Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed Sergio Ramos is expected to rejoin first-team training next week following an injury lay-off, but Marco Verratti will be out of action for roughly a month.

Ramos joined PSG on a free transfer from Real Madrid in pre-season, having spent 16 years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The experienced centre-back was part of something of a squad revolution at the Parc des Princes, with Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi also moving to Paris.

But Ramos is yet to make his PSG debut after suffering a calf injury at the end of July, having also missed large chunks of 2020-21 due to fitness issues, including a previous calf problem.

PSG have been cautious about reintroducing Ramos to training, eager to avoid aggravating the injury, but it appears he is finally close to making his debut.

"Sergio Ramos' recovery programme, coordinated by the medical staff, is evolving as planned," read a medical update on PSG's website.

"He is expected to be able to begin training with the rest of the squad next week."

But Verratti is set for a spell on the sidelines with a hip injury, which the club believe could take a month to recover from.

As such, the Italy international will likely miss their next five matches across all competitions, potentially including PSG's two upcoming Champions League clashes with RB Leipzig and Manchester City.

"After suffering a knock in the last game, Marco Verratti has a deep lesion in the oblique muscles of his left hip. He is expected to be out for four weeks, depending on how the injury evolves," the update added.

PSG also revealed Kylian Mbappe is a doubt for Friday's visit of Lille due to illness – he is to be evaluated over the next couple of days.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman is under immense pressure and needs a convincing win over Dynamo Kiev, having failed to earn any points from the first two Champions League games of the campaign.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also in great need of a positive result, having won just two of his past seven games across all competitions, losing four.

Bayern Munich and Chelsea seem set for comfortable victories, however, with Blues boss Thomas Tuchel targeting the joint-best defensive record after 10 games with a club in the competition.

Read on for more as Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Barcelona v Dynamo Kiev: Can Koeman stop the rot?

Koeman will be desperate to prevent his Champions League record at Barcelona from getting any worse after successive 3-0 defeats to Bayern Munich and Benfica in which the Blaugrana recorded a collective total of one shot on target, the least of any team in the competition.  

Despite only taking charge of four per cent of Barcelona’s home Champions League matches (5/131), 25 per cent of their total home defeats in the competition have come under the Dutchman (3/12), who is the only Blaugrana manager to lose more than twice at home in the tournament. 

Ansu Fati is perhaps Koeman's best chance of securing a positive result. The 18-year-old forward has been directly involved in three goals in two Champions League starts at Camp Nou (one goal and two assists), including an assist for Gerard Pique's goal in the 2-1 win against Dynamo Kyiv last year.

Benfica v Bayern Munich: Lewandowski-led Bavarians expect to stay unbeaten on the road

Bayern's record of eight European Cup/Champions League games unbeaten against Benfica is the joint-most by a team against an opponent since the tournament began in 1955.

With the Bavarian giants also on a record 19-match unbeaten run away from home in the competition (W15 D4), Julian Nagelsmann's side will feel confident of success in Portugal.

Furthermore, striker Robert Lewandowski - who has scored over a third of their 54 goals from that run (19 - 35 per cent) - has also netted five times in just six Champions League games against Portuguese opponents, including three against Benfica. No player has ever scored more times against sides from Portugal in the competition. 

 

Chelsea v Malmo: Clean-sheet chasing Blues Luk-ing for big win

Both of Chelsea's Champions League games this season have ended 1-0 - a win over Zenit and a loss to Juventus - but the Blues will be hoping for a more convincing scoreline as they host a Malmo side that have already conceded seven goals (the second-most in the tournament) and have lost their last five games in the competition by an aggregate score of 0-24, losing by three or more goals on each occasion.

Chelsea centre-forward Romelu Lukaku, in particular, will be relishing the opportunity to boost his already impressive tally of 14 goals in 18 appearances in European competition since the start of the 2019-20 season. In this period, the only two players who have scored more non-penalty goals than Lukaku (12) across the Champions League and Europa League are Lewandowski (19) and Erling Haaland (18). 

Tuchel will also be hoping for a seventh clean sheet in his 10th Champions League game in charge of Chelsea. The Blues have only conceded three goals under the German so far, which would be the joint-fewest through a manager’s first 10 games of a club in the competition (along with Fabio Capello at AC Milan and Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid).

 

Manchester United v Atalanta: Ronaldo and Fernandes to rescue Solskjaer?

Manchester United boss Solskjaer comes into this game under pressure after a 4-2 loss to Leicester City in the Premier League. The Red Devils have lost 58 per cent of Champions League games (7/12) under the Norwegian - the highest percentage of defeats by any manager to have taken charge of an English side on 10 or more occasions in the competition.

Solskjaer will be relying on his dynamic Portuguese duo to earn a much-needed win at Old Trafford. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 18 goals in 23 Champions League appearances against Italian sides, while Bruno Fernandes' four goals and three assists is the most direct contributions to a goal from any midfielder since his debut in the competition for United.

