PSG have chance to reclaim Ligue 1 crown at home against holder's Monaco
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain can exact revenge on Monaco for last season's surprise Ligue 1 dethronement when the pair meet at Parc des Princes on Sunday. The French capital outfit and Les Monegasques have six matches to go in Le Championnat, including this one, and are separated by 14 points coming into this weekend's showdown.
A win for PSG will open up a 17-point advantage with just 15 left to play for and a draw would mean that Monaco could only hope to finish level on points at best. Basically, it is do or die for the men from the principality, while Unai Emery and his players know that this is a great chance to wrap things up in style.
PSG have beaten ASM each of the three times they have met this season -- once in the Trophee des Champions in Tangier, Morocco, once in Ligue 1 at Stade Louis II and once in the Coupe de la Ligue final at Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux. Despite the odds being heavily stacked in Les Parisiens' favour coming into this one, though, coach Emery is expecting to be given a tough time by opposite number Leonardo Jardim and his side.
"Monaco's aim is to qualify for the Champions League, so we know this will be a very tough match," the Spaniard told journalists at his prematch news conference on Friday. "We can win the Ligue 1 title at home, in front of our fans. It is a great opportunity -- we want to win and play well.
"Monaco are in good form, they have not lost in 15 (note: actually unbeaten in 17) league matches. They have been very consistent, especially in recent months. We will try to win Le Championnat here.
"Saint-Etienne won the Ligue 1 title 10 times, Marseille nine (note: actually 10) and Monaco eight. PSG have six titles and want to win this season to keep catching up and to ultimately become the most successful team in league history. It is an important title for us, to keep moving forward."
Last time out, PSG looked disinterested away at Saint-Etienne and were lucky to come away with a draw after Mathieu Debuchy's late own goal. Despite a 100 percent win record against Monaco so far this campaign, they will need to show much greater desire if they want to end the title race dead this weekend.
Emery rejected the idea of post-Champions League elimination and post-Coupe de la Ligue success complacency but wants his team to put "the worst first half of football this term" behind them and put on a show for the homes supporters.
"We want to win every competition we play in," replied the Basque tactician at Camp des Loges when asked about the dip in intensity at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard last week. "Ligue 1 is very important for us. This is our main competition. All the players know this.
"The club wants to keep progressing, to keep improving, to become the best in the world, so every competition is important.
"We are focused on winning this weekend, we want to play well and reward our supporters, those at Parc des Princes and those watching on television. I hope they see a competitive team, playing good football and creating lots of chances to score."
PSG's chances of beating Monaco again and wrapping up the Ligue 1 title against their closest rivals in satisfying fashion have been boosted by the news that Kylian Mbappe has been passed fit to face his formative club.
The France international struggled to be much of an influence against Les Verts, but so did almost all of his teammates, and the teenage sensation will no doubt feel motivated to aid his new employers to win back the trophy that he helped Les Monegasques win last season. Mbappe was up for it in Bordeaux to inspire his team to Coupe de la Ligue victory and knowing that a Championnat crown is on the line here could aid another virtuoso showing.
Elsewhere, Emery has been boosted by the returns of Dani Alves, Julian Draxler and Thiago Motta, while Marco Verratti and Presnel Kimpembe are the only players missing -- aside from the recovering Neymar, who is now closing in on a return to action.
This season's biggest objective disappeared when Real Madrid eliminated PSG in the Champions League, but this campaign is not totally lost for the French giants. The recovery of the Ligue 1 title is one of the remaining goals this term, along with the Coupe de France, and the former is a question of when and not if.
PSG can answer that question and tick another thing off of their to-do list, setting themselves up nicely for next week's Coupe de France semifinal away at Caen.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.