Paris Saint-Germain and Lille bring an end to the 2013 portion of the campaign with a high-profile clash at Parc des Princes. The Ligue 1 championship contenders are separated by just four points heading into the clash, with PSG atop the table after 18 matches.
The Parisians received a boost on Friday when Monaco suffered a surprising home defeat to Valenciennes. Not only did the result ensure PSG would head into 2014 atop the table, but it gives them a chance to start creating a gap ahead of the competition with a win.
Lille have other ideas, of course. A victory for the Great Danes would push them past Monaco into second place, and they would sit just one point behind PSG. So it's clearly a crucial match with the potential to have a lasting impact on the Ligue 1 standings.
Knowing that, let's examine all of the key information for the marquee clash, followed by a look at the top storyline and a match prediction.
What's your prediction for the key match?
Where: Parc des Princes in Paris, France
When: Sunday, Dec. 22 at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. GMT)
Watch: BT Sport 2 (Live stream only in U.S.)
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Paris Saint-Germain: 54 percent
Lille: 21.1 percent
Draw: 24.9 percent
Top Storyline: Can PSG end 2013 on high note without Edinson Cavani?
Cavani found the net twice, including the game-winning goal deep in extra time, as Paris Saint-Germain edged out St Etienne in a midweek Coupe de la Ligue match. He would be able to replicate that performance after being left off the squad to face Lille for personal reasons.
On the surface, it seems like a survivable absence since Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in terrific form. But much of his success is due to opponents being forced to contend with so much attacking firepower, and likewise for Cavani.
With one of them out, Lille should be able to focus their defensive effort on the Swedish sensation. It puts more pressure on the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura to establish themselves as threats in the early going to take some of the attention of Ibrahimovic.
If they can't do that, creating chances could be a major struggle for PSG against a Lille squad that's allowed just six goals thanks to their defense-first mindset. And that would be frustrating for manager Laurent Blanc, who's been very pleased with his club up to this point, via Football 411:
It would be a good thing to occupy first place on Sunday evening.
We have tried to take as many points as possible and have been in the lead for much of this season. This title (of autumn champions) is deserved, even if the most important thing is to be in first place after the 38th matchday.
PSG must try to push forward inside the first 10 minutes. Otherwise, the Lille back line is going to get settled in and create a proverbial wall around the box as the group has done so often this season. A quick goal obviously forces the Great Danes to alter their game plan.
All told, the Parisians certainly have enough attacking talent to win without Cavani, but the task is exponentially tougher due to the opponent. It's likely going to take a sublime showing from Ibrahimovic to earn all three points.
The difference-maker could very well be Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama. Although the strong defensive effort has certainly made his job easier, he's also displayed some terrific form to make the side even tougher. One or two key saves from him could turn the entire match around.
That said, Paris Saint-Germain hold a slight edge even without Cavani. They are averaging nearly three goals per match at home and should be able to put enough pressure on the vaunted Lille defense to find the net a couple of times en route to a hard-fought win.
Paris Saint-Germain 2, Lille 1