Atalanta are no pushovers, however. The Serie A side have only lost one of their last seven away games in the Champions League, winning five and drawing the other, and have won three of their six UEFA European matches against English opponents (D1 L2).

 

Other fixtures:

Zenit v Juventus

0  –  Juventus have never lost in eight previous encounters with Russian sides in European competition (W7 D1), scoring 18 times and only conceding three, although their only failure to win came away at Zenit in November 2008.

4  – Juventus have won their last four games in the group stage of the Champions League without conceding a single goal, with two of these coming away from home – 3-0 against Barcelona in December 2020 and 3-0 against Malmo in September 2021. 

Young Boys v Villarreal

 – Villarreal have lost eight of their last nine games in the Champions League (D1), conceding at least two goals in all nine outings in this run. They will be looking for their first win in the competition since March 2009, when they won 2-1 against Panathinaikos under Manuel Pellegrini.

 – Young Boys are unbeaten in their last three home games in the Champions League (W2 D1), and could equal their longest run without defeat on home soil in the European Cup/Champions League – a run of four games between 1957 and 1959. 

Salzburg v Wolfsburg

21   – In Salzburg’s last four UEFA European competition meetings with German opponents, there have been 21 goals scored (six for, 15 against) – last season’s Champions League games against Bayern Munich alone saw 12 scored (2-6 home defeat, 3-1 away defeat).

 – Karim Adeyemi has won four penalties for RB Salzburg in the Champions League this season. Since 2003-04 (as far back as we have this data), no player has ever won more than four in a single season in the competition. 

Lille v Sevilla

32  – The average age of Sevilla’s starting XI in the Champions League this season is 29 years and 200 days; the oldest of any of the 32 sides. Sevilla have handed starts to five different players aged 30 or older in the competition this season (Jesus Navas, Fernando, Papu Gomez, Ivan Rakitic and Yassine Bounou), with only Malmo (six) having more.

15  – Lille have won just 15 per cent of their home games in the Champions League to date (3/20) – among teams to have played 20 or more home games in the competition, only Romanian side FC Steaua Bucharest have a worse win percentage (9.5 per cent - 2/21).

Manchester United need points to get their Champions League campaign going, and doing so by getting revenge for their Europa League final shoot-out loss to Villarreal would be a moment to enjoy for the Old Trafford fans.

When it comes to established elite needing results, United are not alone. Barcelona head to Benfica looking to banish thoughts of that humbling home loss to Bayern Munich on matchday one, while Massimiliano Allegri could use a strong performance against strong opposition when Chelsea visit Juventus.

Bayern themselves host Dynamo Kiev, as Mircea Lucescu looks to fare a little better than the last time he took a team to the Allianz Arena.

Read on for more as Stats Perform looks at the key Opta facts ahead of Wednesday's Champions League action.

 

Benfica v Barcelona: Can Memphis Depay breathe life back into Catalans?

Barcelona's 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on matchday one was the first time in at least 186 Champions League matches in which they did not attempt a single shot on target.

Memphis Depay did not manage a shot of any kind, something he had never before experienced when starting a game in this competition. However, with two goals in his previous two games against Benfica, he could be the man to get Barca firing in Lisbon.

Benfica have not beaten Barcelona since the European Cup final in 1961, but if they do manage to pile more pressure on Ronald Koeman with a victory, it will mark the first time the Blaugrana have lost their opening two games of the season in Europe since 1972-73, when they lost twice to Porto.

Bayern Munich v Dynamo Kiev: More unhappy memories beckon for Lucescu

The Allianz Arena was the scene of Lucescu's heaviest Champions League defeat: his Shakhtar Donetsk side lost 7-0 to Bayern Munich in March 2015.

Having failed to score in seven of their previous 11 games in this competition, it is hard to expect Dynamo to stop Bayern from claiming what would be a 33rd home win out of their most recent 35 in the group stages.

In fact, across the past three seasons, Bayern have won the most games (20) and scored the most goals (73) of any team in the tournament. In 14 of their 22 games in that time, they have netted at least three goals.

 

Juventus v Chelsea: Bianconeri out to keep up king-slayer tradition

Juventus have won seven matches against the holders in this competition's history, a figure only Real Madrid can beat (11 wins). They also beat Chelsea 3-0 in their previous meeting back in the 2012-13 group stage.

Still, Chelsea have only lost three of their past 32 group games and none of their most recent 12. Thomas Tuchel's 68 per cent win ratio is bettered by only two men among managers to take charge of 20 or more group games: Pep Guardiola (71 per cent) and Jupp Heynckes (73 per cent).

The last time Juve hosted an English team in the Champions League, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United snatched a 2-1 win in November 2018. Massimiliano Allegri's side have never lost consecutive home games to English opponents.

 

Manchester United v Villarreal: Goals at last in Europa League final repeat?

