Who Is Left to Stand in the Way of PSG's Ligue 1 Unbeaten Run This Season?

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2016

MARSEILLE - FEBRUARY 7: Angel Di Maria of PSG celebrates with Edinson Cavani (left) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (right) scoring the second and winning goal for Paris during the French Ligue 1 match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at New Stade Velodrome on February 7, 2016 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 win at bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille on Sunday extended the runaway Ligue 1 leaders’ unbeaten run in Le Championnat to 34 matches, as well as re-establishing a 24-point lead at the summit of the French top flight.

Goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic—his 21st in just 20 league appearances—and Angel Di Maria, who hit his ninth in 19 Ligue 1 outings, did the damage for Laurent Blanc’s men, rendering Remy Cabella’s excellent strike merely a consolation.

Le President enjoyed the game and was happy with the solidarity shown by his players, but he admitted that PSG were second best for large parts of the game when speaking with the assembled press after the final whistle.

Blanc said:

We got pushed around, especially in the second half I think. We're not accustomed to the opposing team playing so well but different opponents have different qualities. Physically and technically, Marseille were very good.

My players showed solidarity to preserve the win, but now we have to string together these two games (against Lyon and Lille) before Chelsea in the Champions League. It will not be easy. We have to focus on one game at a time. Marseille were physically very robust but our technique was lacking and we gave away possession.

The Marseille win not only keeps PSG’s 34-match unbeaten run—stretching back to last season—intact, it means that Les Parisiens are without defeat in 25 games so far this campaign and closing in on FC Nantes’ record of 32 without loss in a single term (1994-95).

The men from the capital are still seven matches away from equalling that impressive record and eight away from setting a new one themselves.

Considering the strength of the three-times consecutive Ligue 1 champions, breaking Les Canaris’ longstanding benchmark tally would arguably be a greater achievement than simply remaining unbeaten for longer.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 07:  Blaise Matuidi of Paris Saint-Germain reacts with fan of Olympique de Marseille after the goal of Angel Di Maria during the French  Ligue 1 between Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain at Stade Velodrome on febr
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

However, Marseille were one of the last remaining challenges where PSG’s invincibility looked like it might finally fall. Who is now left to stand in the way of Le Championnat’s juggernaut before the end of the league season?

Looking through the fixtures left for Blanc and his players to navigate, a few names stand out immediately.

Lille OSC at Parc des Princes, Olympique Lyonnais at Parc OL, AS Monaco in Paris and Girondins de Bordeaux at Matmut Atlantique are all potential banana skins for PSG for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, this week presents the capital club with two tricky challenges. On Wednesday, the Coupe de France holders host Lyon in the round of 16 and will be keen to not lose at home to one of their traditional domestic enemies.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 25:  Marquinhos (R) of PSG and Sofiane Boufal (L) of Llosc Lille in action during the Ligue 1 game between Paris Saint Germain and Llosc Lille at Parc des Princes on April 25, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Lille are in town just three days later, though, andwith a UEFA Champions League last-16 clash against Chelsea scheduled for the following TuesdayBlanc is likely to field a heavily rotated side in one of those two games, most probably against Les Dogues.

If the 50-year-old Frenchman does elect to go with a weakened side against Lille in order to keep key players fresh for the encounter with the London club, then PSG’s unbeaten run in Ligue 1 will be at risk.

Despite their lowly position in Le Championnat and their unpredictable form, LOSC are better under Frederic Antonetti than they were under Herve Renard, and the northerners will pose Les Parisiens problems if the hosts are not at their best.

Lyon's French midfielder Corentin Tolisso (L) scores a goal during the French League Cup quarter final football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lyon (OL) on January 13, 2016 at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris.  AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON
THOMAS SAMSON/Getty Images

Once Lyon, Lille and Chelsea are out of the way, PSG will once again have to face Les Gones in Ligue 1 at the end of this month.

Both sides will have the best part of a week to rest up for the encounter, but Bruno Genesio’s men will be determined to not allow their rivals to effectively sew up another French title in their backyard—especially now that they have moved into the new Parc OL.

The possibility of being the team to end PSG’s unbeaten run in Le Championnat will appeal to Lyon, and their players will need no motivating considering that they might have been beaten by the champions three times this term by the time the fixture rolls around.

The seven-time French kings have improved since Genesio took over from Hubert Fournier over the winter break, and there is likely to be no repeat of the 5-1 thrashing that Les Gones suffered at Parc des Princes earlier this season.

Should PSG avoid defeat against Lyon twice and Lille, then Monaco in March will be the next match that could potentially see the Ligue 1 leaders’ seemingly unstoppable march halted in its tracks.

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 05: Anthony Martial and Joo Moutinho of AS Monaco and Lucas Moura of Paris Saint-Germain during the French  Ligue 1 between Paris Saint-Germain FC and AS Monaco FC at Parc Des Princes on October 05, 2014 in Paris, France.  (Photo b
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Les Monegasques will be the visitors in the capital, but they have vastly improved since a 3-0 home defeat in August.

Leonardo Jardim has finally stamped his authority on his squad and results have picked up. The principality outfit are now six points clear in second place and looking good for Champions League qualification for next term.

If ASM can put on a similarly mean defensive display in Paris to ones they have produced in the past, then there is every chance that Jardim could be the architect of PSG’s ultimate downfall.

Should that happen, then Les Parisiens will have fallen short of equalling Nantes’ 1994-95 single season unbeaten record by one match.

Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian midfielder Ezequiel Lavezzi reactsat the end of the French L1 football match between Bordeaux and Paris-Saint-Germain on March 15, 2015 at the Chaban-Delmas stadium in Bordeaux, southwestern France. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS TU
NICOLAS TUCAT/Getty Images

If Monaco are unsuccessful in Paris and Blanc is still guiding his players towards an unprecedented entire Ligue 1 campaign without defeat, then the last chance to stop the men from the capital will likely fall to Bordeaux.

Les Girondins beat PSG at home last season, winning 3-2 before Ibrahimovic’s expletive-laden rant at French refereeing stole the headlines.

Willy Sagnol’s men have already frustrated the defending champions this term, escaping Parc des Princes with a 2-2 draw after a calamitous Kevin Trapp showing.

However, they will have to do even better than that if they want to prevent their domestic rivals from becoming the first invincible team in Ligue 1 history.

PSG are unbeaten in Le Championnat since that 3-2 loss in Bordeaux in March 2015, and if they are yet to taste defeat when they arrive at Matmut Atlantique, then they will have gone 34 matches without losing.

Blanc and his players will have broken Nantes’ longstanding record, but in a nice touch of symmetry, it would be Bordeaux who bookend that lovely benchmark.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 07:  Angel Di Maria of Paris Saint-Germain celebrate his goal of the victory with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the French  Ligue 1 between Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain at Stade Velodrome on february 7, 2016 in M
Xavier Laine/Getty Images

However, considering all the possibilities, the most likely team to end PSG’s current unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 are Lyon or Monaco.

The pair are the only two teams truly capable of coming close to competing with the capital club over the course of a season, and both should be doing much better than they are in reality.

Despite difficult campaigns for vastly different reasons, the pair are PSG’s biggest obstacles as they attempt to make yet more history.