By Graham Berger
Paris Saint-Germain FC's season hit a low on Saturday when they suffered their fourth league defeat in five matches against AS Monaco FC. And with speculation mounting that the club are ready to dismiss coach Luis Fernandez, the stakes are high when French champions Olympique Lyonnais visit the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
Fernandez was the toast of Paris when his team beat Olympique de Marseille 3-0 at home on 26 October to move within a point of the top. But after a bleak November brought PSG just one league point from a possible 15, the club have dropped to tenth.
PSG may have defeated Portugal's Boavista FC in the first leg of their UEFA Cup third-round tie last week but French sports daily L'Equipe claimed on Sunday that PSG directors had already met representatives from Canal+, the television network that owns a majority stake in club, and agreed that Fernandez's contract, which has seven months left to run, should be terminated after the match against Lyon - regardless of the result. The Argentinian Carlos Bianchi, the paper claims, is being lined up as a replacement.
Fernandez, however, gave short shrift to the rumours. "Stories about the coach getting sacked always emerge when a team is losing," said the former French international. "
I'll just carry on doing my job and carry on trying to find solutions to the problems. I remain close to my players, I will continue to encourage them and help them turn in a high-quality performance on Wednesday."
'Bad day for PSG'
Despite the coach's assertions, PSG president Laurent Perpère sounded none too impressed by the manner of Saturday's 3-1 defeat at the Stade Louis II, when Monaco amassed 22 shots on goal to PSG's three. "I am not prepared to comment on the future of the coach," he said. "Suffice to say, this has been a very bad day for PSG."
Ronaldinho, who gave the visitors the lead in the 25th minute, said the team would need to improve against Lyon. "Of course it knocked our confidence when Monaco equalised before half-time but we need to show more character and more fight in future," said the Brazilian international. "We sat back too much and gave Monaco the chance to attack us. We can't afford to do the same against Lyon."
Ronaldinho was handed the captain's armband against Monaco in the absence of Mauricio Pochettino. Fernandez was no doubt hoping the move would inspire Ronaldinho, having tried a similar tactic two seasons ago when he appointed Nicolas Anelka captain. It did not work then and the evidence of Saturday night was not altogether positive.
Worryingly for Fernandez, there are signs he is starting to lose the confidence of some of his players. Brazilian midfield player Andre Luiz, who has failed to convince since joining from Marseille, expressed his displeasure after being substituted on Saturday. "Just when I thought I was starting to play well he took me off," he said. Andre Luiz's replacement, Selim Benachour, made little impact but claimed it was because he was asked to play on the left rather than in his preferred central position. "It is not my natural position," said Benachour.
Hints of discontent then but with Lyon, the current league leaders, arriving in the capital on Wednesday, Fernandez has called for an extra effort from his team. "It is an enormous game for us," he said. "The players know that the situation has become critical and they simply have to respond on Wednesday."
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