Paris Saint-Germain left it late to beat Lille OSC in Ligue 1 on Sunday but ultimately ended a three-match losing streak thanks to a moment of Lionel Messi magic.
The legendary Argentine was not solely responsible for Les Parisiens’ victory with Kylian Mbappé scoring twice and Neymar Jr. adding a goal to his assist before going off injured. However, if there was a man for the box office moment at Parc des Princes this past weekend then it was Messi who saved a largely anonymous performance with a clutch free kick in added time.
LOSC fought back from two goals down to lead 3-2 and things were falling apart at that moment with irate sporting advisor Luis Campos pitch side with furious head coach Christophe Galtier. Mbappé and Messi’s late goals ensured that PSG did not follow up their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first-leg defeat to Bayern Munich with another loss, but it was a close call.
Much of the next few weeks will be spent gearing up for that crucial clash at Allianz Arena in Munich but the Championnat leaders will be up against old foes Marseille before that at Stade Velodrome. PSG need to use the late momentum created in the Lille win and ally that with their tricky run of games against European-level sides to be as ready as possible for Bayern.
OM are out of continental competition but should probably still be in the UEFA Europa League given the manner of their UCL exit, while FC Nantes could yet knock Juventus out of the UEL. These types of fixtures off the back of the test posed by Paulo Fonseca’s LOSC side could be the key to prolonging PSG’s stay in Europe and therefore salvaging the season.
Mbappé issued a rallying cry with his words after the Bayern first-leg loss and they immediately seemed to be heeded given the start Galtier’s men made over the weekend. Neymar had been in the crosshairs after his poker night and a trip to McDonald’s post-Bayern, yet he assisted Mbappé’s opening goal and scored the second.
“I saw people talking about Neymar and what has been going on—what I said was not a jab at him,” Mbappé said post-game. “In our current situation, that is the last thing that would help. It was advice more generally for everybody. I hope that Neymar will be back soon as he is a key player for us.
“Stay strong Neymar,” added the France international later via social media in something of an olive branch gesture. “All the team waiting for you very soon. Let’s go bro.”
Familiar defensive lapses allowed Lille to pull a goal back, but Marquinhos and Nordi Mukiele’s returns to fitness will help as will Presnel Kimpembe continuing to get more minutes. Sadly, Neymar’s positive response was short-lived as he joined Nuno Mendes is being forced off injured in the capital and the first half of this week will be spent sweating the extent of that damage.
The Brazilian being absent against Marseille, though, potentially opens the door to Messi being more than a passenger and shouldering some of the load understandably carried by Mbappé. The French superstar missed the Coupe de France defeat at Stade Velodrome a few weeks ago so will be keen to make amends here while PSG needs to treat it as a dressed rehearsal for Bayern.
Whether or not Neymar is ready to go against OM, Galtier needs to seize upon the late rally to beat Lille and ensure that it breathes new life into the Parisien campaign. We saw how animated both the French tactician and Campos were on the touchline on Sunday so clearly there is an internal recognition of the need to wake up and respond to adversity collectively.
“Any coach who loses four consecutive games with PSG is obviously put in a very complicated position,” recognized Galtier after the match. “It was a relief, but I have my staff and the president to support me and back me up. It was a very important game and we absolutely had to win.”
Mbappé singlehandedly leads at times while Kimpembe is also a vocal figure in times of difficulty considering his rise through the ranks, and this is not Sergio Ramos’ first rodeo—far from it. A first defeat in Marseille since 2011 was never going to be an easy pill to swallow but that bruised pride could work to PSG’s advantage this coming weekend with a response needed.
Should the French champions be able to produce the sort of display that we are yet to see since the FIFA 2022 World Cup, then there is hope that this trip to Munich could mirror that of 2021. Wins away at Barcelona and then Bayern took PSG to the semifinals at a time when their domestic form was suffering and that now has to be the aim here.
Many things have changed in these past two years with Galtier now in charge instead of Mauricio Pochettino, but many things are also the same in the way the team is struggling. Adversity tends to bring the best out of this PSG and focused displays are often the result of testing circumstances which early 2023 qualifies for.
Mbappé and his teammates must now recognize that and thrive under the sudden death climate created by results in recent weeks—starting in Marseille. Sunday is a huge opportunity for OM to close the gap at the Ligue 1 summit but equally a big chance for PSG to deal their bitter rivals a major blow in their hopes of relaunching their title hopes.
We have seen big away performances against the likes of Manchester United, Barca, and Bayern in recent years, and re-establishing that belief in the most hostile of environments this weekend could hold the key to another.