PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel is worried his players are mentally tired already and the timing is bad because they go to French league leader Lille on Sunday.
Lille has lost once in 15 league games for the least defeats of any side, emerging as a candidate to end PSG's run of three straight titles.
“It’s a big challenge for us because there’s some mental fatigue on our part. We have to be ready,” Tuchel says. “We’re realistic, the rest of the season will be tough.”
Tuchel's claim about tiredness has not been leveled by Lille coach Christophe Galtier, whose side has also played 21 games including six in the Europa League.
However, Tuchel is under greater pressure given the vast means at his disposal.
PSG has lost four games and battled through others in a championship it usually dominates. Since Qatari backer QSI pumped hundreds of millions into the club after taking over nine years ago, PSG has won the league every year except in 2012 and '17.
A scrappy home success against struggling Lorient on Wednesday was in large part due to the visiting side's poor finishing. Lose to Lille and PSG will be four points adrift of the leader.
Star forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have been scoring regularly, as usual, but Angel Di Maria's form has dipped. The tricky Argentina winger has lost his starting place to Rafinha, who has played well since joining in October.
“Things are easier at the moment for Rafinha. But I'm not going to stop believing in Angel,” Tuchel says. “He's in my head, in my heart, and I believe in him. He's just waiting for something to click.”
PSG faces multiple threats from Lille, which beat Serie A leader AC Milan 3-0 away in the Europa League and has lost just twice overall.
Attacking midfielder Yusuf Yazici has 11 goals this season, including consecutive hat tricks in Europe. Turkish countryman Burak Yilmaz provides a constant threat at center forward. His combination of physical strength, close control and powerful finishing are a handful for defenders.
Goal-scoring winger Jonathan Bamba highlights the flanks with skill and pace, while the side is expertly anchored by tough-tackling holding midfielder Benjamin Andre. Behind him, veteran center half Jose Fonte and goalkeeper Mike Maignan are among the best in France in their positions.
PSG's depleted defense could come under pressure late in the game, too, from American striker Timothy Weah. He played a handful of games for PSG two seasons ago, and scored his first league goal for Lille on Wednesday after coming off the bench.
His father George Weah starred for PSG as a striker in the 1990s. “Mister George,” as he was affectionately known in France during his playing days with Monaco and PSG, is Liberia's president.
"I don't think he even knows that we're playing against Paris,” the 20-year-old Timothy says with a laugh. “But he played for Paris and has a history with the club. I also played for Paris and it's a very important game for me. I want to play in it and win.”
Tired or not.
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