Pressure on PSG to avoid continental hangover in Toulouse

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Thiago Motta GettyImagesThiago Motta's new deal provides a boost for PSG.

You could see in the way that AS Monaco celebrated Layvin Kurzawa's dramatic late winner in their 3-2 home victory over 10-man Stade de Reims on Friday that, to them, their Ligue 1 title bid is still well and truly alive. Claudio Ranieri's side closed the gap on leaders Paris Saint-Germain to just two points, when a potential seven-point margin had been looming, putting the pressure on the French champions to restore the five-point difference in Toulouse on Sunday.

PSG will be flying high after thumping Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in the UEFA Champions League in midweek, but will have to overcome any symptoms of one of their occasional continental hangovers. This season, the side from the capital have become more adept at balancing their European commitments with their domestic ones, winning four games and drawing just two on the back of continental action. But last term, the Parisians won five, drew two and lost one of their league fixtures that followed European action.

- Motta extends PSG contract to 2016

However, with the pressure now on Laurent Blanc's players to restore their five-point lead at the top of Le Championnat and their minds possibly still in Germany, underperformance at the Stade Municipal on Sunday could prove extremely costly. With Le Classique against bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille on the horizon, a victory over mid-table Toulouse is vital in order to not head into the OM clash under unnecessary duress.

A slight come down from Tuesday's exertions is to be expected. But knowing that the job is as good as done in Europe and that at least equalling last season's relatively impressive quarterfinal appearance is now likely, PSG are able to turn their full focus back to domestic matters for a crunch few weeks as they aim to stretch a potential five-point gap even further ahead of the return leg against Leverkusen next month.

Immediately re-establishing that five-point lead after Monaco whittled it down on Friday is of paramount importance.

The news that Italian international Thiago Motta, who has been indispensable to Blanc so far this season, has extended his contract with the club until 2016 is a big boost. Le President will likely opt to shuffle his pack, possibly giving Motta a rest, but has seven days until the Marseille clash which also allows him to limit his normally copious number of alterations to a select few.

Yohan Cabaye and Lucas Digne might feature, but otherwise Blanc will likely hope that the side that started the 4-0 rout of Leverkusen can pick up where they left off. Edinson Cavani is still absent as he recovers from the hamstring injury sustained in the 2-0 win over Girondins de Bordeaux at the end of January. PSG have coped well without El Matador in Ligue 1, the Champions League and the Coupe de la Ligue, but his expected return for next week's clash with Marseille will be a welcome one. Christophe Jallet and Zoumana Camara are also still out, but both are expected to join Cavani in the squad for Le Classique next week.

For now, PSG have set themselves up perfectly for the next few weeks by all but booking their place in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. After a dominant first half display, after which the Leverkusen game was as good as over, Blanc's side conserved their energy well during a comfortable second-half performance in Germany. That extra stamina should make a big difference on Sunday for the key players who will be expected to put in another strong display.

Alain Casanova's Toulouse side have the unenviable record of not having won in their last five league games, but still sit in 10th place at present. A trip to the Pink City should not cause much panic in the PSG ranks, but le Tefece will be keen to avenge last season's 4-0 mauling by a Lucas Moura-inspired PSG in front of a rare full house at the Stade Municipal. The capital outfit need to ensure that they don't get complacent when facing on loan teammate Clement Chantome and his team after they made life difficult for Blanc's fledgling side in a 2-0 defeat in Paris back in September.

With Monaco breathing down their necks, the French champions need to immediately snatch the momentum back to ensure that Les Monegasques' title hopes remain just that; hopes. Defeat for PSG at Toulouse and the Parisians are facing the prospect of another drawn-out title race that tests their ability to balance domestic and European commitments right up until the end of the season once again.

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