All five previous European meetings between Manchester United and Villarreal have ended in draws. The first four did not even see a goal scored – it's the most played Champions League match never to see a goal – while the Europa League final last season finished 1-1, with the LaLiga side winning 11-10 on penalties.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only manager to take charge of 10 or more Champions League matches at an English club and lose more than half of them (he's lost seven out of 11). Should they suffer defeat at Old Trafford, it will mark the first time in history they have ever lost their first two European games of a season.

If he plays, Cristiano Ronaldo will break Iker Casillas' record of 177 Champions League appearances. However, he has failed to score in four games against Villarreal in the competition – only against Lille and Benfica has he played as many times without finding the net.

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Young Boys

30 – Atalanta's 30 Champions League goals have all been scored by non-Italians. They have netted more goals without any coming from a player of the nationality of the club he's representing in Champions League history. Young Boys have scored six times in the competition, but none has come from a Swiss player.

17 – David Wagner's side had 17 more shots than Manchester United in their opening-round win (19 vs 2). The last time a coach saw his team have that many more attempts than their opponents in his first game in charge was when Hansi Flick's Bayern Munich had 27 shots to Olympiacos' three in November 2019.

Zenit v Malmo

1 – Zenit have only taken one point from their previous eight group-stage matches and have lost four of their past seven home games in European competition.

8 – No team faced more shots on target than Malmo on matchday one of this campaign (eight against Juventus), while their xG against total of 3.5 was the most of any team in the opening round.

Salzburg v Lille

40 – This will be Lille's 40th Champions League match. They only won six of their first 39 - only Dinamo Zagreb (five) and FCSB (four) have ever won fewer than eight of their first 40 games in the competition.

35 – Although 10 of Salzburg's starting XI against Sevilla last time out were aged 24 or younger, they also included 35-year-old Andreas Ulmer, who was two years and 158 days older than his coach, Matthias Jaissle. It's the first time a player has been over two years older than their manager in a Champions League match since Naldo for Schalke in December 2018 under Domenico Tedesco (three years and two days older).

Wolfsburg v Sevilla

3.7 – Wolfsburg's previous six games against Spanish opponents in European competition have seen a total of 22 goals scored (11 for, 11 against), at an average of 3.7 per game.

7 – Sevilla are unbeaten in their past seven away games in this competition (W3 D4), their longest ever unbeaten run away from home in the European Cup/Champions League. They last suffered defeat on the road in October 2017, losing 5-1 away to Spartak Moscow.

French football authorities will demand answers from Lens after home fans invaded the pitch and confronted rival supporters at half-time in their Ligue 1 derby against Lille. 

Lens general manager Arnaud Pouille is certain the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) will begin disciplinary proceedings against his club, following the ugly scenes at their Stade Bollaert-Delelis home. 

Lille may also be summoned as league chiefs unpick the unsavoury scenes that saw fans from each club contribute to a volatile atmosphere. 

Tension spilled over at the interval as scores of Lens supporters raced across the pitch towards those who had travelled to support Lille. 

Pouille said the north-east derby trouble was bad news for the clubs because it would be "the image of the region that is affected". 

"I have a clear idea of what happened," he said, according to L'Equipe. "But I don't want to influence anyone by speaking out. It is not under our authority. 

"There were a few actions that ignited the powder and a reaction that is damaging. But in these cases, speaking out is complicated because whatever you say, you make it feel like you want to influence. 

"We condemn any act of violence. There are proceedings that are ongoing. At the level of the LFP, at the level of justice, there will be complaints filed by the club, and by the opposing club also from what I understood." 

Lille announced on Twitter at half-time that the game was under threat, stating: "Following a pitch invasion from the home end of the stadium, an emergency meeting is taking place to decide whether the match will be continued or abandoned." 

Pouille said he had spoken to Lille president Olivier Letang at half-time, as the trouble occurred. 

The recent abandonment of the match between Nice and Marseille due to supporter violence was followed by Nice receiving a two-point penalty, one of which was suspended. 

According to Pouille, the trouble at Saturday's match could not be compared to the mayhem in that fixture. 

"It is not at all the same circumstances," Pouille said. "No players in the [Lens-Lille] game were affected, the main events took place at half-time. 

"Yes, there will certainly be a summons from the disciplinary committee, we will discuss with them at that time." 

Lens went on to win 1-0 against last season's champions, who have made a rocky start to their title defence. 

Lille head coach Jocelyn Gourvennec said he had been unaware of the precise circumstances behind the trouble. The game was held up, with 40 minutes between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. 

"Half-time incidents? We had already returned to the locker room. I don't really know what happened," Gourvennec said. "We were informed by the delegates and Mr Millot [referee Benoit Millot] who spoke to the coaches and captains. 

"It was just a bit long, it lengthened the half-time, we had to do a warm-up again, it was not ideal. I do not know more. I hope there were no injuries."

Barcelona host Bayern Munich as two Champions League heavyweights headline the first round of matchday one fixtures on Tuesday.

Barca will be without Lionel Messi for a European campaign for the first time since 2003-04 as they seek revenge against the Bundesliga outfit.

