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Five things to watch during Ligue 1 Matchday 17 as Lens host Paris Saint-Germain in a top-two battle - live on BT Sport!
Franck Haise's men are the division's surprise package and a win over PSG could take the northern French outfit within two points of the reigning champions to make it a perfect start to 2023.
Kylian Mbappe's contentious penalty in the dying moments saw Paris Saint-Germain cruelly deny Strasbourg a point after Marquinhos' header from compatriot Neymar's exquisite free-kick was cancelled out on 55 minutes as the centre-back deflected an Adrien Thomasson cross past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Two yellow cards in the space of 90 seconds then saw Neymar dismissed, but the reigning champions demonstrated again why they lead Ligue 1 as they weathered the storm and found a way to victory in second-half stoppage time when Mbappe was adjudged to have been nudged to ground in the box by Gervino Nyamsi and the man who scored a World Cup final hat-trick kept his cool to slot home.
Now PSG head to the Stade Bollaert-Delelis to take on Lens, who have continued to outperform expectations and currently sit second.
Read on for all the major Matchday 17 storylines, plus information on how you can watch SEVEN of the games exclusively live on BT Sport.
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Lens aim to frustrate PSG again
Frank Haise's Lens have been a breath of fresh air since gaining promotion back to Ligue 1 in 2020, posting consecutive seventh-placed finishes prior to the current campaign in which they have propelled themselves up to second.
Fans of the Blood and Gold can be further encouraged by the fact that their previous two encounters at home against Paris Saint-Germain have yielded four points, and that's only after Georginio Wijnaldum's 92nd-minute equaliser broke the majority of hearts at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in April.
Captain and leader Seko Fofana put Lens ahead in their last head-to-head, and the 27-year-old has again been influential in his team's success this season, along with a rock-solid defence marshalled by former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba which has conceded just 10 league goals this term - the joint-lowest along with PSG.
The Lens backline also won't have to worry about Lionel Messi just yet either - he is set to return on 11 January against Angers - while Neymar will be suspended following the quickfire bookings he picked up in the dramatic win over Strasbourg.
Kylian Mbappe's penalty to win that game means he is two clear of Neymar in the division's top scorers' list this campaign and you wouldn't bet against the Frenchman increasing that margin in Pas-de-Calais before the Brazilian returns to action.
Is Ben Seghir the next big thing?
Monaco's return to action after the World Cup was a rollercoaster as the principality outfit secured a 3-2 win at Auxerre in a seesaw encounter that was settled by two second-half strikes from Eliesse Ben Seghir, a 17-year-old making his Ligue 1 debut (and by replacing star man Wissam Ben Yedder at half-time no less).
The two finishes from Ben Seghir were very different. The first - to put Monaco 2-1 ahead - came from close range thanks to Aleksandr Golovin's lay-off, while the second was a superb individual effort as the France under-18 international cut in from the left wing before arrowing the ball into the far corner past the despairing dive of Benoit Costil.
Given what Kylian Mbappe has gone on to achieve after being nurtured at the Stade Louis II, there is understandable excitement about what this next teenager off the production line can deliver.
Ben Yedder, so often the talisman for Monaco, may now find himself being strongly pushed for a starting spot, and it will be interesting to see the XI that Philippe Clement opts for against Brest, who shipped four against Lyon on Wednesday and are still without a permanent manager since Michel der Zakarian's sacking in October, with Bruno Grougi the caretaker since then.
Despite sitting 17th, inside the four-team relegation zone, the Pirates showed against Lyon that they can scare opponents as Mathias Pereira Lage and former Huddersfield striker Steve Mounie got on the scoresheet.
That said, Monaco are firm favourites to win this fixture as they look to keep themselves within touching distance of the Champions League qualification places.
Balogun continues Reims renaissance
This season was always going to be an important one for Folarin Balogun.
