With the domestic season rudely interrupted by a winter World Cup, the midway point of Ligue 1 2022/23 has only now been reached in January, meaning a condensed fixture list for the remainder of the campaign. 

And there are certainly no foregone conclusions, with reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain only six points ahead of Lens after 18 games, and Christophe Galtier's men face a tough test away at Champions League-chasing Rennes on Sunday evening. 

For the lowdown on that game, plus the rest of the league's major storylines and Sunday's TV schedule, read on. 

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PSG bid to avoid Roazhon woe

Despite 2021/22 being a relative procession for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 as they regained their title in dominant fashion, Mauricio Pochettino's side did see their eight-game winning streak at the start of the season halted by Rennes, who went on to claim a spot in the Europa League. 

On that day in October 2021, the hosts stunned their mega-rich opponents with two goals within minutes of each other either side of half-time courtesy of Gaetan Laborde and Flavien Tait. 

Laborde has since moved on to Nice, but Tait still features regularly for the Red and Blacks, who were the second-highest scorers in France's top flight last season behind PSG and are beginning to find their shooting boots again after an inconsistent beginning to the campaign. 

However, Bruno Genesio's men will be looking to mount a response in front of their passionate home faithful after a disappointing 2-1 defeat in midweek at mid-table Clermont. 

An attempted interception from Warmed Omari saw the centre-back divert the ball into Grejohn Kyei's path as the visitors fell behind in that encounter, and while Armand Kalimuendo steered home coolly to equalise on 74 minutes, Rennes then saw two players sent off as assist-maker Benjamin Bourigeaud picked up a second yellow before Omari was given his marching orders for hauling down Komnen Andric. 

That numerical disadvantage eventually told in the fourth minute of stoppage time as Johan Gastien, son of Clermont boss Pascal, stroked home, with Rennes now missing Bourigeaud and Omari for the weekend, although Kalimuendo will be looking to show PSG what they're missing, having left them permanently last summer. 

Genesio is having to cope with multiple key absentees, including central midfielders Xeka and Benjamin Santamaria, and long-term casualty Martin Terrier, the team's star last term who unfortunately suffered an ACL rupture earlier this month that will keep him out of the rest of 2022/23 and the start of next season. 

While PSG have injury issues of their own, their squad and starting XI are still undeniably impressive as Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe and Marco Verratti currently remain sidelined, but Christophe Galtier hopes Renato Sanches can return to the fold, with the Portugal international yet to feature since the league's resumption due to a muscle bruise. 

Lionel Messi made a goalscoring return against Angers on Wednesday, and although Hugo Ekitike has bagged four times in his last five matches across all competitions - including against the league's bottom club - he is likely to make way for Kylian Mbappe, who was rested last time out, meaning the Messi-Mbappe-Neymar trio is set to form for the first time since the World Cup. There could be fireworks. 

Lionel Messi scores Paris Saint-Germain's second against Angers in midweek
Lionel Messi marked his return to club action with a cool finish to round off a 2-0 win over Angers

Barkley and Pepe ring in Digard era

Following an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to third-tier Le Puy Foot 63 Auvergne in the Coupe de France, Nice took the decision to sack manager Lucien Favre on Monday and bring in a caretaker, former Nice and Middlesbrough midfielder Didier Digard. 

The 36-year-old's reign began in spectacular on Wednesday as the Eagles soared to new heights, dispatching Montpellier 6-1 on the Riviera.

Arsenal outcast Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring with his sixth league of the campaign, before Kephren Thuram tucked in following a lovely exchange of passes with centre-back Dante.

The hosts kept their foot on the accelerator after the break as Pepe got his second, receiving an Aaron Ramsey pass before finding the back of the net via a deflection as Ross Barkley and Andy Delort were introduced. 

Delort made it four in comical fashion as his miskick landed right back into his path, and Barkley joined the party after Teji Savanier's free-kick consolation, producing a neat swivel and left-footed finish before getting Nice's sixth as fellow substitute Delort headed down to the Liverpudlian, who guided home after making a run into the box. 

Barkley scored a stunning curling effort at Rennes in Nice's previous encounter as he enjoys a renaissance abroad, but he and his team-mates will face a stern test on Sunday afternoon against Reims, who are 11th - only below their upcoming opponents on goal difference - and are currently on an amazing 10-match unbeaten run in the league, which started way back at the start of October. 

Eight of those 10 games have been under the stewardship of new Belgian-British manager William Still, who was appointed permanent boss in mid-November after his brilliant start in charge.

One of the key men in that run has been Folarin Balogun, who has only been outscored by Terem Moffi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe this season in Ligue 1.

Balogun credited fellow Gunners attacker Pepe with convincing him to move to France. Perhaps the Ivorian will be regretting those words of advice after this weekend.

Ross Barkley celebrates the first of his two goals to put Nice 5-1 up against Montpellier
Ross Barkley is enjoying a new lease of life in the south of France after being let go by Chelsea

Dream start to 2023 for Toulouse

Although 2022 ended in wretched fashion for Toulouse with a 6-1 thrashing dished out by Marseille, 2023 has brought with it an upturn in fortunes for Philippe Montanier's men. 

After seeing off relegation-threatened Ajaccio and then hammering fifth-tier Lannion 7-0 in the Coupe de France, Le Tefece continued their fine start to the year with a 5-0 demolition of Auxerre. 

Of great encouragement to former Nottingham Forest boss Montanier will be that their latest victory saw five different players get on the scoresheet. 

The pick of the goals came from Fares Chaibi, who fired into the roof of Benoit Costil's net for the opener, and Zakaria Aboukhlal, who swept home from Moussa Diarra's incisive cross for 4-0. 

Aboukhlal also provided the assist for the final goal of the evening for Thijs Dallinga, and the Moroccan, who scored against Belgium at the World Cup, will be a key ingredient in his side's push for survival.

Toulouse's opponents on Sunday afternoon are Brest, who are in 17th and, unlike their hosts, haven't yet found the back of the net in the league so far this year. 

However, they did hold a dangerous Lille outfit to a goalless draw in midweek and are only one point adrift of safety, although star forward Romain Del Castillo remains out with a calf injury that has sidelined him for the last two matches. 

Toulouse players celebrate Anthony Rouault's goal at Auxerre to make it 2-0
Toulouse are flying in 2023 - they have scored 14 times in all competitions without conceding

Your Ligue 1 weekend on BT Sport


Lille vs Troyes (12pm on BT Sport 7)

Reims vs Nice (2pm on BT Sport 7)

Monaco vs Ajaccio (4pm on BT Sport 2)

Rennes vs Paris Saint-Germain (7.45pm on BT Sport 3)