PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain now know their 2018-19 Ligue 1 fixture list and it is not too dissimilar to last season’s, particularly regarding the timing of the headline matches.
Thomas Tuchel, who replaces Unai Emery as coach, will be expected to adapt quickly to Le Championnat and guide the French champions to title No. 8.
Monaco, Lyon and Marseille will likely be the three sides most capable of challenging PSG at the summit of France’s top flight — although there could be one or two surprises in Rennes, Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne and Nice.
Here are five fixtures which, on paper, appear set to define Les Parisiens‘ approaching term and Tuchel’s maiden season in charge.
Oct. 7, 2018: Lyon (H)
PSG’s first meeting with one of their main title rivals will come in the ninth round of fixtures when Lyon visit Parc des Princes.
Following hot on the heels of what promises to be a tricky trip to Nice, OL could still be within touching distance of Tuchel’s men — despite a tough start to their own campaign.
A 2-0 win in Paris was one of last term’s key results for PSG and it required two own goals to get there, so this encounter could prove equally testing.
Oct. 28, 2018: Marseille (A)
Three weeks later, in week 11, PSG will travel to Stade Velodrome for the first Classique of the season against bitter rivals Marseille.
OM held the ultimate champions to a 2-2 home draw last campaign and it was Edinson Cavani’s last-gasp heroics that saved Les Parisiens after Neymar had seen red.
Tuchel will be expected to get PSG playing better and with greater authority against Ligue 1’s biggest teams and Marseille are one of those.
Add an away success at OM to a home triumph against Lyon and the defending titleholders could be motoring by this point.
Nov. 11, 2018: Monaco (A)
Monaco will probably be PSG’s most serious challengers for next term’s title, so the pair’s meeting in the 13th round of fixtures at Stade Louis II should prove significant.
The men from the capital won 2-1 there at around the same time last season and depending on how both have fared in their opening 12 matches, this one could also prove influential.
Leonardo Jardim’s men were not at their best last campaign and if they strengthen well over the summer, they could be tougher opponents this time around.
Feb.3, 2019: Lyon (A)
The return game against Lyon at Groupama Stadium in week 23 should be of significant interest, with the title race sure to be well underway by this point.
OL got themselves back in the reckoning by winning a similarly-timed meeting last term, only to throw it away with their next few results.
A similar scenario could unfold, so if Tuchel’s players are to be in top shape, he will have to be wary about the taxing demands from both domestic trophies around this time period.
March 17, 2019: Marseille (H)
The 29th round of fixtures will see Marseille visit Parc des Princes for the second Classique of the season. Even more so than Monaco at home the following month, this has the potential to be a title decider — if PSG are as dominant domestically as they were last campaign that is.
Clashes between the pair always produce hot atmospheres, even if there are not many travelling supporters involved lately, and the hosts’ ultras will likely create a boiling cauldron of noise and colour to intimidate OM and hopefully earn a crucial step towards a second consecutive league title.
What to watch for:
PSG were comfortable Ligue 1 champions last term, yet they were not at their best in the biggest encounters — particularly away from home.
Tuchel will need to improve on Emery’s record against the club’s biggest rival outfits in Le Championnat, particularly on the road, making the trips to Marseille, Monaco and Lyon even more important.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.