Marseille v Reims