PSG will play at the Parc des Princes for the second-to-last time this season when they host Ajaccio on Saturday, May 13, for MD35 of the Ligue 1 season after winning their second game in a row last week when Paris Saint-Germain beat Troyes 3-1 on the road.
This weekend might (or might not) mark the return of Lionel Messi to the pitch of the Parc to play one of his final games with PSG if the club and Christophe Galtier entirely lift the two-week-turned-one-week ban the Parisian organization imposed on the world champion following his unsanctioned trip to Saudi Arabia.
While PSG cannot seal the Ligue 1 title this weekend, they can take a huge leap forward with a win and Lens/OM losing points and widening the gap to the current leaders and reigning champions of the competition.
There are only four more games to play and 12 points to win in the three weeks left on the schedule, so there is a chance Paris Saint-Germain wraps the weekend at as large a distance from the second place as nine points, pretty much putting the Ligue 1 trophy at an arms reach next week.
Coach Galtier attended the pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon.
Here are some of the most interesting nuggets ahead of the match against Ajaccio scheduled for Saturday as PSG will host another relegation-bound team at the Parc des Princes for MD35 of the Ligue 1 season.
Lionel Messi returned this week. How did the group and the staff react to the decision to lift his suspension?
"Regarding the suspension, as I said last week, I do not comment on it. On the other hand, we have, with pleasure, welcomed the return of Leo. He trained throughout the week with a lot of desire and determination. With a desire to play for the team."
What difference does it make if PSG plays with or without Messi?
"Leo is Leo! I'm not going to tell you about his very interesting stats. When he is on the pitch, you simply have to adapt certain things to find both the right balance and the right offensive animation. We saw in Troyes the team express themselves in a beautiful way in what we had put in place. I stay on what we did in Troyes by integrating Leo. We'll have to find such an interesting offensive animation."
Will Messi start?
"Obviously I spoke with Leo as soon as he returned on Tuesday to see what state of mind he was in. I found it very serene. In the exchanges we had he felt very determined to play, motivated to win an additional title of champion of France. From the moment we met, I felt he was determined to work… Yes, he will start tomorrow."
Could you also include Ekitike in the XI or will return to the bench?
"That's something to think about. But we've worked on two different formations, including one with three offensive players."
How did you welcome the choice of the Collectif Ultra Paris to stop all support activities?
"It is never with pleasure that we receive this kind of news. We know that the CUP are important supporters who greatly enhance the atmosphere, whether at home, at the Parc or on the road. I will not comment on the decision. But there are also our other supporters who are omnipresent. I think that through exchanges and discussions, we could find solutions so that everything goes back to normal. It's unfortunate, but there are also all the other supporters very present"
Without criticizing Nasser Al-Khelaifi or Luis Campos, isn't it burdensome to always have to answer questions about club news related to off-field issues?
"I think that's part of the job. It's the same in other clubs. I did three before Paris but obviously, PSG is a very exposed club in terms of the media, there are many more questions. But when you are a coach, you have the pre-match, post-match conferences. You are the most exposed person, the most solicited."
You remain on three home defeats in four games and four wins on the road in as many games. How do you explain such a disparity in results?
"You have to take the scenarios and the team compositions. Against Lorient, it was a big disappointment in terms of the result and the level of play. But we played with ten men for 75 minutes. It is also the story of each match. On previous defeats, there were major players absent. There may be a cause-and-effect relationship on this. It's like that. Now we have the reception of Ajaccio. The workforce, even if the injured will not return, it seems much more substantial. There are more possibilities, whether at the start or during the match."
Given the context of the end of the season, don't you say to yourself "can't wait for this to end"?
"No. Once we are champions of France, yes. Matches are coming up. Saturday, we are on a decisive match, not decisive. If we win tomorrow, we won't be champions. The decisive matches will come later. Life is not a long calm river here, things happen. But no, there is no wear. There is no wear and tear in me, no desire to be on vacation quickly to recuperate. There is a very strong determination."
Do you expect the same kind of match against Ajaccio as against Troyes?
"I don't know. Obviously, it is a very bad start for them to stay in Ligue 1. But we will see players without the pressure of playing at the Parc des Princes. They will not have the pressure of the result. The players who come to the Parc always want to perform, even outperform. I expect a team that won't give up. We will have to be very competitive throughout the match and not let Ajaccio settle over time."