The biggest game on the annual French football calendar is set for this Sunday as Paris Saint-Germain face Olympique de Marseilles in Le Classique. The Parisians have run away with the league this season and have a 24-point lead over Monaco in second place.
With 32 points separating PSG from Marseille, Sunday’s match has no bearing on the title race, unlike last season’s meeting. But when storied rivals such as these meet, these things tend to go out the window; both teams will play for pride and both will be motivated.
PSG won 2-1 when the two teams last met, at the Parc Des Princes in Paris. Two penalties from Zlatan Ibrahimovic were enough to see off a single goal from Michy Batshuayi, and to see Ibrahimovic become PSG’s all-time leading goal scorer.
Historically, the two teams have been fairly even. PSG have won 20 of the pair’s 44 matches, Marseille have won 15, and nine ended in draws. But the balance of power has tilted in PSG’s favor lately, with Les Parisiens having come out on top the last eight times the two have met in all competitions.
Part of PSG’s success in recent Classiques must go to Ibrahimovic. Marseille has become a favorite target for Ibra, with the Swede having scored eight goals in nine clashes with L’OM.
Sunday also looks likely to be Ibra’s last Classique. The 34-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and there are no indications of him signing a new deal. While it’s difficult to make a strong case for a Marseille victory, the club is coming off the back of a midweek win against Montpellier and is undefeated in its last five games in all competitions. Marseille will also have the advantage of playing at home in the Stade Velodrome, a difficult place for any visiting team, PSG included.
But PSG and Ibrahimovic in particular have always seemed to feed off the antagonism of the Marseille supporters. PSG have yet to lose a game in the league this year, and there is little to suggest they’re about to.