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Violence fears ahead of PSG Anderlecht clash

UPDATED: Paris Saint Germain face Belgian side Anderlecht in Brussels in the Champions League on Wednesday with the build up to the match dominated by fears that the clash will be marred by violence between the two set of supporters. Police have made 76 arrests so far.

Violence fears ahead of PSG Anderlecht clash
Fears of fan violence surround the Champions League clash between PSG and Anderlecht on Wednesday, October 23. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

LATEST: 

  • Police make 76 arrests including 60 hardcore hooligans from Paris
  • Reports of a Polish hooligan arrested armed with a meat cleaver
  • "This is the most dangerous game of the year," says the mayor of Anderlecht.

Police in Brussels are on high alert as they try to prevent clashes between supporters of French side PSG and Belgian rivals Anderlecht, both of whom are known for their violent hooligan element.

There have been reports that the two sets of fans have set up a pre-arranged confrontation on Wednesday, ahead of the match.

On Tuesday police in Belgium arrested 60 PSG supporters at Eugene Flagey square on the eve of the match in a bid to prevent trouble. Around 20 Anderlecht fans were also detained. There have also been reports of several PSG fans arrested at a trains station in Brussels armed with metal bars.

“We arrested around 60 hardcore supporters from Paris. These are the ringleaders that we were seeking to neutralise,” said a Brussels police spokeswoman.

It is believed most of those detained already have convictions for hooliganism and are the subject of stadium banning orders.

Those arrested will only be released once the game has ended.Belgian police also fear that the potential for violence would be exacerbated with reports that hooligans from clubs in the Netherlands and Poland plan on travelling to Brussels looking for trouble. Reports in the French press say one of the Polish hooligans arrested was armed with a meat cleaver.

Wednesday’s game is considered a high risk match by authorities.

The two sets of fans have history when it comes to violence with a 1992 UEFA cup clash between the PSG and Anderlecht marred by a major outbreak of trouble that left many injured.

“This is probably the most dangerous game of the year and we will do everything to protect people and property,” said the mayor of the Anderlecht district Eric Thomas on Wednesday.

Officers in the Brussels have been given the green light to make arrests as a preventative measure.

Meanwhile on the pitch Laurent Blanc’s PSG side will be hoping to continue their excellent run of form in this year’s competition.

Paris Saint Germain should be anticipating a third successive win in three Champions League games as they face an Anderlecht side devoid of confidence and pointless.

PSG will be without defender Christophe Jallet, Javier Pastore and Thiago Silva, all injured but such are the riches at coach Laurent Blanc's disposal that their absences shouldn't matter.

Anderlecht coach John van den Brom sent out the youngest team in the club's history for the 2-0 league win over Mons last Friday and could well do the same on Wednesday where out of form skipper
Guillaume Gillet is likely to start on the bench.

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FOOTBALL

OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP

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