PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain are already surging clear towards the Ligue 1 title in France even as Lionel Messi has so far been held back for the Champions League, in which he got his first goal for his new club in midweek.
Messi's majestic strike sealed a 2-0 win over Pep Guardiola's Manchester City that sent out a statement to the rest of Europe, PSG confirming that they are leading contenders to go all the way in the Champions League.
That is why they signed Messi, as they look to win the European Cup for the first time, and that is why Messi came to Paris following his departure from Barcelona, convinced that the Qatar-owned club offered him the best chance to get his hands on a trophy that has eluded him since 2015.
It was just the third time the 34-year-old Argentine had started alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the PSG attack since he made his debut off the bench in a 2-0 Ligue 1 win at Reims in late August.
Indeed Messi has played the sum total of 100 minutes in domestic competition and yet that has not mattered one jot to Mauricio Pochettino's side, such is their superiority in France.
As they look to reclaim the Ligue 1 title from reigning champions Lille, PSG are already nine points clear of Lens in second after just eight games.
They have a 100 percent record in the league, only the third time ever in France that a team has won its first eight matches of a campaign.
The first was Olympique Lillois in 1936, while the last was...PSG, who won their opening 14 games in 2018 under Thomas Tuchel.
PSG go to Rennes on Sunday, where a full house of close to 30,000 will hope to catch a glimpse of Messi while also hoping the capital side can be brought down a peg or two.
Messi sat out PSG's last two games with a knee knock as he was kept back in preparation to face City, but he should feature at Roazhon Park before jetting off to Argentina for a gruelling series of three World Cup qualifiers.
If anyone can stop PSG then maybe it should be Rennes, who spent 80 million euros ($92.6m) on new signings in the summer, more than anyone in France including PSG.
Messi, of course, arrived on a free transfer, too good an opportunity for the Parisians to pass up in their pursuit of Champions League glory. In Ligue 1 they barely need him.
Player to watch: Seko Fofana
The captain of Lens has been outstanding for his side, who climbed to second in the table with a thrilling 3-2 win at Marseille last weekend. In fact the midfielder has been superb ever since joining Lens from Udinese last year.
Born in Paris, he joined Manchester City as a teenager but never broke through at the Etihad Stadium. However, on current form the Ivory Coast international will soon be attracting interest from some of the continent's very biggest clubs.
"I am lucky to play with great players who allow me to shine," he said modestly after the win in Marseille.
8 - PSG have won all eight Ligue 1 games so far this season.
14 - Lille have won all 14 Ligue 1 matches in which Canadian striker Jonathan David has found the net since the start of last season. They play Marseille on Sunday.
0 - Saint-Etienne go into the derby against Lyon without a win to their name this season and bottom of the table. Claude Puel's side have picked up not a single point in their last five games.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Lens v Reims (1900)
Montpellier v Strasbourg (1500), Nice v Brest (1900)
Rennes v Paris Saint-Germain (1100), Angers v Metz, Lorient v Clermont, Monaco v Bordeaux, Nantes v Troyes (all 1300), Lille v Marseille (1500), Saint-Etienne v Lyon (1845)