The moment that Paris Saint-Germain have been waiting almost two decades for is approaching, but celebrations of their now inevitable title success look set to be overshadowed by the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of coach Carlo Ancelotti.
PSG are on the verge of the third league title in their history, and their first since 1994, after Sunday's 1-0 win away to Evian in Annecy. It was a win that left the capital club nine points clear of second-placed Marseille with just four games of the season remaining, and the title could officially be theirs next weekend if OM fail to win at home to Bastia and PSG get the result they need at home to Valenciennes.
A well-taken Javier Pastore goal early in the second half was enough for PSG to avenge their French Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of the same side less than two weeks earlier but PSG lost their nerve towards the end of the game as both Marco Verratti and David Beckham were sent off. They now face suspensions, as does Salvatore Sirigu following his part in a brawl as the two sides left the pitch at full-time.
The performance and the finish ensure that Sunday's win will not go down as one of PSG's best this season, even if this was still an extremely significant one. For the first time under Ancelotti, they have won five consecutive league games, and they have done so without conceding a single goal. Indeed, for Sirigu, it was a 22nd clean sheet of the season, which is a remarkable achievement.
They can still beat the record for the most points collected in one season, held by Lyon, who registered 84 in 2006. In addition, they could still equal the record for most wins and set a new mark for the fewest goals conceded in a campaign, but there is a feeling that only winning the league will not be enough.
Of course, it is good news for French football that PSG have not swept all before them this season. Saint-Etienne deserved to win the League Cup and PSG's elimination means the French Cup remains wide open but, given their Qatari owners' massive investment in players in the last two years, the capital club have to do more.
"There has been huge pressure on us for months now. We have been obliged to win our league games and the weight of history at this club is considerable," said sporting director Leonardo on Sunday, trying to talk up the achievements of a side he has built. But, regardless of what the Brazilian says, the feeling at the end of the campaign will be that Ancelotti's PSG could, and really should, have done better.
If there was no disgrace in losing on away goals to Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, then subsequently failing to go on and win the domestic double was not good enough. Not that Ancelotti's position should seriously be questioned. Indeed, simply finishing in the top three means his contract will automatically be extended for a further year, but it now looks like the Italian will definitely be on his way.
Press reports late last week indicated that he wanted out, with a move to Real Madrid too good to turn down if and when the offer comes up. "Preparations for the post-Ancelotti era have already begun," announced Le Parisien on Saturday, and Ancelotti himself hinted later the same day that his future does lie elsewhere.
"I can't be 100 per cent sure that I will stay," he said. "I like PSG, the club, the city, life here. I have no problems with my work, the atmosphere is good, but that means nothing in terms of my future."
The former Chelsea and AC Milan boss added that he will say more once the title has been won but, in the meantime, there is a realisation that finding a replacement of a similar calibre will not be easy. Supporters would be sad to see Ancelotti go, while key players are bound to reconsider their positions at the club.
Owners QSI therefore know that a big name is needed but, with Jose Mourinho surely likely to favour a return to England over a switch to Ligue 1 and long-time target Arsène Wenger insisting that he will see out the final year of his contract at Arsenal, options appear to be few and far between.
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