Paris Saint-Germain look to stop the bleeding as they travel to hated rivals Olympique de Marseille in a league meeting of Le Classique.
The Parisians are in abysmal form and risk their season falling completely apart both domestically and abroad. They hold a five-point lead atop the table but have been poor in recent weeks, falling to Monaco while needing comebacks to beat Toulouse and Lille. Defeat today would see their advantage shrunk to just two measly points, the lowest it will have been since Matchweek 10.
Meanwhile, in the Champions League, they face a first-leg deficit as they prepare to travel to Germany to take on Bayern Munich in early March. They'll surely want to improve their form prior to that critical match that would see them dumped out of European competition if they are unable to spark a turnaround.
Marseille sit second in the table, five back of PSG, and could pull within a game of first place should they emerge from Le Classique victorious. They have already pegged PSG back once in recent weeks, winning 2-1 in the Coupe de France Round of 16 to dump the Parisians out of the competition earlier than expected.
The Sporting News will be following the match live and providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
Marseille (3-4-3, right to left): 16. Lopez (GK) — 3. Bailly, 5. Balerdi, 23. Kolasinac — 30. Tavares, 21. Rongier, 27. Veretout, 18. Malinovksyi — 17. Under, 70. Sanchez, 6. Guendouzi.
PSG (3-5-2, right to left): 99. Donnarumma (GK) — 5. Marquinhos, 4. Ramos, 3. Kimpembe — 26. Mukiele, 17. Vitinha, 6. Verratti, 8. Ruiz, 25. Mendes — 30. Messi, 7. Mbappe.
11th min: Matteo Guendouzi hacks Lionel Messi in midfield, and the official has some words with the Marseille midfielder, who has committed a few fouls already today.
8th min: Now its Marseille's turn to have multiple consecutive corners, but neither can find an opening. Matteo Guendouzi had a shot but it was blocked from a tight angle on the right edge of the six-yard box.
5th min: Kylian Mbappe wins a corner after beating two Marseille defenders on the left but running out of space, and his cross is deflected out of play. It's played short and cycled around to the top of the penalty area, and Mbappe finally lofts it into the penalty area, creating an awkward situation for Pau Lopez who tips it over the crossbar.
The second corner is driven to the near post and headed out by Jordan Veretout for a third PSG corner in quick succession. The next delivery is the best of the bunch but defended well by Marseille.
3rd min: This game has featured a bit of a chippy start. Matteo Guendouzi fouls Kylian Mbappe, then Sead Kolasinac fouls Marco Verratti. PSG players taking their lumps here early on, with the Marseille fans jeering them as they go to ground. Nordi Mukiele sends a cross into the penalty area but its cleared, as PSG break the Marseille press for the first time.
Kickoff: The players are out onto the Stade Velodrome pitch and the match is under way! How will the Ligue 1 title race look after the 90 minutes of action in southern France? Will it be a two-point gap, five-point gap, or eight-point gap between first and second at full-time?
🥵 La composition de l'@OM_officiel comme si vous étiez à l'Orange Vélodrome ❗#OMPSG I #PrimeVideoLigue1 pic.twitter.com/QpaptSwhBf — Prime Video Sport France (@PVSportFR) February 26, 2023
6 mins to kick: The PSG squad took the field for warmups earlier to a resounding chorus of boos from the Marseille faithful, who were in full force at Stade Velodrome well before kickoff. Quite the reception for the visiting side, will it affect them during the match?
L'entrée des joueurs du PSG sous une énorme bronca du Stade Vélodrome #OMPSG pic.twitter.com/6u5Mf4ugth — Football.fr (@football_fr) February 26, 2023
😳 Momento de calentar en el Vélodrome.
Gigi Donnarumma es recibido entre chiflidos por parte de la afición del Marsella 💢🤬
(🎥: @DiegsGorostieta)#Ligue1TouchMexico | #OMPSG | #Ligue1 pic.twitter.com/ktTLeHYvM3 — AS México (@ASMexico) February 26, 2023
13 mins to kick: The Marseille fans are in full voice at Stade Velodrome in southern France! The trip from Paris to Marseille between venues is an eight hour drive, so instead the PSG squad flew, hopping on a brief 90 minute flight.
22 mins to kick: PSG have one eye on the return fixture in Champions League play at Bayern Munich in 10 days' time. They trail 1-0 after the first leg at home, and have their backs against the wall. Bayern earlier today secured a hugely emotional 3-0 win over Union Berlin, which pushed them back atop the Bundesliga table and made a statement in their domestic league race over a fellow title contender. Can PSG do the same? They certainly need it in a bad way.
A Bayern „Machtdemonstration.“
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31 mins to kick: Kylian Mbappe is within striking distance of the all-time lead amongst PSG goal scorers in the history of the club. He has 198 goals for PSG across all competitions, just two behind the club leader Edinson Cavani, who collected a nice round 200 during his time in Paris.
He still has a ways to go to reach Cavani on the all-time goal scoring chart, as the Uruguayan has 437 goals in his career, which is more than double Mbappe's total of 230. Don't worry though, as Mbappe, at just 24 years old, has plenty of time to catch up.
