PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain will unleash star strike duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on bitter foes Marseille for the first time this weekend in the latest installment of France’s most heated but increasingly lopsided rivalry.
With a six-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 and three wins from three in the Champions League, PSG are rolling along smoothly both at home and on the continent.
Neymar and Mbappe both scored in a 4-0 rout of Anderlecht on Wednesday, along with Edinson Cavani, and the Brazilian is relishing the chance to mentor his 18-year-old team-mate in Paris.
“I hope to do the same thing with him (Mbappe) that (Lionel) Messi did with me,” Neymar, who spent four seasons in Barcelona before his world-record move to Paris in August, told Brazilian television.
“He’s a golden kid who has all the qualities to become a global star… I’m going to try and help him as much as possible.”
Marseille are fourth in their first full season under Rudi Garcia but needed a late equaliser from Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou on his league debut to salvage a 3-3 draw at Strasbourg last Sunday.
They trail PSG by eight points and must snap a 14-match winless run — 12 defeats and two draws — against the capital club if they are to narrow the gap this Sunday at the Velodrome.
Marseille were thrashed 5-1 by PSG in their last meeting in February and Luiz Gustavo conceded it will take an outstanding performance to slow down the league leaders.
“It’s difficult to stop Neymar,” the Brazilian midfielder told RMC radio, ahead of what will also be his first appearance in Le Classique.
“It’s almost impossible to stop him doing what he wants to do on the pitch. I know his potential, and I’m very happy to play against him. We’re going to try to muzzle him so he can’t express himself freely.”
– Monaco stumbling –
Reigning champions Monaco will attempt to halt a run of four matches without victory in all competitions when they host Caen on Saturday.
Leonardo Jardim’s team risk exiting the Champions League prematurely after Tuesday’s 2-1 home defeat by Besiktas left them bottom of their group with just a single point after three matches.
The Portuguese said last year’s semi-finalists must bear down in order to reverse their recent slide that included a last-gasp 3-2 loss at Lyon a week ago.
“We’re going through a tougher patch right now. The important thing is to keep working as normal,” said Jardim.
“We have to remain confident. Things are going to change and improve. We have the same number of points as last season after nine matches.”
Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes welcome back last season’s leading scorer Emiliano Sala from a hamstring injury for the visit of Guingamp as they try to extend their seven-game unbeaten run.
Lille and coach Marcelo Bielsa, with just one win on the season-opening weekend, face mounting pressure ahead of a trip to Rennes, where the future of Christian Gourcuff has also been the subject of intense speculation.
Saturday’s fixture between Amiens and Bordeaux will be played 180 kilometres away in the coastal city of Le Havre after the collapse of a stadium barrier at Amiens’ Stade de la Licorne left 29 fans injured and forced the September 30 game against Lille to be abandoned.
Fixtures (all times 1800 GMT unless stated):
Saint-Etienne v Montpellier (1845)
Monaco v Caen (1500), Amiens v Bordeaux, Angers v Toulouse, Metz v Dijon, Nantes v Guingamp, Rennes v Lille
Nice v Strasbourg (1300), Troyes v Lyon (1500), Marseille v Paris Saint-Germain (1900)