Week 5 of Ligue 1 action finished in victory for Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco and their big-name stars. Radamel Falcao and Les Monegasques will be happier than their title rivals, though after a 1-0 win over FC Lorient moved Claudio Ranieri’s Monaco side back into top spot as the Colombian netted his fourth goal of the season.
Laurent Blanc will be satisfied with his PSG side’s 2-0 away win at Girondins de Bordeaux, a result that moved them into a provisional first place on Friday, but placed them third after five games. Neither of his star duo of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Edinson Cavani scored, but the manner of their victory over the 2009 champions was more convincing than Monaco’s against a struggling Lorient team.
Both results set up next Sunday’s clash between the pair at the Parc des Princes in Paris nicely though. The principality outfit are top of Le Championnat with 13 points from a possible 15; the defending champions are trailing by two points having played as many games.
Despite Falcao and his teammates being in the driving seat for now, the striker is arguably in a false position as the league’s joint-second highest scorer even if his side deservedly lead their capital city rivals.
Here is an assessment of the trio’s performances this weekend.
Falcao’s sixth-minute spot-kick was enough to give Monaco three points at the Stade Louis II in a 1-0 win over Lorient. El Tigre now has four goals in five games, but it was his second penalty this season and the tally belies the player’s overall contribution for Les Monegasques at present (stats via Ligue1.com).
Granted the Colombian has taken the chances that have come his way so far, but it is taking his longer to settle in France than many would think looking at his stats. Four goals in five games suggest a player who has adapted seamlessly to Ligue 1 but, once again, this was proved incorrect against Lorient.
Sunday’s match was perhaps his best performance to date for Monaco, particularly in the first 30 minutes. He won the penalty, scored it and he could have bagged a second when he was inches away from a dangerous Layvin kurzawa cross.
But after that it became an all too familiar story. Ranieri’s team took the lead and could have added a second inside of the first 10 minutes before they eased up and took their foot off the gas, losing momentum.
The 27-year-old is guilty of being too individualistic at time and Monaco are not causing themselves all of their problems at present. Falcao often gets hold of the ball and then tries to go alone, takes too many touches or finds himself behind play.
All of that is natural in a newly assembled team. However, going into the biggest test of the season in Paris next week, the former Atletico Madrid man will need to improve to add to his slightly flattering tally so far.
Ibrahimovic is arguably in a more difficult position to compete with Falcao than his teammate Cavani, but he has embraced his role as PSG’s playmaker nonetheless. This was no more evident than on Friday night as the French champions ran out 2-0 winners in Bordeaux.
Once again, as he has done on a number of occasions already this season, the Swede played an important part in the victory. His sublime assist for Blaise Matuidi’s opener capped an impressive display, considering that the towering striker inspired his Sweden team to a 1-0 victory in Kazakhstan two days before.
The 31-year-old was in position to score the second, but Lucas Moura ultimately did not need him. It was by no means vintage Ibra, and again a goal was missing, but he contributed when his team needed him to. The fatigue accumulated over the past fortnight was plain to see in the final third of the match.
Last time out, Ibrahimovic finally ended his barren start to the season with his first goal this term against Guingamp. Despite not finding the net against Les Girondins, he has still been involved in four of PSG’s eight goals this campaign with three assists and a goal.
Only on the pitch for nine minutes at the Stade Chaban Delmas, it is difficult to give Cavani a thorough and fair appraisal this week. Like so many of PSG’s South American stars, the Uruguayan had been on international duty for the past fortnight and arrived in Bordeaux on the day of the game with no time to prepare.
However, this classy gesture (via Who Ate All The Pies) more than made up for the 26-year-old’s lack of game time. Having promised to give his shirt to give his shirt to a handicapped fan that he had greeted before the game, El Matador lived up to his word and probably made the supporter’s week.
Both PSG and Monaco survived the international break with Falcao, Ibrahimovic and Cavani coming through unscathed. Having won their games this weekend despite the difficult circumstances, particularly for Blanc’s men, both sides are able to breathe a huge sigh of relief at losing no ground.
Assuming that neither the Swede nor the Uruguayan pick up an injury in the French champions’ opening Champions League clash against Olympiacos in Greece on Tuesday, all three of Ligue 1’s biggest stars will go head to head next Sunday when the two teams meet in Paris.
With Falcao leading Cavani by two goals and Ibrahimovic trailing his teammate by a further strike (stats via Ligue1.com), PSG are behind for now. However, Blanc’s side have started passing its opponents to death this season and creating chances at will. Monaco will be no exception.
Can Ibra and Cavani overhaul El Tigre next week? "El Cashico" promises not to disappoint.