Paris Saint-Germain lifted the French league title earlier today. It sounds ludicrous with our Premier League title race in full flow, but a 9-0 win against Troyes crowned PSG as Ligue 1 champions.
Monaco left the door open by only managing a 2-2 draw against Stade Reims on Friday, meaning Les Parisiens had the chance to win the league with a massive eight games to spare.
Troyes are bottom of the division with a measly 14 points, having won just two of their last ten games, whilst losing the other eight. PSG eased to a 4-1 victory in the reverse fixture at the Parc des Princes, with the Troyes consolation only coming in the 91st minute, so it was pretty safe to assume a win was on the cards. PSG not only delivered a win but they trounced the bottom side 9-0.
Lifting the league title so early presents a unique opportunity for the club in the Champions League. Essentially they can rest as many players as they want and spend all of their resources on becoming the French Cup winners and champions of Europe.
But one thing that may count against them is the much-documented lack of competition in the French league. Elsewhere on the continent Champions League favourites Barcelona lead La Liga, Bayern Munich are top of the Bundesliga, and Juventus are sitting pretty in Serie A. However, Barca have a nice but not insurmountable 11 point lead with Real and Atletico Madrid chasing hard, Juve are six points ahead of Napoli, and Bayern are eight points in front of Borussia Dortmund. Not to mention all of the challenging sides mentioned have a game in hand on the leaders.
So none of those elite clubs can take their foot of the gas in their domestic football, with a high level of competition every week and rival sides snapping at their heels.
Last year Ligue 1 was pretty tight with a top six – PSG, Lyon, Monaco, Marseille, Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux – separated by 20 points. Compare that to the league at the moment, where Paris could be 25 clear of second at the end of today’s play, and it’s easy to see the problem.
Many sides, particularly in the Premier League, raided France for bargain buys in the summer and that left plenty of clubs without their prize assets. Star players like Dimitri Payet and Andre Ayew (Marseille) as well as Dimitar Berbatov and Anthony Martial (Monaco) departed, while PSG spent over 100 million euros strengthening their squad. All that, explains the huge gulf in class we are seeing in this year’s campaign.
Of course intense competition can be to a club’s detriment too. Manchester City for example often have an equally crucial Premier League match at the weekend and a European clash in midweek, so resting key men like Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure is a luxury they can’t really afford. Laurent Blanc won’t have this problem because, outside of gunning for their own record of 89 points, the remaining games simply do not matter anymore.
The issue is that when it comes to raising their game to face the likes of Barcelona, it will be extremely hard for the team to do so after playing comparatively poor sides and winning at a stroll for weeks beforehand. If Les Parisiens continue to dominate Ligue 1 for the next few years, then I think it will take at least two or three years more European experience for this group of players to take on one of the ‘superclubs’ and beat them. Blanc and his troops will have to use this time to experiment a little and work out how to triumph against the very best.