Pitchside Europe

Can Blanc’s PSG join ‘invincibles’ hall of fame?

All photos: AFP

Paris Saint-Germain are close to setting a new record for the French top flight's longest unbeaten run, and after a comprehensive 4-0 win against Lyon on Sunday, it is worth wondering if Laurent Blanc's side can go the whole season without losing a game.

Sunday's victory underlined PSG's superiority over the rest of Ligue 1 and served as the latest indicator of how the French footballing landscape has changed in the last five years. On the final day of the 2007-08 season, Lyon won at Auxerre to clinch a seventh consecutive title while PSG won at Sochaux to guarantee their survival.

The two clubs were not on the same level then, and they are not now, but these days it is PSG who dominate. Lyon coach Rémi Garde was forced to admit on Sunday that his side are "not competing in the same league".

The capital club have finished above OL in each of the last two seasons, and back in May they clinched the title with a 1-0 victory at the Stade de Gerland. These may be the only French clubs who will still be in European competition in the New Year, but while PSG are now awash with Qatari money, Lyon have fallen on hard times.

Five years ago, Lyon's operating budget was almost three times that of PSG. Now Paris boast a budget considerably more than three times that of OL. The likes of Juninho Pernambucano and Karim Benzema have long since gone, and Sunday's match saw an average Lyon side undone by goals from Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose two penalties mean he has now scored 20 goals in his last 13 games for club and country.

Spurred on by the Swede, PSG are on a remarkable run of form. They have not lost any of their 21 matches in all competitions this season, and have gone 26 Ligue 1 matches unbeaten. If they avoid defeat at Evian on Wednesday, they will equal the club's 27-game streak from their 1993-94 title-winning campaign. And Nantes' overall French top-flight record of 32 games unbeaten in 1994-95 is within sight, too.

But that is not all. Overall, PSG have now gone 36 games, and nine months, without losing over 90 minutes. That sequence does not take into account the penalty shoot-out loss to Evian in the French Cup quarter-finals last season, and so they are in a position to equal the club record unbeaten run in all competitions when they return to Annecy this midweek.

Not so long ago, PSG were eager to appoint Arsène Wenger, but now they have finally realised that Blanc is more than just a stopgap, overseeing matters in the interim until a 'bigger' name becomes available.

"Laurent Blanc is a great coach and he deserves a long contract. I am very happy with his work," said president Nasser Al-Khelaifi after the 2-1 win against Olympiacos last midweek that sealed their place in the last-16 of the Champions League.

Indeed, there are similarities between Blanc's PSG and Wenger's Arsenal. On Sunday, Blanc became the first coach in France's top flight to send out an entirely foreign starting XI. And PSG remain on course to match Arsenal's 2003-04 'Invincibles'.

With former sporting director Leonardo gone, the off-field polemics are a thing of the past. Instead, the focus is purely on the football, and PSG are playing some great stuff. Right now, it is hard to see them losing.

"We are not even halfway through the season. I hope this run continues for as long as possible, but the important thing is that we understand that, if we play our games at 100 percent, I think it will be very difficult to beat Paris Saint-Germain," Blanc said on Sunday night.

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"It is up to us, the staff, to stop complacency from setting in, because that is what will make us lose matches," added the coach whose personal statistics are impressive too.

Indeed, Opta have shown that, of all the coaches to have taken charge of at least 100 games in France's top flight, he has the best record.

Better than Raymond Goethals, the Belgian who led Marseille to Champions League glory in 1993. Better too than Albert Batteux, the boss of the great Reims side of the 1950s and also a three-time title winner with Saint-Etienne. Better than anyone.

Bigger tests surely lie ahead in the Champions League knockout stages in the spring, but domestically PSG are utterly peerless just now.

Andrew Scott | Follow on Twitter