Paris Saint-Germain face nearest challengers Lens in a crunch game in the Ligue 1 title race on Saturday but the build-up has been overshadowed by accusations made against the capital club’s coach, Christophe Galtier.
The 56-year-old was this week forced to issue a statement via his lawyer categorically denying that he made discriminatory remarks towards players when in charge of Nice last season.
That came after allegations that surfaced in an email apparently sent by the former Nice sporting director Julien Fournier and which have been reported by various French media.
The message, which AFP has not been able to verify, was reportedly sent by Fournier to Dave Brailsford – the former head of British Cycling and now Director of Sport at Ineos, the owners of Nice – and accused Galtier of making racist and Islamophobic remarks relating to the squad.
Galtier has received threats since the reports surfaced and has been placed under protection by PSG. His lawyer has promised to take legal action.
The coach left Nice for Paris at the end of last season and PSG’s leading supporters’ group, Collectif Ultras Paris, said it would “not be acceptable” for him to remain in charge if the allegations were proven to be true.
Galtier had already been under increasing pressure due to PSG’s faltering form since they were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16 by Bayern Munich last month.
Successful home defeats against Rennes and Lyon had allowed Lens to close the gap at the top of the table before PSG won 2-0 at Nice last weekend thanks to goals by Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos.
The reigning champions therefore come into Saturday’s showdown at the Parc des Princes with a lead of six points over their nearest rivals.
That means they will be primed to go on and claim a French record 11th league title as long as they avoid defeat this weekend, with Lens surely needing to win to keep the race alive.
“If the Parisians win they will be nine points ahead of us and the title will be decided,” admitted Lens manager Franck Haise as the northern club dream of a first title since 1998.
“They also have the experience. That doesn’t mean we won’t try to cause them problems but they have international-class players and we will need to be at our best individually and collectively.
“If we are a bit below that we know what will happen.”
Player to watch: Facundo Medina
Lens have the best defensive record in Ligue 1 and Facundo Medina has been outstanding in their three-man back line. The 23-year-old Argentinian international, who missed out on a place in their World Cup squad, can also contribute in attack as he did last weekend by scoring his team’s winner against Strasbourg.
Medina this week apologized after joking in a program broadcast on Youtube and Twitch about how he planned to defend against Kylian Mbappé and his compatriot Messi on Saturday. He said that if Messi was running away from him, he would “grab him, embrace him, and say ‘Give me a hug, thanks for the (World) Cup'”. He then added that, for Mbappe, “they’ll need to bring an ambulance”.
“It was a joke and taken out of context,” he later wrote on Instagram. “My sincere apologies for the misunderstanding.”