Manchester United – armed with the competition's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo – travel to Young Boys while reigning champions Chelsea begin at home to Zenit.

Italian giants Juventus make the trip to Sweden's most successful team Malmo, who are making their first appearance in the group stage since 2015-16 following their title win in 2020.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Tuesday's fixtures.

Barcelona v Bayern Munich: Blaugrana out to make amends

Barcelona and Bayern Munich have not met in the group stages since 1998-99, but the Bundesliga side did inflict Barca's heaviest defeat since April 1951 with an 8-2 crushing in 2019-20's quarter-finals.

There are remarkable records at stake for both sides as well, Bayern boasting the longest unbeaten away run in the history of the competition (18), while Barca are unbeaten in their last 22 group-stage openers – stretching back to 1997-98.

However, Julian Nagelsmann's side have won 17 opening games in a row and they also have Robert Lewandowski to call upon, the forward scoring 28 times since the start of 2018-19 – eight more than any other Champions League player.

 

Young Boys v Manchester United: Ronaldo returns for another record

Young Boys have won only one of 13 games against English opponents in European competition as they prepare for Manchester United, who have lost just one of their last 21 openers.

However, United have been beaten in six of their 10 Champions League matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – as many as they did in their last 20 under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Having not appeared for the Red Devils in 12 years and 110 days – the fourth longest gap between appearances for the same club – Cristiano Ronaldo could equal the all-time appearance record in the Champions League, moving level with Iker Casillas on 177.

Chelsea v Zenit: History favours the champions

The reigning Champions League champions have only lost two of 27 games when starting their title defence, with no side ever losing a home game immediately following continental success.

Zenit face an uphill battle, given they are winless in their last seven fixtures, while Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 games in the group stage.

Indeed, the Blues are unbeaten in six matches against Russian teams and, since the start of last season, no team have lost fewer matches (1) or kept more clean sheets (9).

 

Malmo v Juventus: Allegri's away-day specialists

Tuesday will be Malmo head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson's managerial debut in the competition after last appearing as a player for Milan in the 2005 final.

The hosts, though, have scored just three goals across 10 previous appearances, while Juventus have won their last five group stage away games.

The visitors will also have Alvaro Morata available, the forward one of only three Spaniards to score more than 20 Champions League goals after netting six times in eight matches last term.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kyiv v Benfica

143 – Dynamo Kyiv manager Mircea Lucescu (76) and Benfica's Jorge Jesus' (67) combined age of 143 is the oldest of two managers to face off in the Champions League.

25 – The hosts are one of 25 teams to play 100 or more fixtures in the competition, but they have the third worst loss percentage (49) behind Olympiacos (52) and Galatasaray (51).

Lille v Wolfsburg

1 – Lille have only managed one win against German opposition in nine attempts in European competition, last prevailing in 2002.

5 – Wolfsburg have won five of their last six Champions League games and have scored twice in four of those victories.

Sevilla v Red Bull Salzburg

64 – Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri is averaging a Champions League goal every 64 minutes, recording three braces for his six goals in eight games last campaign.

2 – Red Bull Salzburg have only won two of their last 15 matches in the competition, but both of them have come away from home against Genk and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Villarreal v Atalanta

15 – Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno has 15 Europa League goals but has never played in Europe's premier competition – since 1992-93 only three players have scored more and not played in the Champions League.

5 – Atalanta have won five of their last six away games, only losing against Real Madrid, while they have also progressed from their two previous group stage campaigns.

Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi will go up against each other in the Champions League after Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were drawn into the same group.

Messi and Guardiola enjoyed a close relationship during their time together at Barcelona, but for the first time they will meet with neither of them representing the Catalans.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi left Barca at the end of June when his contract expired, and while he was expected to sign on with them again, the Blaugrana's hands were tied due to financial restrictions.

As such, Messi was swiftly snapped up by PSG despite previous links with City and a potential Guardiola reunion.

Another narrative could yet enter the conversation with respect to City versus PSG, as Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo – Messi's long-time rival – has been strongly with a move to the Etihad Stadium.

If Ronaldo does not leave Juve, he will go up against the holders Chelsea – who beat City in last season's final – in Group H.

There will be a repeat of the 2020-21 Europa League final in Group F as Manchester United have been offered the opportunity for revenge against Villarreal, who defeated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in a remarkable penalty shoot-out in Belfast at the end of May.

Three of Spain's other representatives have tough groups to contend with: Barcelona were drawn with Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev; Real Madrid will again face Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk as they did in 2020-21; and Atletico Madrid must go up against Liverpool, Porto and Milan.

Sevilla, on the other hand, are in the seemingly even Group G with Ligue 1 winners Lille, Salzburg and Wolfsburg, the latter of whom are back in the competition for only the third time.

First-time qualifiers Sheriff of Moldova joined Madrid, Inter and Shakhtar in Group D.

