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Drama around goal-shy Mbappé upstages PSG's fight for unprecedented triple crown

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe REUTERS - Stephane Mahe
APR 1, 2024 LISTEN
REUTERS - Stephane Mahe

Paris Saint-Germain on Monday started their preparations for a crucial 10 days of domestic and European action in Ligue 1, the Coupe de France and the Champions League with question marks over the form and attitude of stand-in skipper and star striker Kylian Mbappé.

The 25-year-old was substituted mid way through the second-half of the Ligue 1 clash at Marseille on Sunday night with his side down to 10 men following the dismissal of Lucas Beraldo just before half-time but leading 1-0.

Mbappé's replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, scored five minutes from time at the Vélodrome to add to Vitinha's 52nd-minute opener and seal the win that kept PSG 12 points clear of Brest with seven games remaining of the season.

It was Mbappé's third game without a goal after firing blanks in France's friendly matches against Germany and Chile on 23 and 26 March respectively.

Under scrutiny

The victory also allowedPSG to equal Lyon's Ligue 1 record of playing 21 matches between March 2005 and April 2006 without losing an away game.

But despite the twin peaks, PSG boss Luis Enrique came under scrutiny for his decision to remove Mbappé who has told PSG executives that he wants to leave at the end of the season.

"Look, it's the same thing each time that I do something like this," the 53-year-old Spaniard told broadcaster Prime Video.

"Frankly, it's boring. I'm the coach of the club and I make the decisions. And that is exactly what I'll keep doing while I'm here.

Control

"I'm trying to do the best thing for the sake of the team. And if you really can't understand that, well I really just don't care."

Enrique's line-up for the semi-final of the Coupe de France againstRennes at the Parc des Princes on 3 April will be eagerly awaited after Mbappé's less than magnanimous reaction to being substituted along with Fabian Ruiz and Ousmane Dembélé.

Mbappé, who was leading the side in the absence of the injured Marquinhos, failed to make contact with his coach after leaving the fray.

Ramos, who arrived in August on loan from the Portuguese outfit Benfica, has struggled to make an impact. But he clinically dispatched his fifth goal in nine appearances.

Barring the grandmother of all meltdowns, PSG will claim a 10th Ligue 1 crown in the 13 years since the Qatar-based QSI group took full control of the club.

On Wednesday night, PSG will attempt to reach the final of the Coupe de France for the first time since beating Monaco 2-0 in the 2021 final to lift the trophy for a record-extending 14th time.

And three days later, PSG host bottom-of-the-table Clermont for what should be a routine victorious work-out before they face tougher opposition at the Parc des Princes in the shape of Barcelona for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on 10 April.

Drive

On taking over the club, QSI prioritised winning European club football's most prestigious competition for the first time. But successive high-profile managers have failed to satisfy the craving.

Enrique raised eyebrows at the start of the Champions League group stages when he said that fixating on gloryin the tournament was unhealthy for a club. 

"When any person, or any club, becomes obsessed with something, it is not a good sign," said Enrique who steered Barcelona to the Champions League title in 2015.

"We need to be hopeful, ambitious too, but becoming obsessed does not work in any area of life," added the former Spain boss.

His no-nonsense approach appears to be bearing fruit. His side is involved in all three major competitions at the business end of the 2023/24 campaign.

"I'm sure our supporters will be very happy with this win," Enrique told PSG TV after the Marseille game.

"We will play in front of them on Wednesday night in the Coupe de France and I'm sure they will help us get to another final."

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