PSG, on the other hand, are at the top of the league table and have not been at their effervescent best this year. The Parisians crashed out of the UEFA Champions League last month but did manage to defeat Clermont Foot by a 6-1 margin in their previous game. PSG have scored 11 goals in their last two games and have finally got the best out of their star-studded front three. The Parisians have a 12-point lead over Marseille and have dominated the league. Marseille have stepped up in impressive fashion this season and can pack a punch on their day. PSG are in good form at the moment and hold the upper hand this weekend.
Mauricio Pochettino will hope to win his first piece of silverware with Paris Saint-Germain when the Ligue 1 champions face off against Marseille at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in the Trophee des Champions. PSG warmed up for this final with a resounding 3-0 victory over Brest in Ligue 1, while Marseille were held to a goalless stalemate by relegation candidates Dijon. Pochettino was unable to guide Tottenham Hotspur to a major trophy during his five-and-a-half years at the helm in North London, but the Argentine could win his first piece of silverware with PSG less than two weeks after taking charge.
The Trophee des Champions is contested every year between the Ligue 1 and Coupe de France champions, and unsurprisingly, PSG have enjoyed an unparalleled spate of dominance in the tournament down the years. The 2018-19 season marked one of the rare occasions that PSG failed to claim the league and cup double – with Rennes lifting the Coupe de France – but Les Parisiens overcame their adversaries 2-1 in the final to win the competition for the seventh year running. Not since 2012 have PSG failed to lift the Trophee des Champions and they have finished as runners-up on four occasions, but Pochettino will be hoping that this piece of silverware will be the first of many in the French capital as PSG gear up for the 99th Classique meeting with Marseille.
Pochettino’s reign kicked off with a 1-1 draw at Saint-Etienne before PSG eased past Brest 3-0 at the weekend, and that result sees the Ligue 1 champions sit just one point adrift of leaders Lyon after they failed to get the better of Rennes. In stark contrast, Marseille have not made an appearance in this annual match since 2011 and will not be feeling all that optimistic about their chances of spoiling the Pochettino and PSG party. Andre Villas-Boas’s men earned their right to play in the Trophee des Champions after finishing second in Ligue 1 last season, but Les Olympiens have only won one of their last five matches and could not find a way past lowly Dijon at the weekend.
Remember when the power and influence of Europe’s wealthiest clubs was going to be tamed by the collapse of the Super League rebellion? It was only a year ago. Yet, a partial revolution shaped by the elite is still coming to European football. Perhaps in the spirit of avoiding further fractures, UEFA has not exploited any leverage it had over the rebellious clubs to reshape the Champions League to re-tilt the balance of power away from them, however slightly. If anything, the wealthiest clubs will be able to spend even more after the replacement for Financial Fair Play is approved by UEFA’s executive committee on Thursday.
And if they miss out on the Champions League through their domestic league placing, a safety net of qualification for two heavyweights has been provided from 2024 based on their historic record. Just look to Spain to see how much of a difference being in the Champions League can make for a club. Sevilla earned a total of 34.6 million euros ($38 million) from winning the Europa League in 2020 but could have generated at least twice that from just from a mediocre Champions League campaign. The same season saw Valencia bank 60.8 million euros ($66 million) from reaching the Champions League last 16.
From 2024, playing in the Champions League will involve more games that could test the interest of fans. What appetite is there for a new-look group stage based around a single standings, growing from 32 to 36 teams and 10 rather than six games each? Only eight teams will qualify automatically for the round of 16. But even finishing 24th out of 36 will secure entry into the 16-team playoff round, removing much of the jeopardy from later matches. It’s another safeguard against failure that allows a leading club to mess up in the group stage and still have a path into the knockout rounds.
Monaco’s dominant win over Angers – a side whom Marseille were put to the sword by last month – saw Villas-Boas’s men drop out of the top five in a further blow to their Ligue 1 title prospects, although they do still have two games in hand on the teams above them. Marseille have won the French Super Cup three times since it was originally founded as the Challenge des champions in 1955, and they have met PSG once before in the 2010 edition, where under the tutelage of Didier Deschamps they triumphed over Les Parisiens in a penalty shootout after a goalless stalemate in 90 minutes.
Florian Thauvin’s strike gave Marseille their first win over PSG since 2011 earlier in the campaign, but the two sides have endured contrasting fortunes since that unforgettable night at the Parc des Princes in which five players saw red. In a huge boost for PSG and Pochettino, Neymar returned to the training pitches on Monday and could very well make his highly-anticipated comeback against Marseille, albeit probably not from the first whistle. Presnel Kimpembe, Danilo Pereira and Leandro Paredes were all reportedly put through their paces as well, but Rafinha and Thilo Kehrer remain out after contracting coronavirus.