 

Group A: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge

Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, Milan

Group C: Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas

Group D: Inter, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff

Group E: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev

Group F: Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta, Young Boys

Group G: Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg, Wolfsburg

Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit, Malmo

Nice must build on their 4-0 thrashing of Ligue 1 champions Lille, Christophe Galtier demanded after triumphing over his former club.

Galtier led Lille to the title last season, as Les Dogues edged out Paris Saint-Germain.

While PSG have added more remarkable talent to their already world class squad, with the arrivals of Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi and Gianluigi Donnarumma topped off by the signing of Lionel Messi, Lille have had to contend with the loss of their coach, who left the club to join Nice in the off-season.

Galtier and Lille hardly parted on good terms internally, despite the 54-year-old delivering the club's first title in a decade.

There have also been rumblings of discontent at Nice, with tensions reportedly appearing between Galtier and sporting director Julien Fournier as they aim to bolster the squad.

A disappointing 0-0 home draw to Reims started Galtier's tenure, but Nice put that well behind them with a thrilling showing against the champions on Saturday.

Kasper Dolberg got the ball rolling inside 57 seconds after Amine Gouiri had caused havoc in the Lille defence – that was the earliest Ligue 1 goal scored by the club since April 2013 (32 seconds).

Gouiri then teed up Hichem Boudaoui for a fierce effort four minutes later to make it 2-0. The former ensured Nice were 3-0 up at the break for the first time since October 2014 as he converted a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Dolberg completed the scoring just past the hour, with Gouiri denied a second of his own soon after due to offside.

It was the first time since September 2017 that Lille had conceded four goals in a single home league match and Galtier basked in the achievement.

"It's a great victory," he told Nice's official website.

"We knew that we were going to face a side that has been in place for a certain period of time and that our first match against Reims wasn't good enough.

"Against Reims, we were missing a lot of things. The players did well [against Lille]. It's their victory because they have come a long way."

Asked what it meant to defeat his old side in such an emphatic manner, Galtier explained: "I haven't had the time to reflect on that yet. It's always good to keep your feet firmly on the ground and to remain vigilant after this kind of victory, which seems easy when you look at the score.

"But it's a victory that required a lot of commitment and energy. We can't ease our feet off the pedals throughout the week or allow what we are demanding in training to drop off."

The defeat means Lille are still waiting for their first win of the season. It is the third time they have failed to triumph in either of their opening two matches of a campaign in which they have been defending champions.

Everyone wants Lionel Messi but few have the resources to sign him.

Paris Saint-Germain appear to be strong favourites to land the Argentina international.

A deal could happen in the coming days.

 

TOP STORY - PSG CLOSE IN ON MESSI

PSG believe they are close to a deal to land Lionel Messi.

ESPN reports PSG have been in contact with Messi's father and agent Jorge "for some time" and are set to offer a three-year contract. 

Sky Sport Italia says the deal is more likely to be for two years with an option to extend it to a third. 

The ESPN report said adding Messi would make it more likely Kylian Mbappe would stay with the club rather than leave when he is out of contract next year, though it would end PSG's pursuit of Paul Pogba, partly due to FFP concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are set to pay about £95million for Romelu Lukaku as Inter prefer a cash-only deal, the Daily Mail reports. Calciomercato says the Blues offered Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso in a swap deal but the Nerazzurri were not interested. 

- Inter are looking within Serie A to replace their outgoing striker, Sky Italia says, with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata and Roma's Edin Dzeko their preferred options.

- Barcelona are trying to come to an agreement with Lille on midfielder Renato Sanches, Le10 Sport reports. 

- Rafa Mir is set for a move from Wolves to Atletico Madrid, with Fabrizio Romano reporting personal terms have been agreed. 

- West Ham have offered €14m (£12m) to Marseille for Duje Caleta-Car, L'Equipe reports, saying the Ligue 1 side are holding out for €20m (£17m).

The new Ligue 1 season is on the horizon and Paris Saint-Germain are clear title favourites. They may have lost the championship race last term, but some things never change.

If Lille's triumph was unexpected in 2020-21, another upset in the coming campaign would be on another level entirely.

While PSG have continued to spend, many of their rivals are feeling the effects of a tough financial market struggling to recover from the collapse of a mammoth television deal late last year.

Is silverware inevitable then for Mauricio Pochettino's men? Stats Perform takes a look at the state of play in France...

THE RICH GET RICHER

Few teams in Europe have recruited as impressively as PSG ahead of the new season, but many of the changes might not be immediately evident in Ligue 1.

Take Sergio Ramos, for example. PSG may have lost their domestic crown last term, but their repeated failures in the Champions League are of primary concern. Ramos should help to fix that.

Few players can match the centre-back's European pedigree. Following Cristiano Ronaldo's departure in 2018, Real Madrid won 10 of the 15 Champions League games Ramos featured in and only four of the 13 he missed.

It is likely he will be the man for the big occasion again in Paris. Now 35 and having played only 15 games in LaLiga last season due to injury, that might mean limited Ligue 1 outings.

