PARIS (AP) — The word mismatch seems like an understatement as first-place Paris Saint-Germain visits rock-bottom Angers on Friday.
While a victory for PSG would take it another step toward a record 11th league title — one clear of Marseille and Saint-Etienne — Angers appears doomed to relegation.
They are an enormous 58 points behind PSG in the championship, with three wins.
The chasm is such that Angers has won only once in the past 23 league matches and is 17 points from safety with seven games remaining.
The top scorers for Angers are forward Adrien Hunou and Morocco winger Sofiane Bouffal. They have four goals each compared to 20 for PSG’s Kylian Mbappé, who is tied with Lille’s Jonathan David atop the scoring charts.
Although PSG has had some poor performances this season and was dominated by Bayern Munich in the round of 16 of the Champions League, losing at Angers would signal a new low for coach Christophe Galtier’s embattled team.
“There will be a full stadium, a team playing under pressure who’ll want to knock down the defending champion,” said Galtier, who welcomes central midfielder Marco Verratti back into the squad after a sore hamstring. “We don’t have any right to ease up.”
Galtier was reportedly close to losing his job this month. Wins at his former club Nice and at home to Lens last weekend likely saved him, at least for now.
“Am I certain that I’ll be PSG coach next season? I’m envisaging that I will be,” he said Thursday at a pre-game news conference. “I think an assessment will be made at the end of the season … We know where we have to improve.”
PSG’s last two games were somewhat fortunate victories, however, and masked ongoing problems.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma bailed out PSG with several fine saves in Nice, while Lens was in total control in Paris before having a player clumsily sent off after 19 minutes. Even at 3-0 down with 10 players, Lens fought back.
“It shows we have a lot of character,” Lens forward Florian Sotoca said. “When you’re feared by a team like PSG it proves something.”
So, instead of being dragged into a close title race, PSG finds itself playing scrappily yet eight points clear of second-place Marseille and nine ahead of third-place Lens, with only seven games left.
“I know the importance of this title,” Galtier said.
That’s also because PSG was clearly there for the taking, having lost eight games overall in 2023, which says much about the inconsistency of other teams.
The southern club boasts the best away record in the league — winning eight in a row at one point — but has won only once in the past six home games.
Otherwise the title would have gone to the wire and pressure would have increased on a PSG team that does not cope well with it.
For in the seasons when PSG had a challenger for the whole season, it lost the title: to Montpellier led by Olivier Giroud in 2012; to then-18-year-old Mbappé’s Monaco in 2017, and to Galtier’s shrewd Lille side in 2021.
The only title race Angers can think about is next season when — unless it somehow stays up — the focus will be on winning promotion back to the top flight.
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