With numerous stars rested, Paris Saint-Germain settled for an uninspiring goalless draw at home to Montpellier on Saturday ahead of their crucial Champions League return clash with Chelsea.
PSG's enormous lead at the top of Ligue 1 and determination to progress in Europe meant this game was never the priority for coach Laurent Blanc, although things could have been very different had Edinson Cavani found the net rather than the bar early on.
The draw allowed the defending champions to restore their 23-point lead at the top over second-placed AS Monaco, who drew 2-2 at Caen on Friday, and means they could still secure a fourth straight title when they host the principality club at the Parc des Princes on March 20.
By then they will hope to have confirmed their place in the last eight of the Champions League for the fourth year running, but all depends on the second leg of their last-16 tie with Chelsea in London on Wednesday, into which they take a 2-1 lead.
“There is no reason to be satisfied, that game could have been won. We weren’t efficient going forward, it’s a shame there was no goal,” said Blanc.
“The most important thing, though, and what makes me the happiest is that we didn’t lose anyone to injury. We decided to let some players play and others rest. Overall, it was satisfactory.”
Blanc rested a host of key players to keep them fresh and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on the bench alongside David Luiz and Thiago Motta while captain Thiago Silva was not involved at all.
While Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi were not fit, there was a return for Angel Di Maria but the home starting line-up also featured 20-year-old defender Presnel Kimpembe and midfielder Christopher Nkunku, who was making his first start in Ligue 1 at the age of just 18.
Nkunku showed some nice touches in a first half that lacked intensity at a Parc des Princes once again far from full.
The hosts almost opened the scoring from one of their first attacks as a Maxwell cross was turned onto the bar by Cavani, but other than that PSG only really threatened when Di Maria turned on the style.
The Argentine produced some flashes of quality and also nearly found the net from a curling left-foot free-kick that forced Laurent Pionnier in the Montpellier goal into an excellent save high to his left.
Di Maria then sent a low ball across the face of goal but Lucas, sliding in, was unable to make contact in one of the last acts of the first half.
The state of Di Maria’s fitness has been one of the biggest concerns for Blanc ahead of the game at Stamford Bridge and he was replaced after an hour to make way for Ibrahimovic.
Despite the Swede’s introduction, PSG could not break down their opponents, but they will recall that a 0-0 draw at home to Lille immediately before the first leg against Chelsea did them little harm.
Montpellier, meanwhile, will be pleased as they continued their revival since the January appointment as coach of Frederic Hantz.
Monaco could only draw in Caen despite twice taking the lead, as Ivorian forward Christian Kouakou scored a minute from time to secure a point for the home side.
Nice reclaimed third spot after downing bottom side Troyes 2-1, but Lyon, who inflicted a first domestic defeat of the season on PSG last weekend, can return to the Champions League places when they entertain Guingamp on Sunday.
Saint-Etienne missed the chance to leapfrog their bitter Rhone Valley rivals as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Angers, while Lille beat Reims 2-0 and Gazelec Ajaccio grabbed a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at Bordeaux.
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