Likewise, Gianluigi Donnarumma's role is not entirely clear. He was the standout player at Euro 2020 but must now compete with Keylor Navas, who prevented 8.1 Ligue 1 goals last season according to Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) data – the third-best mark in Europe's top five leagues.

 

Georginio Wijnaldum is a solid addition but unlikely to move the needle, although Achraf Hakimi should give PSG a new dimension. The wing-back has been involved in 30 goals (12 goals, 18 assists) since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, trailing only Robin Gosens (34) among defenders in the top leagues.

However, if Mauricio Pochettino prioritises the Champions League, Moise Kean – 13 goals in 26 league games last season but now back at Everton – might be a miss.

LILLE A LEADING CONTENDER

It was anticipated Lille's key men would be picked off following their title win and that did happen to an extent. Mike Maignan left for Milan, replacing Donnarumma, and Boubakary Soumare for Leicester City. Coach Christophe Galtier is now at Nice.

But Lille have retained their strike force in Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David along with centre-back pairing Jose Fonte and Sven Botman – two old-and-young combinations.

Fonte and Botman were particularly impressive last term, leading a defence that conceded a league-low 23 goals. They both started last week's Trophee des Champions triumph over PSG, the third time since the start of last season the capital club have failed to net against Lille.

They were not the only club to end 2020-21 with momentum, though. Monaco collected a league-high 51 points from their 21 games in 2021, while only Lille (11) have conceded fewer than their 17 this year.

Stretching that form out across an entire campaign to put PSG under pressure is no simple task, but Monaco have Ligue 1's form man in Aleksandr Golovin.

With five goals and eight assists in 969 minutes in 2021, Golovin is averaging a goal involvement every 75 minutes in Ligue 1 – the best rate among players with 200 minutes or more.

 

MAKING MOVES

Money may be in short supply throughout the division, but PSG are not quite alone in spending ahead of the new season. Rennes and Nice are looking to climb back into the top-four picture.

Rennes finished sixth last term after ex-Lyon man Bruno Genesio arrived with 11 games of the season remaining, finding the side winless in eight and stuck in mid-table.

A record-breaking run lifted Rennes into a European place. No coach in their history can match Genesio's points-per-game average (1.8) or win rate (54.6 per cent).

His reward was significant expenditure on centre-back Loic Bade, joining the third-best defence in the league (40 goals conceded), and forward Kamaldeen Sulemana.

Meanwhile, Nice will hope their own coaching change has a similar impact. Galtier has also been backed, with Jean-Clair Todibo and Calvin Stengs among his recruits.

Perhaps creator Stengs can get Kasper Dolberg firing again after a disappointing six-goal season.

No player in the Eredivisie last term underperformed their expected goals (xG) tally by as wide a margin as Stengs (9.3 xG, five assists), who will hope to find more clinical team-mates in France.

 

Can Paris Saint-Germain get back on track? Are champions Lille in contention again? Could any top French sides face the drop?

Stats Perform aims to answer all of these questions and more as the new Ligue 1 season gets under way.

The Stats Perform League Prediction Model, created by Stats Perform AI using Opta data, has analysed the division ahead of the new season to assign percentages to potential outcomes for each club.

The model estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) based on teams' attacking and defensive qualities, which considers four years' worth of results, with weighting based on recency and the quality of opposition. The season is then simulated 10,000 times to calculate the likelihood of each outcome.

What does that mean for PSG and the rest of the French elite? Read on to find out...

POCH'S PSG TITLE FAVOURITES

It will surprise nobody, but PSG have been identified as the clear pre-season favourites. They are given a huge 79.5 per cent chance of reclaiming their title after falling behind Lille last term.

The signings of Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum should ensure PSG get back on track, while Mike Maignan, Boubakary Soumare and coach Christophe Galtier have all left Lille.

The defending champions are still considered PSG's most likely challengers, though.

Lille have a 12.4 per cent likelihood of retaining the championship, which puts them well clear of Lyon (5.7 per cent) in third. Monaco's 2.4 per cent bid to repeat their 2016-17 success makes them the fourth and final side to be given any chance at all.

TOP FOUR SEEMS SET IN STONE

Four into three does not go, so at least one of the title contenders will miss out on the Champions League. They should all make the top four, though, with Europa League qualification guaranteed for fourth place.

PSG unsurprisingly look certain for one of the two automatic Champions League spots, rated at 94.9 per cent.

Lille are considered most likely to join them at 54.6 per cent, leaving Lyon to take third – the Champions League third qualifying round (35.2) per cent – and Monaco fourth – the Europa League group stage (40.0 per cent).

There are at least a clutch of rival clubs given a slim hope of crashing the Champions League party; Marseille (0.5 per cent), Rennes (0.2 per cent) and Montpellier (0.1 per cent) are all just about in the running for second place.

Interestingly, Nice – ninth last term but having recruited Galtier – are not given a significant chance of even making the Champions League qualifiers, whereas Lens (0.2 per cent), Nantes (0.1 per cent), Reims (0.1 per cent), Saint-Etienne (0.1 per cent) and Strasbourg (0.1 per cent) all come into consideration.

