Paris Saint-Germain will take on OGC Nice at Allianz Riviera on Sunday knowing that even a win might not be enough to unsettle Ligue 1 leaders AS Monaco.
Les Monegasques’ 3-1 come-from-behind win at home to Toulouse FC on Saturday puts them three points clear of the French champions with one game in hand and a significant advantage in terms of goal difference.
Unai Emery’s men may well be able to return from the Cote d’Azur with all three points but they still need Leonardo Jardim’s men to slip up in two or more of their four remaining — and winnable — fixtures in Le Championnat.
Les Parisiens’ Spanish tactician spoke a good game in his prematch news conference ahead of the encounter with Lucien Favre’s high-flying Aiglons but it is all he can do at this point with PSG’s destiny firmly in the hands of the Principality outfit.
“We need to win but I have faith in my team — they know just how important this game is,” Emery told journalists at Camp des Loges. “We also know how much of a complete game we will have to produce against a team that plays such good football. Simply, we need a great performance.”
However, despite the optimism his players’ collective attitude fills him with, Emery is not kidding himself about the situation they face in Ligue 1. The simple fact of the matter is that Monaco are in front at this moment in time and do not look like relinquishing their lead.
A 5-0 thrashing away at Parc des Princes might have changed that for ASM but none of Jardim’s regular starting XI featured in midweek.
Consequently, the mental damage inflicted by PSG was minimal and nobody at Stade Louis II has challenged the Portuguese tactician’s decision to prioritise Ligue 1 and the Champions League.
“I am optimistic, especially when I see the work my players are putting in,” said Emery. “Winning the league is our objective. Monaco are in front, but we are only focusing on ourselves, just thinking about winning all the matches we have left to play.”
That is all Emery and his players can do. Even without putting themselves under extra pressure, Nice away will be a tough enough fixture. Lose or draw it and the title is as good as Monaco’s anyway.
As the Basque tactician pointed out ahead of the clash, Favre’s side deserve respect in their own right — particularly for their strong record at Allianz Riviera this term.
“This will be a great game against a team that has shown good things and has had a great season,” Emery acknowledged. “We are six points ahead of Nice but they are unbeaten at home and they have lost just two matches in 2017.
“For us, it is a big challenge against a motivated team that wants to beat us. All my players are ready, they are aware of the importance of this game and we want to give everything on the pitch.”
Even if PSG give everything on the pitch and come away with the win, it might be too late now. Monaco appear to be in unstoppable form and Jardim’s decision to field the reserves in the Coupe de France in Paris in midweek has paid off so far.
The Champions League could change that but there is no shame in exiting at the hands of Italian champions Juventus — if that is what ultimately happens.
Unless the Serie A giants, AS Nancy-Lorraine, Lille OSC, AS Saint-Etienne or Stade Rennais can somehow rattle Les Monegasques, anything the capital club do against Nice, SC Bastia, Saint-Etienne and SM Caen will matter little.
PSG are now hoping for a miracle.