While the France national team has been away picking up six points from a possible six to start their Nations League campaign off in a winning fashion, Covid-19 has dominated the domestic agenda.
Alarm was first raised when several Paris Saint-Germain players who had been holidaying in Ibiza returned with the virus, with the six positive players including superstar Neymar, as well as regulars Angel Di Maria, Keylor Navas and Marquinhos. Then, when with the France squad, Kylian Mbappe tested positive for the virus.
As PSG have four games to play in 11 days, starting on Thursday with a rearranged fixture against Lens, it promises to be a distinctly awkward start to their Ligue 1 title defence – and their rivals will seek to take advantage.
Ligue 1 Match of the Weekend: Paris Saint-Germain vs Marseille
PSG might be Champions League runners-up, but they face a major headache before Sunday’s Classique against Marseille.
Their selection problems are set to be chronic because of the sheer volume of players they are missing due to their coronavirus cluster. Seven players, at least, will be sidelined for this encounter, at least six of whom would be considered habitual starters.
Allied to the international commitments of much of the squad and the fatigue that can bring, suddenly their dominance over their great rivals no longer looks so secure.
Marseille, of course, have also had their Covid problems this season, having had their fixture with Saint-Etienne on the opening day of the season rearranged, yet these seem to be in the past for Andre Villas-Boas’ side.
Florian Thauvin and Steve Mandanda inspired them to a thrilling 3-2 success over Brest in their first competitive outing of the season, and they will be hoping for more on Sunday, though they will certainly need to defend a good deal better even against a makeshift PSG.
Rest of Ligue 1 Match Day 3
Elsewhere in France, the weekend’s fixtures get underway with Bordeaux playing host to a Lyon side that impressed in sweeping aside Dijon a fortnight ago. Bordeaux have started the season unexpectedly well, but this is their biggest test to date.
Nice, meanwhile, have a perfect record to date, though their performances have been anything but perfect. They have scored all four of their shots on goals and have ridden their luck at times but will try to make it three wins from three away to a Montpellier side bereft of the suspended Florent Mollet but with Andy Delort, who has overcome coronavirus.
Saint-Etienne then host Strasbourg in Saturday’s late fixture.
Lille open up Sunday’s card with a home match against Metz before the pick of the Sunday afternoon multiplex sees Nimes face Rennes. At the same time, Angers play Reims, Dijon host Brest and newly promoted sides Lorient and Lens square off.
Monaco face Nantes in the dinner time kick off as they seek to continue their unbeaten start under Niko Kovac.
Ligue 1 Player to Watch: Pablo Sarabia – Paris Saint-Germain – £1.11
Paris Saint-Germain are set to be without many of their habitual offensive leaders in the days ahead, which represents an opportunity for Pablo Sarabia to finally make a case for a permanent spot. Likely to play an attacking role, the Spain international managed four goals and four assists in Ligue 1 last term and will be seeking to improve that this season.
The next two weeks, in which he is likely to be heavily involved in all four matches, offer a tremendous opportunity for him.
For Traders, there is surely scope for a return in terms of In-Play Dividends, Match Day Dividends and even Team of the Month. He may never get another opportunity like this again at Parc des Princes.