Every team in the league have at least a 0.1 per cent likelihood of finishing fifth – a Europa Conference League play-off round place – although PSG are joined by newly promoted pair Troyes and Clermont with the most remote chance.

BIG-NAME BORDEAUX IN BOTHER?

It figures that Troyes (38.8 per cent) and Clermont (34.5 per cent) are backed for relegation straight back down to Ligue 2, but some of last season's top-flight sides are also at significant risk.

Brest are rated at a 26.4 per cent chance of relegation, with Angers at 19.0 per cent and Lorient at 15.0 per cent.

Most interestingly of all, though, Bordeaux are third-favourites for the drop behind the two promoted clubs.

The six-time champions won the title as recently as 2009 but have been in steady decline, even if a 12th-placed finish last time out saw them steer five points clear of the relegation play-off.

Indeed, Bordeaux were in the European picture in late January before an awful run and they will hope new coach Vladimir Petkovic can ensure there are no relegation worries in the coming campaign.

Mauricio Pochettino insisted the best team lost in the Trophee des Champions as Jocelyn Gourvennec dealt the first psychological blow of the 2021-22 campaign to collect Lille's first ever triumph in the competition.

Pochettino's men failed to secure a third domestic trophy of his tenure as they succumbed to a second straight 1-0 defeat against Lille, a result which ended PSG's eight-year reign in the Trophee des Champions.

PSG have enjoyed a productive transfer window, bringing in Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum, though only the latter two were able to feature on Sunday.

"I think we were the best team on the pitch tonight," Pochettino said after the final loss. "But we failed to realize our opportunities, and to win in football, you just have to score.

"It's a new season, I'm happy with the attitude of my players, and we'll be better when we have the full squad available. I have never doubted the involvement of my players. We wanted to win tonight, we did everything to win, we played the players who could."

Without Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, who scored 42 goals in 47 games in all competitions last term, to call upon, PSG's attack looked impotent as they blanked against Leo Jardim.

The attacking pair headed a host of big-name absentees, with other stars such as Donnarumma and Ramos unavailable due to late returns from Euro 2020 and injury problems respectively.

Wijnaldum and Julian Draxler were the only players to test Jardim, while Mauro Icardi also had a goal ruled out for offside, yet Presnel Kimpembe found positives in the defeat.

"It's obviously disappointing, it's a final and there's a trophy at stake," the centre-back said after the game. "It hurts but it's the beginning of the season, we have to find our rhythm.

"We had a lot of young players in this team, we need to be better at creating chances and working together so congratulations to Lille but it's only the beginning of the season, and we'll have to prepare ourselves for the future.

"We had the ball, but having the ball is not enough, we have to create chances, but football is like that, we have to keep our heads held high for the next game.  We have to get ready for this game in Troyes and we have to forget about this and move on."

Jocelyn Gourvennec was quick to share the credit for Lille's historic Trophee des Champions success with predecessor Christophe Galtier.

Former head coach Galtier steered Lille to a first Ligue 1 title in a decade before departing for Nice, with new boss Gourvennec masterminding a 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday’s curtain-raiser for the new domestic season.

Xeka's first-half strike from long range was the difference between the teams, ending PSG's eight-year spell of dominance in the competition, while it also secured Lille's first ever triumph at the third attempt.

"When you play a trophy, what matters is the title," Gourvennec told the media after the game. "We suffered in the second half because there was a high technical quality in front of us.

"We went through a lot but the players are used to it. There were also moments like that last season, and we were able to stay strong.

"It is not easy to take over from Christophe [Galtier]. I say it very simply: I share this title with him because he has done a remarkable job with his staff. It's kind of his title. 

"It's good to start on a positive note. There is collective strength in this team, and talent too. We found that tonight."

Pochettino's men were dethroned in Ligue 1 last term by Gourvennec's new side, who denied the former Tottenham boss a third domestic trophy at the French giants, with the hard-fought win an early psychological blow ahead of the new campaign.

However, Julian Draxler, who was denied by Lille goalkeeper Leo Jardim in the first half and volleyed wide in the second, insisted the result would not impact PSG's Ligue 1 preparations.

"It's hard to accept losing a final but we didn't play badly when we were missing players," the attacking midfielder said after the final loss. "It wasn't perfect, but in the second half we were the best team.

"Congratulations to Lille. We are sad and disappointed for our supporters, but we gave everything until the last minute. We'll be ready for Ligue 1."

PSG had a number of first-team regulars absent, including Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was also not involved, though fellow new recruit Achraf Hakimi started and Georginio Wijnaldum was introduced as a second-half substitute.

Xeka's first-half thunderbolt proved the difference as Lille secured the Trophee des Champions for the first time, in the process ending Paris Saint-Germain's eight-year domination of the competition.

The Lille midfielder was teed up by Burak Yilmaz before blasting in from long range on the stroke of half-time, with PSG unable to make their possession count from there on in.