The England under-21 striker, who has come through Arsenal's academy, had a difficult time on loan from the Gunners at Middlesbrough last season, so a move to Reims was a chance to quieten the sceptics.
In an unheralded side, Balogun has shone, and two more goals, this time against Rennes in midweek, mean he has hit double figures for the Ligue 1 campaign, with only Neymar and Kylian Mbappe having outscored him in the division this term.
The New York-born marksman's double against the Champions League chasers began when he peeled away from Hamari Traore and produced a stunning volley from Alexis Flips' cross to give the hosts the lead.
After Flips went from provider to goalscorer and Arthur Theate responded to halve the deficit just before the break, Balogun got his second of the evening in comical fashion as visiting goalkeeper Steve Mandanda rushed out to beat the 21-year-old to a through-ball, but his clearance cannoned off Warmed Omari and back towards his own goal, leaving Balogun with the simplest of tasks.
Reims are currently led by Belgian-British caretaker boss William Still, who has yet to taste defeat in his first six games in charge, comprising three wins and three draws that have taken the Red and Whites from being out of the bottom four only on goal difference to being seven points clear of the drop zone, although a trip to sixth-placed Lille on Monday afternoon will be a considerable challenge.
Free-scoring Marseille wary of Wahi
Marseille hit Toulouse for six to jump back into the top three, with four former or current Premier League players getting on the scoresheet - Sead Kolasinac, Dimitri Payet, Cengiz Under and Nuno Tavares.
That means Igor Tudor's men have the second-best goal difference in the league (+18) after Paris Saint-Germain, and can move within one point of second-placed Lens if they lose to PSG and L'OM win at Montpellier.
However, Montpellier come into the contest off the back of a morale-boosting 2-0 win at Lorient courtesy of Teji Savanier's classy free-kick and a bizarre goal from Elye Wahi that saw the 19-year-old's shot deflect up in the air, allowing him to head home after opportunistically continuing his run into the box.
That goal means Wahi has become just the second player in 40 years to score 20 Ligue 1 goals before the age of 20, the other being Kylian Mbappe (although he hit an incredible 41).
The victory over Lorient also marked Romain Pitau's first three points since taking charge on a temporary basis following the sacking of Olivier Dall'oglio in mid-October.
No win in six leaves Clermont concerned
Clermont started off this season as one of the league's unexpected success stories, and after finishing 17th last term, they sat eighth in early October following back-to-back victories over Ajaccio and Auxerre.
However, they have failed to add to their wins column since then, throwing away leads against Nantes and Lens and failing to score two penalties in a 1-1 draw with Montpellier, while Clermont's former talisman Mohamed Bayo - now at Lille - came back to haunt them in a 2-0 defeat most recently.
Pascal Gastien's side are still six points clear of the bottom four, but face a tough task at Lyon on New Year's Day.
Lyon's 4-2 win at Brest means they are themselves six points adrift of fifth - the Europa Conference League qualification spot - but more flair like that exhibited on Wednesday night will leave them in the conversation right up until June.
Alexandre Lacazette got the ball rolling with the perfect cross for Maxence Caqueret, who turned provider for Rayan Cherki to fire in emphatically.
Lacazette bagged a 10th Ligue 1 goal of the campaign from the spot shortly after Cherki's strike, and Tete completed the scoring for the visitors, sweeping home from Karl Toko Ekambi's brilliant ball across.
Laurent Blanc has got Les Gones playing some attractive stuff. Expect them to put significant pressure on Lorient and Lille in the coming weeks.
Your Ligue 1 matchday on BT Sport
Monaco vs Brest (2pm on BT Sport 2)
Lyon vs Clermont (4pm on BT Sport 2)
Lens vs Paris Saint-Germain (7.30pm on BT Sport 1)
Strasbourg vs Troyes (2pm on BT Sport 3)
Lille vs Reims (4pm on BT Sport 3)
Montpellier vs Marseille (6pm on BT Sport 1)