Invincibility beckons as PSG edge closer to unbeaten mark

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty ImagesAdrien Rabiot's youthful exuberance has had a positive effect at PSG

After France’s heroics in overturning a two-goal deficit to qualify for next summer’s World Cup by beating Ukraine at the Stade de France on Tuesday, Ligue 1 returns this weekend.

With all eyes on domestic matters, defending champions Paris Saint-Germain will travel to Stade de Reims, where there will be more than just the normal three points at stake on Saturday. Laurent Blanc’s side are currently chasing FC Nantes’ record of 32 matches in Le Championnat without defeat, set in the 1994-95 season when they lost just once en route to a seventh French title.

The clash with Hubert Fournier’s men is a poignant one considering that PSG’s last competitive defeat was at -- you guessed it -- Stade Auguste Delaune back in March when Carlo Ancelotti was still coach. But the side from the capital have grown up a lot since that wretched performance, which resulted in a 1-0 loss and then sporting director Leonardo branding the team “built for Europe, not Ligue 1.”

It is ironic then that Blanc and his side are currently irresistible in France as well as on the continent.

At present PSG are unbeaten in 33 competitive encounters at home and in Europe and, considering their current form, you would not bet against them continuing that run a little longer. Of those 33 matches, 25 have been in the league, putting them seven away from equalling Nantes’ record and eight from breaking it. Going an entire domestic season without defeat though will take some doing.

Never in the 81-year history of Le Championnat has there been a team able to go a full campaign without suffering a defeat. However, with title rivals AS Monaco losing ground at the top and a gap to maintain over unexpected challengers Lille OSC, the need to keep up this impressive run of form is pressing. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot, 18, already whispered the word “invincible” after the recent 4-0 demolition of FC Lorient, and it is no surprise that the French sensation is feeling such confidence.

So far this year, PSG have been thoroughly dominant and convincing in the majority of their games in Ligue 1 and the Champions League. Blanc likes his side to play a possession-based style and the switch to a three-man midfield, as well as the new philosophy, has enabled the Parisiens to pass their opponents to death at times.

Rarely have PSG slipped below an average of 50 percent possession over an entire match, and that figure has reached as high as 72 against AC Ajaccio. The champions, in their recent drubbing of Lorient, completed a top-flight season high of 672 passes.

But equally as impressive as the aesthetic improvements implemented by Le President is the team’s hardened character. At times under Ancelotti, they appeared too soft and players were exempt from criticism for fear of upsetting them. That is not to say that the PSG are getting more flak now and being driven on by it, but that they are simply playing too well to have that many unflattering accusations leveled at them.

The capital club have shaken off a slow early start to life under Blanc to currently boast the second-meanest defence and most prolific attack in Ligue 1. Before their 1-1 Champions League draw with RSC Anderlecht in the most recent round of games, PSG’s pass distribution was better than both Spanish giants Barcelona and reigning European champions FC Bayern Munich. But the stats only tell so much; recent come-from-behind displays against fierce rivals Olympique de Marseille to secure a 2-1 away victory with only 10 men, and to recover from 2-0 down away at AS Saint-Etienne to draw 2-2 demonstrates an impressive resilience.

Becoming France’s first side to call themselves Les Invincibles is not beyond the reach of Blanc and his players at present. But thinking that PSG could go all the way and remain untouchable domestically and in Europe perhaps is stretching it a bit too far. However, Barcelona were only able to edge the French champions out of Europe on away goals in the Champions League quarterfinals last season. The three-time Ligue 1 winners may well better that showing this year and go one stage further, still remaining unbeaten over 90 minutes of normal time. Before that though, they will need to face tougher opposition than their current Group C adversaries.

It is looking too far ahead to speculate seriously over whether or not invincibility will be obtained by PSG this season, but Nantes’ 32-game record is inching closer. Blanc just needs to be sensible enough to take it one step at a time as the team grows in strength, confidence and maturity with every passing match.

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