PSG given wake-up call by Lance defeat, Parisians have work to do before Lionel Messi’s return

Paris Saint-Germain’s difficult return to domestic action continued with a 3-1 defeat away to RC Lens on Sunday. After a dramatic 2-1 win over RC Strasbourg Alsace last Wednesday, the Ligue 1 second-placed side gave Christophe Galtier’s men an overdue wake-up call.

Without Neymar at the Stade Bollaert Delelis due to suspension, Kylian Mbappe and his teammates struggled and were exposed by a hungry Sang et Or side. Przemyslaw Frankowski put Lens ahead inside five minutes only for Hugo Ekitike to controversially equalize before 10 minutes, despite a VAR review for a foul on home keeper Brice Samba.

Lois Openda restored the lead for Franck Haise’s men just before the half-hour mark with veteran defender Sergio Ramos embarrassed by the lightning-quick Belgium international. Alexis Claude Maurice quickly extended the home side’s lead three minutes into the second half after great play from Openda to beat him.

More than the goals, however, PSG’s second consecutive lackluster performance will have preoccupied Galtier, who saw his side sent off by a debatable late penalty against Strasbourg. The French champions could have been more than 2-1 down at half-time given how well Lens played with captain Seko Fofana particularly impressive.

With 2023 just beginning, PSG have a lot of work to do in the next month if they are to be ready to face Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Lionel Messi will return to Paris this week after Argentina’s FIFA World Cup success in Qatar and Galtier must get his star-studded squad back on pace ahead of the tournament.

The likes of Mbappe are expected to be rested in next week’s Coupe de France with third-tier Chateauroux away on Friday. Messi will have to be back at it before PSG are back at full strength next midweek in Ligue 1 against Angers SCO and it is at that point that Galtier really needs his players on their knees.

Before the World Cup, Les Parisiens rode their luck a few times to go unbeaten, as they could very easily have fallen to the likes of SL Benfica in the Champions League when both ended as draws. Stade de Reims also kept PSG in that wobbly spell, so this isn’t even the first knock on form this campaign.

Scoring goals hasn’t been that much of a problem considering they’ve already scored over 60 times in all competitions. However, keeping them out is a big concern now with captain Marquinhos’ form suffering, Ramos essential due to Presnel Kimpembe’s injury and Galtier’s valuable depth at his disposal.

However, to get such a result for PSG would be disrespectful to Lens. Haise’s men have punched above their weight all season and now sit four points behind the capital club, which could have been even less had midweek results gone differently.

There are quality elements on this side of Sang et Or, such as Fofana, Openda, Samba and Facundo Medina, but what helps their current success is Haise’s ability to get the absolute most out of them. Good organization on and off the pitch with a clear identity brings the return of the Champions League closer to reality for the Northerners.

We’re not even halfway through the season yet, but Lens are absolutely in this Ligue 1 title race and it’s getting to the point where failing to qualify for Europe in one form or another is pretty unthinkable. If Haise can keep them on track, PSG cannot afford to slip up too many times before the end of the campaign.

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