Shadow PSG side held in final warm-up for Barcelona showdown

Paris: Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for their looming Champions League showdown with Barcelona by fielding a shadow line-up in a 1-1 draw at home to struggling Clermont on Saturday.

PSG needed a Goncalo Ramos equaliser with five minutes left, following a one-two with substitute Kylian Mbappe, to snatch a draw and avoid what would have been just a second loss in Ligue 1 this season.

Malian midfielder Habib Keita had earlier given bottom side Clermont the lead in the first half, but they could not hold on for a repeat of their win in Paris last season.

Ramos's goal, his 11th of the season for his club, allowed PSG to extend their unbeaten run to 27 matches in all competitions since a 2-1 loss away to AC Milan in the Champions League in early November.

"The players are professionals. We are in an excellent dynamic and we will not stop giving everything in our matches," coach Luis Enrique told media after the game.

PSG's second draw with Clermont in this campaign is just a minor setback on the Qatar-owned club's march to a 10th French title in 12 years.

They are now 13 points clear at the top of the table, a gap that second-placed Brest can trim to 10 points by beating Metz on Sunday.

However, there are just six matches left to play after this weekend, and it is a possibility that PSG could be confirmed as champions when they play Lyon at home in their next game on April 21.

By then, PSG will have played both legs of their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, who visit the French capital for the first encounter this coming Wednesday.

That impending date explained why Luis Enrique changed his entire starting line-up here following last midweek's win against Rennes in the French Cup semi-finals.

Mbappe started on the bench, meaning he has completed 90 minutes only once in PSG's last eight Ligue 1 matches.

This time, however, the France captain was clearly just being rested rather than the decision to leave him out being related in any way to his planned departure from the club at the end of the campaign.

Third-choice goalkeeper Arnau Tenas was handed a start in goal, while 17-year-old Yoram Zague was given a senior debut at left-back and Senny Mayulu, also 17, made a first top-team start.

"My objective was to find a competitive starting XI," Luis Enrique said.

"There were lots of internationals on the pitch and there was no doubt that the players were fully focused."

PSG saw right-back Nordi Mukiele go off injured, his face bloodied, early on after a collision with Clermont goalkeeper Massamba Ndiaye, and the home side fell behind just after the half-hour mark.

It was a slightly farcical goal, with Milan Skriniar making a hash of a clearance and Tenas not coming for a cross before Alan Virginius set up Keita to prod in.

Mayulu thought he had equalised with a superb strike in first-half injury time, only for a VAR intervention to rule the goal out for a foul in the build-up by Zague.

Achraf Hakimi, who will be suspended in the first leg against Barcelona and came on for the injured Mukiele, hit the bar early in the second half as PSG pushed for a leveller.

Mbappe came on midway through the second half along with Marquinhos, with the Brazilian defender making his 435th appearance to equal the club record held by Jean-Marc Pilorget.

Ramos hit the bar after a Hakimi shot was parried, but the Portuguese forward did find the net as PSG's pressure eventually paid off.

He drove forward and exchanged passes with Mbappe before slotting in to extend their unbeaten record to five months.

Despite their valiant performance, Clermont are bottom and sit seven points from outright safety.

Saturday's other game in Ligue 1 saw Lens suffer a blow in their quest to qualify for Europe in a draw 1-1 at home to Le Havre.

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