Paris Saint-Germain travel to Lyon aiming for season sweep of Les Gones
Paris Saint-Germain will be back in Ligue 1 action at Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday after a rare week without two matches. Laurent Blanc's men have not played since their 4-1 hammering of Stade de Reims at Parc des Princes last Saturday, and Le President's men will have benefitted from the time to rest after a demanding start to 2016.
The French champions' win over Reims extended their unbeaten run in Le Championnat to 36 games and, realistically, this trip to Lyon is one of the last remaining threats to that record. If PSG can return from Parc OL unbeaten, the chances are that they will go without defeat for the rest of this term in Ligue 1.
Les Gones beating the runaway league leaders and ending that sequence appears unthinkable. The men from the capital have beaten Bruno Genesio's side in every domestic competition already this campaign. The two sides have met in Ligue 1, the Coupe de France, the Coupe de la Ligue and the Trophee des Champions this season and PSG have been the winners on every occasion -- emphasising their current domestic dominance. Another triumph on Sunday would complete a clean sweep.
Making life slightly more challenging for Blanc is the fact that Marco Verratti and Angel Di Maria will both be missing from the squad in Lyon. Neither player has trained all week since suffering injury scares in the Reims win, and with the return leg of the UEFA Champions League encounter with Chelsea just around the corner, the French tactician is taking every precaution to make sure that they are both fit for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Serge Aurier's absence from the squad continues and he will not be back until at least late March after being sent to train with the reserves as punishment for his inexplicable comments during an impromptu Periscope session following PSG's 0-0 draw at home to Lille OSC a few weeks ago.
The Ivory Coast international should consider himself lucky at such a seemingly light sanction. After plenty of speculation over whether or not the 23-year-old had a future in Paris after the incident, this news suggests that we will once again see the African in the capital club's colours.
As far as timing is concerned, Lyon is not a bad game for Verratti, Di Maria and Aurier to miss. OL are without a number of regular starters and even with three key men absent, PSG will start as overwhelming favourites in their first outing at the shiny new Parc OL.
The Italian and the Argentine's unavailability is a blessing for Javier Pastore, too. Back in the squad after overcoming his latest injury setback, El Flaco should get some time on the pitch on Sunday -- even though it is unlikely that he starts.
Prior to kickoff, 34 points separate the two sides, and another three-point haul will move PSG one step closer to sealing a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title. If they keep going at their current rate, Les Parisiens should be crowned champions before the end of March.
Lyon could put a dent in those plans, though, with an unexpected victory this weekend. That appears unlikely on the face of it, but so many absences for the home side could lure the league leaders into a false sense of security that creates a sense of complacency in the group.
As long as PSG can avoid that, they really should be leaving Lyon with all three points.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.