Will the real Neymar please stand up? PSG star falls flat as Rennes blow Ligue 1 title race wide open with shock win

Neymar PSG 2022-23Getty Images
  • Traore goal the difference
  • Neymar absent for large portions
  • Ligue 1 lead reduced to three points

TELL ME MORE: Rennes played with confidence from the very first minute, with Gianluigi Donnarumma twice needed to deny Arnaud Kalimuendo and Amine Gouiri in quick succession. A pair of Lionel Messi efforts that ballooned way over summed up PSG's stale attacking display, setting the stage for the introduction of Kylian Mbappe, who had been forced to watch on from the sidelines for the first 55 minutes. The Frenchman, who was making his return after an extended post-World Cup holiday, was applauded by both sets of fans upon his introduction, but he was powerless to prevent the hosts from going in front just 10 minutes later. Achraf Hakimi, who was brought on alongside Mbappe, offered very little resistance to Rennes winger Adrien Truffert, allowing him time to pick out Rennes skipper Traore, who rifled home from close range. Mbappe then blazed over one-on-one just moments later, before PSG eventually fell to back-to-back away defeats for the first time since March 2022.

THE MVP: While Traore will get all the plaudits for his decisive goal, the work from Adrien Truffert cannot be underestimated. Yes, his efforts were made significantly easier by some non-existent defending from Hakimi inside the box, but the Rennes winger showed the same commitment and resilience that he had offered all game. Truffert's movement was sharp and his passing incisive, with Nordi Mukiele forced off injured on 55 minutes after failing to deal with him before he gave Hakimi an even more torrid time. Rennes' threat was neutralised when Truffert was brought off for Birger Meling on 76 minutes, but by then the damage had long been done.

THE BIG LOSER: It seems Brazil's premature exit from the World Cup has had an adverse effect on Neymar's recent fortunes. The 30-year-old had a goal chalked off against Angers and was sent off for diving in PSG's Ligue 1 return against Strasbourg, and the Brazilian was non-existent against Rennes. Neymar struggled to link up with an unfamiliar frontline and gave the ball away on multiple occasions, which could have led to PSG's downfall more directly were it not for the heroics of Donnarumma. Instead, his weak attacking impetus epitomised a blunt PSG attack that will have to change - and fast - if Christophe Galtier's side don't want to throw away their league advantage. The reigning Ligue 1 champions are now just three points ahead of second-placed Lens, who beat Auxerre to close the gap on Saturday.


Neymar Rennes PSG Ligue 1 15012023GettyRennes 2022-23Getty ImagesKylian Mbappe PSG 2022-23Getty Images

WHAT NEXT FOR PSG? Galtier's side travel to Saudi Arabia to face Ronaldo and Co. in a mid-season friendly on Thursday, before returning to competitive action against US Pays de Cassel in the Coupe de France on January 23.


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What's next for Lionel Messi?

  • 1038Another year at PSG
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  • 1038Off to MLS
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