Kylian Mbappe will face former club Monaco for the final time as a Paris Saint-Germain player on Friday, provided coach Luis Enrique selects his star player.
The France captain’s relationship with the PSG boss has come under the spotlight with Mbappe discovering he is no longer assured of a place in the line-up since telling the Qatar-owned club he would leave at the end of this season.
Mbappe informed PSG in mid-February that he intended to depart when his contract expires in June, after seven years at the Parc des Princes, with Real Madrid his likely next destination.
Luis Enrique responded to that by leaving the 25-year-old on the bench for their next game at Nantes, although Mbappe came on to score a penalty in a 2-0 win.
More surprisingly, Mbappe started last week’s home meeting with Rennes and wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Marquinhos, but was substituted on 65 minutes.
Trailing 1-0 at the time, PSG came back to draw thanks to a penalty won and converted by his replacement, Goncalo Ramos.
PSG’s all-time top scorer with 244 goals, Mbappe has rarely started on the bench in 292 appearances since signing from Monaco in 2017.
He has occasionally been substituted earlier than was the case last weekend, but always either due to injury or with PSG already winning.
“It’s very simple. Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian,” Luis Enrique said when asked to explain why he had taken Mbappe off.
“When I want to play him I will do so, and if I don’t want to, the same thing.”
PSG have to prepare for the future, and their position of strength in Ligue 1 allows them to do so — despite drawing against Rennes, Luis Enrique’s team are 11 points clear of second-placed Brest with 11 games remaining.
Perhaps there could even be a temptation to rest Mbappe in Monaco, given that Paris go to Spain defending a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Sociedad next Tuesday.
They have been knocked out in the last 16 in five of the last seven seasons and reaching the quarter-finals this year is the minimum objective in Europe for the French champions.
Yet Mbappe will want to play in Monaco, who are themselves chasing Champions League qualification and are third in the table.
It was in the principality where he emerged as such a thrilling talent and starred as Monaco won the title in 2016/17.
His impending move abroad means he may not get a chance to return to the Stade Louis II again any time soon.
One to watch: Said Benrahma
The Algerian international joined Lyon on loan from West Ham United at the end of the January transfer window, despite the necessary paperwork not being approved before the deadline. Special dispensation was given by FIFA to complete the deal, and Benrahma has quickly shown his value to his new team.
Last weekend the 28-year-old left-winger came on and scored the winner as Lyon won 2-1 at Metz, a seventh success in nine league games for a resurgent team. In midweek he started and was the main threat, hitting the post direct from a corner, as Lyon beat Strasbourg on penalties to reach the French Cup semi-finals.
He should have a key role to play against Lens, where another win would have the once-struggling side believing they can yet snatch European qualification.
10 – Mbappe has 10 goals in 11 Ligue 1 games against Monaco since joining PSG in 2017
18 – PSG are undefeated in 18 away Ligue 1 games (W14 D4) since a 3-1 loss in Monaco in February last year
12 – Brest are unbeaten in 12 Ligue 1 games, equalling their longest streak without losing in the top flight
Fixtures (times GMT)
Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain (2000)
Reims v Lille (1600), Clermont v Marseille (2000)
Toulouse v Nice (1200), Brest v Le Havre, Montpellier v Strasbourg, Nantes v Metz (all 1400), Rennes v Lorient (1605), Lyon v Lens (1945)