Paris Saint-Germain restored their nine-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 with a 4-1 win away at Rennes on Saturday. Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar — a self-sufficient MCN — all scored and assisted from within as Unai Emery’s men displayed both their ferocious attack and fragile defence at Roazhon Park.
Back in Paris, back in the squad and back in the PSG starting XI, Neymar produced his best performance in months and scored two goals and set up two more. The Brazilian superstar looked more invested than he has in a while, which is very encouraging.
One of Neymar’s two partners in Les Parisiens‘ attack, Mbappe, was also in good form. The France international scored one and teed up two more, scaring the life out of the Rennes defence with his searing pace.
Thiago Motta’s late return to action was a big boost for PSG. It’s not necessarily because of what he brings physically, but because of what he brings mentally, plus the fact that he is a natural deep-lying schemer. Giovani Lo Celso gave it a fair go in Rennes.
PSG’s defence still looks extremely fragile and they have now conceded 12 goals from their last nine appearances across all competitions. Emery needs to fix this ahead of the second half of the season by trying different back-four combinations, but needs help from sporting director Antero Henrique in the January transfer window because a fourth central defender is a must.
Presnel Kimpembe illustrated that point well with his second-half red card after two bookings, which gave Rennes a penalty. Luckily for the youth academy graduate, captain Thiago Silva is back in training and likely to be fit in time to face Caen at home next week.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Emery went with the strongest possible starting XI he could field, with Motta far from fully fit. The defence and midfield need some work, but the attack sparkled and that was more than enough in Brittany.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 6 — There was not much the homegrown shot-stopper could have done to prevent Ndombe Mubele’s goal for Rennes, but the Frenchman still made a few other useful interventions, notably an unorthodox save with his head when it was still 2-1 to PSG.
DF Dani Alves, 5 — The Brazil international was not at his best, but did not have to be. The 34-year-old was required to do less going forward with Mbappe and Neymar in superlative form.
DF Marquinhos, 5 — The Brazilian was captain again and the armband appears to be weighing him down at present. Once Silva is back, the lightened responsibility should aid him, but the winter break cannot come fast enough with some recharging needed.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 3 — The Frenchman was poor and deserved his second-half red card. In fact, the homegrown defender was lucky with his earlier booking. Discipline is an area PSG’s No. 3 really needs to work on.
DF Yuri Berchiche, 6 — With Layvin Kurzawa still out, the Spaniard was more or less solid again, but was not helped by an unfamiliar midfield trio. He might be able to do himself justice if Motta, Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot are reunited in early 2018. Here, he probably will not get the credit he deserves for backing Neymar up well and protecting him — something Kurzawa has not excelled at.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 6 — The Argentinian was deployed in Motta’s deep-lying role and did a surprisingly good job there. However, he picked up a booking and was replaced by Javier Pastore with 10 minutes left.
MF Marco Verratti, 5 — The Italy international was not at his best and was guilty of not marking the front post tight enough on the corner from which Mubele scored for Rennes. This sort of counterattacking performance puts less emphasis on the Azzurri star, who sat a bit deeper, but he still could have involved himself more.
MF Julian Draxler, 7 — The German put in one of his better central midfield displays and was involved in the buildup to PSG’s second goal by feeding Neymar, who located Mbappe for an easy finish. He made way for the returning Motta after 73 minutes.
FW Kylian Mbappe, 8 — The France international scored one goal, set two up and was a constant menace all evening because of his speed. The soon-to-be 19-year-old’s understanding with Neymar is very, very impressive on days like these.
FW Edinson Cavani, 6 — The Uruguayan eventually got his goal after a few chances and in the true style of El Matador, he was unable to finish the easier ones but took the hardest with a majestic lobbed effort. Otherwise, it was a typically hard-working and unselfish showing as he edged closer (154) to levelling Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s all-time goals record of 156.
FW Neymar, 9 — After missing the Lille win in Ligue 1 through suspension and the Coupe de la Ligue victory away at Strasbourg, the Brazil international was back with a bang. Two goals and two assists but most impressive of all, Les Parisiens‘ iconic No. 10 was focused and wanted to be there from the start. That recent trip back to Brazil was just what he needed, after all.
MF Thiago Motta, NR — Back in the squad after a lengthy absence because of a knee problem, the veteran Italian was given the final 17 minutes in Draxler’s place and stepped into defence once Kimpembe was off.
MF Javier Pastore, NR — The Argentina international replaced compatriot Lo Celso after 80 minutes, but the damage had already been done and there was little for El Flaco to contribute.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.