Kylian Mbappe scored and came through unscathed along with fellow Paris Saint-Germain stars Lionel Messi and Neymar in their final match before the World Cup, a 5-0 Ligue 1 rout of Auxerre on Sunday.
PSG coach Christophe Galtier opted not to rest the attacking trio against the Burgundy side as the French champions sought to extend their lead at the top of the table before the break for the tournament in Qatar.
“None of my players had sent me a signal of fear,” said Galtier.
“My obsession was that my team could express themselves as freely as possible without the psychosis of an injury.
“The players responded present, were serious, focussed.
“It would have been a great sadness for me if one of my players were injured before the World Cup and I quickly made the changes to spare each of them.”
Mbappe scored the opener after 11 minutes in Paris for his 12th league goal this season after good work by Messi and two other World Cup bound players Moroccan Achraf Hakimi and Portuguese Nuno Mendes.
Spain’s Carlos Soler nodded in the second after 51 minutes and then set up Hakimi for the third six minutes later. Two players who are not going to Qatar, Renato Sanches and Hugo Ekitike came off the bench and added goals in the final ten minutes.
The Parisians moved five points ahead of Lens, who won 2-1 at home against Clermont on Saturday, with Rennes a further five points adrift in third.
Galtier added: “We are first and undefeated, we worked on different systems and it took us time to find the better solution so that my fantastic trio can express themselves and find the best balance.
“There are still many lines of work. The only small regret I have is not having beaten Benfica in the Champions League.”
PSG drew twice with the Benfica in their Champions League group and qualified second behind the Portuguese club.
For their final match before the World Cup, the MNM trio — Messi, Neymar, Mbappe — did not really sparkle in a game played without great intensity.
That did not prevent the champions giving a demonstration of their goal-scoring prowess before a break until their next Ligue 1 match on December 28 against Strasbourg.
Mbappe’s early goal, following a beautiful cross from Messi relayed by Mendes, seem to anaesthetize the Parisian forwards.
– Kimpembe return –
Messi found the post with a curled shot from the left after 66 minutes, Neymar collapsed at the slightest contact and played in slow motion, far from flamboyance of his first part of the season.
Before Paris pulled ahead in the second half, Auxerre proved dangerous on front of Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal with attempts by Mbaye Niang and Lassine Sinayoko to get the equaliser for the side who sit 15th in Ligue 1.
“I don’t know if my players were afraid of injuring the Parisians before the World Cup,” said Auxerre coach Christophe Pelissier.
“Of the five goals we gave them three were our errors.”
Galtier gave some playing time to France defender Presnel Kimpembe, who came on for the final quarter of an hour having spent a month out with an Achilles tendon injury.
It was good news for the France team and Didier Deschamps nine days before the Blues open their World Cup defence against Australia on November 22.
Kimpembe’s arrival coincided with the exits of Messi and Neymar after 74 minutes.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1, seventh-placed Lille moved closer to the European places with a 1-0 win over Angers, to sit one point behind Lorient, who play in Strasbourg later Sunday, and Monaco and Marseille, who go head to head in the Principality.
In relegation fight Brest beat Troyes 2-1 as Nantes came from two goals down for a 2-2 draw at home against Ajaccio.