The story of the final could have been different, however, had Abdou Diallo taken the best second-half opportunity, failing to convert a headed effort from inside the six-yard area with just Leo Jardim to beat.

After dethroning the capital side as Ligue 1 champions last campaign, Jocelyn Gourvennec's side have now collected the first piece of silverware of France's domestic season, with the showpiece event taking place in Israel this year.

Yilmaz's drilled free-kick seemed destined to open the scoring inside 10 minutes, though Keylor Navas' fingertip save pushed the effort wide of his left-hand post.

PSG, who were hampered by big-name absentees, including Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, dictated proceedings for the remainder of the first half, yet only Julian Draxler tested Jardim as he fizzed from range to force the goalkeeper into a smart save.

Yilmaz worked Navas once more on the counter, but it was Xeka who broke the deadlock as he powered in a right-footed effort from just outside the area.

Diallo should have restored parity with a close-range header but somehow managed to nod wide after Mauro Icardi had redirected the ball towards the left-back.

Icardi thought he had levelled things up with 15 minutes to go but his chipped finish was ruled out for offside, while Draxler volleyed inches wide moments later as PSG drew a blank.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed Georginio Wijnaldum as a "complete player" ahead of the Trophee des Champions clash against Lille, while also commending Achraf Hakimi's versatility.

Paris Saint-Germain disappointed last season as they finished runners-up in Ligue 1 and were beaten home and away by Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

However, the French giants have had a busy transfer window, bringing in Hakimi, Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma as they attempt to reassert their authority.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's final, Pochettino praised the former Liverpool man, who he feels will significantly strengthen their midfield.

"We are very pleased to have him here. I think Georginio Wijnaldum can contribute going forward and also defensively", the head coach said. "He has the aggression that we need as a team."

"His experience and quality make him a player who can help in the same way, going forward and defensively. He can win the ball back [and] be aggressive, so I think he is a complete player."

Indeed, Pochettino's men missed that aggression in midfield to drive them forward and regain possession as they limped to a second-place finish in 2020-21.

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of possession recoveries and Pochettino has previously explained this is an area for improvement.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the previous campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool in 2020-21, will likely help their cause.

 

Hakimi contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by only four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

"He offers many options to the team, especially going forwards," Pochettino said.

"He has attributes that not many others have in terms of his physical strength, quality and crossing. He is brilliant at cutting in.

"He is adapting well and we hope that he will quickly show that he is a key part of the squad."

On Thursday, Mauro Icardi suggested a win over Lille would inflict revenge, with PSG having lost the Ligue 1 title to them last year.

But Pochettino insisted that the focus was on in-house improvement and any success would serve to make amends for their underwhelming campaign, not Lille's triumph.

"This game won't be about getting revenge against Lille but against ourselves," he added. "The loss of the league title and our Champions League exit left a bitter taste.

"We will do everything to change that, we want to win every competition. We are Paris Saint-Germain, we want to win. We'll do everything to win this trophy, but it's not about revenge because Lille deserved their title."

Paris Saint-Germain will look to start making amends for last season's underwhelming efforts by seeking revenge against Lille in the Trophee des Champions, according to star forward Mauro Icardi.

Mauricio Pochettino's men finished as runners-up in Ligue 1 to Lille, falling short domestically after their Champions League semi-final exit against Manchester City.

However, Icardi is confident PSG will hit the ground running in Pochettino's first full season in charge, and they will look to start strong against Lille in Sunday's Trophee des Champions clash.

"We will be out for revenge," Icardi said to the club's media on Thursday. "If we start the season by winning a title, we can start the league the following week in the best possible way."

"It's true that we didn't have a good start to the league last year, with the Champions League final, the early return to the competition and the lack of preparation. It was a bit difficult. We lost points from the start and we paid the price afterwards."

Icardi was PSG's fitth-most clinical player last Ligue 1 campaign, netting 17.95 per cent of the chances that came his way – Kylian Mbappe led the charts as he converted just over one of every four attempts.

In total, Icardi only managed seven goals in 20 French top-flight games, largely due to a stop-start season that was hampered by injuries at frequent intervals throughout.

The 28-year-old does have previous experience of success in the Trophee des Champions, though, after grabbing the opener in his man-of-the-match performance against Marseille in January.

"It's true that it's a good memory," Icardi added. "I scored a goal and I was voted best player of the match. But the most important thing is that we won the title.

"When you are a striker, there is nothing better than helping the team by scoring goals. It's the best feeling, especially when it leads to a trophy.

"My goal now is to win more titles with Paris Saint-Germain. And score even more goals."

Having enjoyed a productive transfer window which has seen Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma all move to Paris, Pochettino is assembling a side capable of recapturing their Ligue 1 title and challenging in Europe once more.

"It's a final and there's a trophy to go and win so we have to give our best to win it and start the season well," Icardi continued.

"We have a chance to start with an important final and I'm not thinking about anything else but winning."

Page 1 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.