PSG goes on the road to face second-place Lens in their last game of the 2022 year. The French Ligue 1 doesn't stop for the New Year festivities with games scheduled on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 and PSG appearing in the night game of New Year.
Christophe Galtier held a pre-match press conference on Friday in which he shared some interesting nuggets ahead of the matchup with Lens on Sunday, Jan.1. Here is what the coach said.
About PSG facing second-place Lens with the feeling that even in that scenario this doesn't feel like a big game because PSG are too strong...
"We are not too strong, we manage to win games, sometimes in a nice way, but they are always difficult."
"Against Strasbourg, we won in a compromised situation, in numerical inferiority. To win in the last seconds, through hard times, is good for a team and for a group."
Christophe Galtier thinks Ilyes Housni is "a very atypical player" with "a lot of qualities"
"The first game of 2023 will be Lens-PSG. It's a great match because Lens are doing a great job, they have won all their home games, they are on a great dynamic."
"Franck Haise (Lens coach) has improved Lens' squad and level of play."
"The icing on the cake is that there will be an extraordinary atmosphere with the Lens supporters plus our numerous supporters (PSG fans will be allowed to enter the stadium, which was not a given just a few days ago). All the ingredients are there to make it a great night."
About Messi and Neymar being out and the lack of options to pair with Kylian Mbappe on offense...
"Obviously (the absences) are not insignificant. We know their importance in our game."
"If we are successful offensively, it's also because our trio is a very high-level trio."
"With Neymar's suspension, I quickly thought about how we would organize, and foster our attacking game and our team on that front."
"We have worked with the players and the staff to find the best possible way of organizing the team ahead of the game against Lens."
"I have a pretty clear idea of what I'm going to ask of my players and how I'm going to position them."
About the lack of creation and a dreadful build-up play against relegation-bound Strasbourg just a few days ago...
"Our original plan was to play a lot inside, but not in positional play. What has allowed us to get out of the pressure of our opponents so far is the mobility in the inside parts of the field."
"We saw against Strasbourg that there were a lot of people inside but we stayed static in the initial positions, without having any movements."
"We were very much frustrated. It can be linked to the density of the opponent but also to the fact that it was a game of recovery after six weeks out of competitive play. We lost those automatisms."
"I talked about it with my players, we need a lot more movement inside and not only static play that favors the opponent."
"The fact that we didn't have a natural left-back (Bitshiabu had to play makeshift left-back with Juan Bernat out injured) prevented us from passing on the left side"
"We had to find another organization, another way to get the ball out. The first reason is the lack of movement."
About the January transfer window that opens on Sunday...
"I am very happy and satisfied with my squad."
"A transfer window is still a transfer window. There will be no arrival if there is no departure. That is clear."
"At the moment, we don't have (referring to Luis Campos) any players who have asked to move from PSG, to go elsewhere, so everybody is happy here."
"That said, it's only the opening of the window, it's going to be long. We have a lot of games during this period. We'll see how things evolve. But I have a squad that has been working very well since July."
"A player may come along who is not satisfied with his playing time and who is not very happy here. We can discuss the possibilities (if that's the case)."
"In my opinion, there will be no arrival if there is no departure."
About the oft-discussed possibility of adding a center-back to PSG through January...
"No, it is no longer a topic of discussion."
"We have a young player with El Chadaille Bitshiabu. He played his first game against Strasbourg as a left-back even if in the second half he was more of a third defender than anything else."
"Bitshiabu has huge potential. We have high hopes for him."
"To go for a defender at this time would be to block [Bitshiabu]."
"It is a desire of the club to promote the young talent that we have, knowing that we will also have the return of Kimpembe in a few weeks."
About not having Messi and Neymar available and the lessons learned from the last time that happened, against Reims, earlier this season...
"We have to find the mobility and also the depth (those two provide, without having them)."
"If we are only playing a support/stationary game, we will obviously favor the pressure and boost the already-good organization of Lens."
"We will have to find depth, which we didn't do against Reims without our two best players."
About the game against Lens being the hardest for PSG so far this season...
"In my eyes, it is surely the most difficult opponent we will [have played]."
"If we refer to the ranking, yes. We will obviously see that after the game."
"I know that against the big teams of the Ligue 1, Lens have been performing well."
"There is their ambition to go to the top of the table. They have the right to believe, to hope, and to dream of an extraordinary season like others have done before."
"Because of the number of points they have and their qualities, in my eyes, it is surely the most difficult opponent we will play in this first part of the season."
About the (different) preparations for a game taking place on Jan. 1 compared to any other time of the season...
"We're going to maintain our routine, our usual organization. We're going to train tomorrow with a study session (Saturday) before heading to Lens on Sunday morning."
"There are the usual questions: what will happen to the players on Dec. 31? Will they have a meal adapted to that special day as if it's any other day before a match? Will they stay up late? Will they drink a little alcohol? They are very high-level players and I have full confidence in them. They know the importance of the game we have the next day."
"It's the first against the second, it's the big game of the weekend. We will have to play a full game to win. But Lens also have this problem."
About Mbappe's return from losing the World Cup final and helping PSG save their first Ligue 1 game after the break...
"Mbappe had a hard time digesting the fact of not lifting a second World Cup. I think that's going to be on every player's mind for a long time."
"The fact that Mbappe came back so quickly and that he has such a desire to win and to carry the team shows a certain state of mind of a very high-level champion."
"Kylian is very dynamic, very invested in the role of a leader."
"If I am not mistaken, he's played 56 games and scored 56 goals in 2022. That's the player we have. How lucky we are to have a player like that, me being a little selfish, but also France."
About Ilyes Housni potentially joining the first-team squad on a long-term basis and playing a more prominent role through the second half of the season...
"Housni has been with the first-team group for a while and he is now regularly in training sessions with us."
"With the many absences at the start of the season, we integrated him into the daily routine and he will now be regularly and daily with the professional squad."
"Housni is a very atypical player, because of the way he moves, because of the physicality he has. But he's a player who has a lot of qualities."