Marseille’s 2-1 win over Bastia at the Stade Velodrome may well have prevented Paris Saint-Germain from officially celebrating their first Ligue 1 title in 19 years. But the delay simply prolongs what was confirmed as early as OM’s goalless draw with Lille in early April.
PSG, bidding to be crowned Le Championnat winners for the first time since 1994, have essentially been champions for almost a month already.
When Elie Baup’s side drew 0-0 in Lille, it stretched the capital club’s lead at the summit of the French top flight to nine points. Given how tedious the title race had proven to that point with PSG, Marseille and Lyon all guilty of throwing away good leads at various points, to open up that kind of lead effectively sealed the title.
To ask any side to claw back that large a deficit in such a short space of time is unrealistic, especially in a division as competitive as Ligue 1. Anybody can beat anybody, that is the beauty of it, but it usually means that no team is able to dominate the same way that Lyon used to do in the early 2000s.
Just look at the battle to avoid relegation. Nine teams—from Sunday’s opponents, Valenciennes, to hapless Brest, who hit rock-bottom on Saturday—can all still drop into Ligue 2 come the final day.
So for PSG to be nine points clear at this stage is a positive sign. Last season unheralded Montpellier beat Ancelotti’s side to the title by three points. The year before that, Lille won it by eight and Marseille by six before that. You have to go all the way back to 2007, when Lyon won Ligue 1 by a massive 17-point margin, to find the last time a French title was decided by more than nine points.
Victory over Valenciennes on Sunday will all but secure the title for the capital club. Barring a mammoth goal swing (something unheard of by a Marseille team currently in the comfortable habit of winning most of their matches by a one-goal margin), a run of consecutive OM victories and PSG defeats, the odds favour Ancelotti’s side heavily.
It is deserved, too. Whilst PSG have been criticised for not being consistent enough this season, they are only six points away from equalling last season’s total of 79 points but have halved their goals conceded total, going from 41 to 20. They have scored 15 fewer goals, though, demonstrating the team’s reliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic once more, but on the whole a third title (1986 and 1994 previously) has not been in doubt this side of 2013.
Arguably the biggest disappointment, more so than spoiling any premature party plans, is that the delay prolongs the speculation surrounding Carlo Ancelotti’s future (via ESPNFC). It also heightens the tension of the run-in toward a summer that will be approached with trepidation by the club and the fans.
This season has been one of great progress for the side from the capital, even if they do not have the silverware to show for it. A first league title in 19 years was the priority at the start of the campaign; this is now on cusp of realisation. A Champions League quarterfinal appearance would have been beyond the owners' admittedly sky-high expectations of the team at the start of the term. PSG, and Ancelotti in particular, have made this a reality.
Two domestic cup exits on penalties, though, hint at a lack of enthusiasm for their domestic duties from the players. This will be a more important development than any other potential achievement to follow this increasingly likely success. Perhaps even in the run-in to the end of the season, Ancelotti can address this in part with the pressure finally off of the players after a season of great expectation (via ESPNFC).
With so much uncertainty surrounding the Italian (via ESPNFC), it is difficult to see PSG being able to move forward before his final decision on his future is made public. That was expected to follow confirmation of a successful title bid on Sunday at the Parc des Princes, but it will now have to wait.
Had the stories surrounding Ancelotti’s future emerged earlier in the year (via ESPNFC), Les Parisiens' title bid may already have imploded by now. Victory over Valenciennes should put at least some of that debate to bed.