Paris Saint-Germain resume their Ligue 1 title bid after the winter break against last season’s runners-up Lens as the focus sharpens increasingly on the future of France captain Kylian Mbappe.
The league’s top scorer for each of the past five seasons, Mbappe’s contract with the French champions runs out at the end of June and he is free to sign an agreement to join a new club for the 2024-25 campaign.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi reiterated his stance this week that the club is the best place for the 25-year-old amid endless speculation he will join Real Madrid in the summer.
“I’m not going to hide that I want Kylian to stay,” Al-Khelaifi told broadcaster RMC.
“The best player in the world is Kylian and the best club for him is Paris.”
Reports in Spain suggest Madrid want Mbappe to commit by January 15, but he insists no decision has been made, and those around him said he would not be rushed into doing so by any ultimatum.
Liverpool have also been linked with the World Cup winner, who has spoken with the Premier League leaders in the past, notably meeting with them when he was still at Monaco in 2017.
While PSG look well on course for a record-extending 12th league crown, and 10th in the past 12 seasons, any sudden developments in the long-running Mbappe saga could unsettle Luis Enrique’s squad.
“We have a lot of very important matches, I ask for you to leave Kylian alone,” said Al-Khelaifi, adamant that whether Mbappe stays or not “is not a question of money”.
The capital club will lose Morocco’s Achraf Hakimi and South Korea international Lee Kang-in to the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup respectively this month, escaping lightly compared to many others.
They travel on Sunday to Lens, whose 11-match unbeaten run was ended by second-placed Nice prior to Christmas.
The Stade Bollaert is not quite the fortress it was last term when Lens failed to win just twice at home and finished a point behind PSG, but it remains a difficult ground for visiting teams.
Lens have won five of their last six at home to clamber back into European competition but were knocked out of the French Cup last weekend by Monaco on penalties.
Nice, who trail PSG by five points, must make do for the next few weeks without top scorer Terem Moffi, who was called up to the Nigeria squad in place of the injured Victor Boniface.
Monaco, in third, have six players on international duty including Japan’s Takumi Minamino. Marseille face a similar headache after finishing 2023 strongly by going six games without defeat.
One to watch: Mohamed-Ali Cho
The France Under-21 international has returned to Ligue 1 with Nice after a difficult 18 months at Real Sociedad. Cho, 19, scored only twice in 40 outings for the Basque club who face PSG in the Champions League last 16.
The former Angers striker, a youth product of PSG and Everton, will look to get his career back on track on the Cote d’Azur and could be brought into the line-up straight away with winger Jeremie Boga at the AFCON with hosts Ivory Coast.
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