Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe combined superbly to inspire Paris Saint-Germain to a 3-0 Ligue 1 win at Ajaccio on Friday.

The defending champions were without the suspended Neymar, leaving it up to the two other stars on their forward line to send PSG six points clear at the top. They did so in style.

Mbappe, who recently slammed reports of him wanting to leave the club as "completely false", cut a frustrated figure for much of the game even after breaking the deadlock in the 24th minute.

He was teed up by Messi for that opener before missing a series of chances to claim a hat-trick.

However, a commanding PSG display was eventually reflected by the scoreline as Mbappe and Messi linked up brilliantly for the latter to make it 2-0 before the long-time Real Madrid target added further gloss with his second.

 

Christophe Galtier wants his Paris Saint-Germain team to be more ruthless to enable him to rotate his squad and keep players fresh.

PSG are unbeaten in Galtier's first season in charge, sitting top of Ligue 1 and their Champions League group.

However, PSG have not won a game by at least a two-goal margin since the 3-1 away victory over Maccabi Haifa on September 14, meaning Galtier has not had the luxury of being able to substitute key players.

The head coach would like his side to give him more freedom to rotate by killing matches off earlier, stating ahead of Friday's clash against Ajaccio: "There are lots of games at the moment.

"Of course, I would like us to be more comfortable and have bigger leads to be able to make more changes during games, but the reality is down to the goalkeepers we are facing and the run of fixtures, which can mean we are not quite on target.

"There could be some fresh legs brought in [against Ajaccio]. I am still thinking about that and the number of games we are playing.

"We need to get the result. Of course, people might think this will be an easy game for Paris Saint-Germain, but we went to Reims [0-0 draw] and found it very difficult. We have to get the win."

Galtier says players who have not had as many minutes on the field as they would like must be ready when called upon.

"Our working method is to be focused on recovery, but not let them be inactive," Galtier added.

"We want the players always to be active to reduce fatigue from matches and also work on tactics, because it's important for every player to be ready and fully aware of what to do against each opposition if there are changes in the set-up.

"We are doing a lot of work on that. Those who are not playing much have exactly what they need if they are called on to start or come off the bench."

Another Ligue 1 campaign begins on Friday after a big window for French football, the highlight of which was Paris Saint-Germain retaining Kylian Mbappe.

New arrivals in the league include returns for Lyon duo Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, while high-profile departures have seen Aurelien Tchouameni, Sven Botman and Nayef Aguerd depart.

With PSG once again investing heavily in their squad, adding the likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele, the capital club are widely expected to storm to another title – but can there be an upset?

The verdict, unsurprisingly, is probably not – as Stats Perform AI predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and, while the title race is not likely to get going, there are some big battles elsewhere in the division.

PSG PARTY ONCE AGAIN

With one of the most expensive squads ever assembled, including the devastating attack of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are unsurprisingly expected to romp to another Ligue 1 success.

Having won eight of the last nine titles, Stats Perform AI has given PSG a 76.01 per cent chance of retaining their crown.

Marseille, runners-up last season, are seen as the side most capable of mounting a challenge, though their 7.29 per cent chance is slim. Monaco, title winners in 2016-17, are given a 6.55 per cent chance.

Lyon, once the dominant force in French football, have just a 4.29 per cent chance, while Rennes clock in at 3.44 per cent and Lille, the last side to prevent PSG from winning the title having lifted the trophy in 2020-21, have only a 0.71 per cent chance.

The gulf in class within French football is highlighted by the fact that nine teams, almost half of the division, are seen as having no hope in mounting a title challenge.

 

SCRAMBLE FOR EUROPEAN FOOTBALL

Unlike the other top leagues in European football, France has a limited number of places for qualification for UEFA competitions with just two guaranteed Champions League spots, one qualifying spot, one spot in the Europa League group stage and one in the Europa Conference League play-offs.

With PSG expected to surge to the title and take the first of the two group stage spots in the Champions League, with a 90.93 per cent likelihood, the scrap for the other automatic qualification spot could be fierce.

Marseille are seen as the favourites in that battle with a 29.97 per cent chance, with Monaco following suit with a 29.97 per cent chance.

Elsewhere, Lyon have an 18.7 per cent chance, with Rennes at 15.53 per cent, though they may have to settle for a third-place finish or a spot in the Europa League.

In the battle for fifth, and a play-off spot in the Conference League, it's also expected to be tight – with five clubs, as well as those already mentioned above, given at least a five per cent chance of reaching that spot.

Nice, Lens, Lille, Nantes and Strasbourg are all in with an outside shot of gunning for a spot in European competition, which could set up a thrilling battle.

 

REGULATION CHANGES INCREASE RELEGATION FIGHT

With Ligue 1 reducing to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, the fight to avoid the drop to the second-tier will be fiercer than ever with the bottom four all being relegated – and there will be no play-offs either.

The situation looks bleak for Ajaccio (57.64 per cent chance of relegation), Clermont (57.57), Troyes (56.72) and Lorient (53.92), all of which are seen as more likely to suffer relegation than they are to avoid the drop.

Auxerre (46.58) and Toulouse (34.02) could also find themselves looking over their shoulders during the course of the season, while PSG, Marseille and Monaco are the three sides given no chance leaving the league through the bottom.

Of the promoted trio, it is Toulouse who are given the best chance of maintaining their top-flight status for another season – with their most likely position being 15th, with a 10.59 per cent chance of securing that spot.

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