European championships: Three matches not to be missed

Hakimi (PSG), Martinez (Aston Villa) et Ziyech (Chelsea).
European championships: Three matches not to be missed

Lens-PSG in France as well as Tottenham-Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest-Chelsea in England are highly anticipated New Year's day matches.

Lens vs PSG
For a starter (in 2023), Ligue 1 offers a hearty dish: Lens-PSG, top of the 17th day. The leader against the runner-up. With a seven-point lead, the Parisians (44 pts) do not risk losing their place in the standings in case of a draw or defeat against Lens. But in front of a direct competitor, it is necessary to show muscles at the threshold of the second part of the season. And after the victory (2-1) against Strasbourg (16th day), chase away any doubt.

Christophe Galtier, the Parisian coach, will do without Neymar, suspended, and Messi, who has not yet resumed after his title of world champion. But he can count on a Kylian Mbappé brimming with motivation and success, and on Achraf Hakimi. The Moroccan fullback should be a starter for the first time since his early return from the Qatari World Cup, where he shone brightly until the semi-final with the Atlas Lions. He started against Strasbourg (16th day of Ligue 1), and will probably start against Lens. He will have to face a team from Lens in full swing. With the Ivorian Seko Fofana as the leader.

Tottenham-Aston Villa
This New Year's Eve match smells of sulfur. Not only because it pits a team that wants to stay in the race for Europe (Spurs, 5th in the standings) against another that wants to save its head (Villans, 12th). But above all because it is the reunion of Hugo Lloris and Emiliano Martinez, the goalkeepers of the two clubs, major opponents of the 2022 World Cup final won by Argentina at the expense of France on penalties. The first, captain of Les Bleus and Spurs, should meet the second, hero of the last match of the World Cup. Above all, the Argentine keeper has distinguished himself by his celebrations and outrageous provocations. He has resumed training and could start. His coach, Unai Emery, has not decided. He is convinced that physically his goalkeeper is operational. But, he hastened to add, he wants to gauge his mental state before deciding whether he plays or not. Tottenham's Senegalese midfielder, Papa Matar Sarr, who also returned from Qatar with Senegal, will follow all this from the bench or the stands.

Nottingham Forest-Chelsea
After a successful World Cup with Morocco, collectively and individually, Hakim Ziyech is back at Chelsea. The Moroccan striker resumed training on Thursday, December 29. He should play against Nottingham Forest, this Sunday, January 1, for the 18th day of the Premier League.

His successful World Cup will allow him to regain a starting status at the Blues where he has played only nine games since the beginning of the season. "We know his qualities. He is a very popular player," said his coach, Graham Potter, recently. At Chelsea, there are always good players with little playing time, you have to be patient. I am very happy for him. I kept in touch with him throughout the World Cup."

Against 19th-placed Nottingham Forest, who are fighting for survival, Chelsea will try to follow up with a second post-World Cup 2022 win. In the previous game, the Blues had outclassed (2-0) Bournemouth.


Sunday, January 1

Ligue 1 (Day 17)
19:45 Lens-PSG

Premier League (Day 18)
2pm Tottenham-Aston Villa (2pm)

16:30 Nottingham Forrest-Chelsea

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