Paris Saint-Germain were stunned by the performance of Monaco last season as they lost their Ligue 1 crown to the upstarts from the principality, but on Sunday they went a long way to ensuring that come May they will be France’s top dogs once again.
If there were any doubts over just how strong this PSG side are, they were dispelled at Stade Louis II, where they ran out 2-1 winners without really looking that they were especially extended.
Goals from Edinson Cavani and Neymar secured the points, but the gulf between the sides was greater than that displayed on the scoreboard.
The Parisians appeared capable of passing their way through Monaco’s high press at will and on the occasions they really exploded forward they did so with the kind of impetus that reflects why they are Europe’s top-scoring side this season.
At times the finishing touch was not as polished as it might have been, with Kylian Mbappe having an evening to forget in front of goal as he returned to his formative club, but the extra class injected into Unai Emery’s side by Neymar and the ex-Monaco academy star was evident.
While speculation over the Brazilian’s relationship with his team-mates refuses to die, there is little doubt that on the field the forward three continue to dovetail beautifully. There was not even a hint of dissent from Cavani as the Brazilian stepped forward to convert his eighth league goal of the season from the penalty spot.
It was a fixture that reflected the iron grip that the Parisian side currently have over the French game. In the opening quarter of an hour, they controlled an unseemly 76 per cent of possession, and had their finishing been up to its usual standards, they would surely have led by three goals with just 20 minutes gone.
Although they were unable to maintain that breakneck pace, by full-time they could feasibly have matched the seven they scored against Celtic in midweek, only for their finishing to let them down. Mbappe’s movement was excellent throughout but he passed up several glaring chances against his former side, Cavani missed with a free header from six yards out and Jemerson hit the post when he nearly put through his own goal.
Where PSG offered pace and flair in attack, the hosts, shorn of a raft of stars sold in the summer, as well as injury victims Thomas Lemar and Djibril Sidibe, who was deemed fit enough to start on the bench, struggled to unleash ace finisher Radamel Falcao.
Keita Balde did enjoy one of his strongest matches to date for the home team, it was a fortunately deflected free kick from Moutinho, ironically by Mbappe, that offered late hope.
That goal served only to flatter a Monaco side that had been well outplayed, yet the league table, which shows PSG nine points clear of last season’s champions already, paints an accurate picture of the gulf that has emerged between these teams. There will be no miracle in Monaco this season – but there surely will be a party in Paris.