🤩 ¡Mbappé a nada de hacer historia! 🤩
El francés podría superar el día de mañana a Edinson Cavani como máximo goleador del PSG y ante el acérrimo rival: Marsella 👁️
👉🏻 https://t.co/vuCvYvrNfe pic.twitter.com/xPCwyRxxLf — Esto en Línea (@estoenlinea) February 25, 2023
48 mins to kick: It took longer than expected to get lineups for this match, but they're finally in. Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi start for PSG, as does Nordi Mukiele as mentioned earlier. Interestingly, however, Christophe Galtier has chosen to leave Hugo Ekitike on the bench in favor of an extra midfielder in Vitinha, switching to a 3-5-2 from his usual 3-4-3 formation.
For Marseille, Dimitri Payet remains nothing more than a bench option during his difficult season, while Azzedine Ounahi is sat a week after being yanked at halftime of his first start for the club. Oddly, Marseille only have seven substitutes available, less than the allowable nine.
65 mins to kick: With Achraf Hakimi missing due to a thigh injury, there are reports that Nordi Mukiele will get the start at right wing-back, a surprise considering that Mukiele himself has only just returned from the trainer's room. There was speculation that if Mukiele could not go today, that young midfielder Warren Zaire-Emery was preparing to play the position.
🚨 Nordi Mukiele titulaire sur le côté droit du PSG face à l’OM ! @FabriceHawkins — Hadrien Grenier (@hadrien_grenier) February 26, 2023
77 mins to kick: Le Classique doesn't get quite the attention that other major European rivalries do, but it still produces an incredible fervor from the Ligue 1 fans!
L’ambiance monte au Vélodrome avant le Clasico entre l’OM et le PSG #OMPSG pic.twitter.com/f0niObnJ77 — Le Parisien | PSG (@le_Parisien_PSG) February 26, 2023
108 mins to kick: Speaking of Messi, there's been a lot of speculation over his future at PSG. Fabrizio Romano reported after the World Cup that Messi had agreed to a contract extension with the club, staving off attempts from other clubs to lure him elsewhere. Yet that has not come to fruition officially, and with the silence from both camps, doubts have crept in as to whether he'll actually sign on the dotted line.
A report from French publication Le Parisien has now stated that Champions League elimination could see Messi seek a new challenge, and comments from Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville have muddied the waters further, as he admitted the club has made an approach for Messi.
🚨 While Lionel Messi and PSG are on the same wavelength, his contract extension does not materialize and the result against Bayern could be the decisive in his decision. The negotiations on salary are stretching, because Messi doesn’t want to reduce it. @le_Parisien_PSG 🇫🇷— All About Argentina 🛎🇦🇷 (@AlbicelesteTalk) February 24, 2023
120 mins to kick: Lionel Messi, along with his Argentine cohorts Emiliano Martinez and Lionel Scaloni, are up for FIFA's The Best awards, which are announced tomorrow during the event in Paris. Messi is expected to be the eventual winner of the player of the year award for 2022, while Martinez is up for the goalkeeper award and Scaloni nominated for the managerial award.
Even though voting is complete and we are no longer in the 2022 award window, a winning moment in Le Classique would be a nice cap to his resume before the awards are handed out, where he's almost surely going to win.
👑 Messi, Benzema y Mbappé, finalistas para el premio The Best de la FIFA
🧚♀️ Alexia Putellas vuelve a ser una de las tres finalistas en la categoría femenina, junto a la británica Beth Mead y a la estadounidense Alex Morgan. pic.twitter.com/XutuzuwHuq — EFE Deportes (@EFEdeportes) February 26, 2023
Marseille boss Igor Tudor is still without defender Samuel Gigot as his only absentee this weekend, however, he is expected to make changes to his starting side, with Matteo Guendouzi and Ruslan Malinovskyi set to return.
Guendouzi is moved up into a more advanced role, seeing new arrival Azzedine Ounahi drop to the bench just one match after making his first start for Marseille, when he was yanked at halftime. Dimitri Payet also doesn't start, little surprise as he has failed to make much of an impact this season and has been an unused substitute two games in a row.
Marseille have just seven bench players available, significant given they are allowed a maximum of nine.
Marseille confirmed starting lineup (3-4-2-1): Lopez (GK) — Bailly, Balerdi, Kolasinac — Tavares, Rongier, Veretout, Malinovskyi — Malinovksyi, Guendouzi — Sanchez.
Marseille subs (7): Blanco (GK), Kabore, Clauss, Elmaz, Ounahi, Vitinha, Payet.
📋 STARTING XI | #OM v @PSG_English
Igor Tudor has named his 1️⃣1️⃣ to take on the capital side.
🔊 ALLEZ OM!!!!#OMPSG | ⚪️🔵 pic.twitter.com/kyqzXZzrhe — Olympique de Marseille 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 (@OM_English) February 26, 2023
Defensive pair Achraf Hakimi and Marquinhos were not risked in last weekend's 4-3 home win over Lille, and should return for the visitors, but Neymar, Renato Sanches and Achraf Hakimi are sidelined. Neymar is sidelined with yet another ankle injury picked up last weekend against Lille.
Christophe Galtier has opted to switch to a 3-5-2, benching forward Hugo Ekitike in favor of an extra midfielder. Vitinha enters the lineup alongside expected starters Marco Verratti and Fabian Ruiz.
PSG confirmed starting lineup (3-5-2): Donnarumma (GK) — Marquinhos, Ramos, Kimpembe — Mukiele, Vitinha, Verratti, Ruiz, Mendes — Messi, Mbappe.
PSG subs (9): Rico (GK), Letellier (GK), Bernat, Pembele, Bitshiabu, Danilo, Zaire-Emery, Soler, Ekitike.
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