Improving Lyon Will Pose Stern Test for Ibrahimovic, PSG on Sunday

Jerrad PetersWorld Football Staff WriterNovember 28, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 08:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates his goal during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and SC Bastia at Parc des Princes on February 8, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

In more than 180 minutes of football against Lyon last season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was kept off the scoresheet and managed only two shots on target.

To put this in perspective, his one-shot performance against Les Gones last December was bookended by seven shots away to Valenciennes, 13 shots at Brest and four goals between the two matches.

But defender Samuel Umtiti and midfielder Maxime Gonalons helped keep him at bay on both occasions the two clubs met and on Sunday they’ll get another crack at silencing one of Europe’s in-form strikers.

They’ll have their hands full.

Ibrahimovic has bagged 18 goals in his last 12 matches in all competitions (including internationals), and going into Sunday he is Ligue 1’s joint-top goalscorer as well as the division’s second-most productive assist generator.

Lyon's Maxime Gonalons has helped successfully neutralize Ibrahimovic in the past.
Lyon's Maxime Gonalons has helped successfully neutralize Ibrahimovic in the past.Denis Doyle/Getty Images

And even if Lyon manage to silence him again—which is highly unlikely—they will be tasked with keeping another of the top-flight’s highest goalscorers, Edinson Cavani (Radamel Falcao is the other), at bay, while also keeping an eye on the likes of Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez.

In other words, the PSG that will host Lyon this weekend is a rather different animal than the one they visited nearly a year ago, even though the capital side went on to win the league.

This instalment of Les Parisiens is more dangerous, more complete andas Matthew Spiro pointed out on Ligue 1’s official website following Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Olympiacos in the Champions Leaguemore unified than any that has come before it.

At one point during the victory over the Greek giants PSG manager Laurent Blanc responded to captain Thiago Silva’s request for more defensive cover by withdrawing Ibrahimovic in favour of Marquinhos. And as a squad, this group of players seems especially united and motivated.

Not that Lyon should throw in the towel before a ball has even been kicked.

Following Thursday’s 1-0 win over Real Betis in the Europa League the seven-time Ligue 1 champions are now unbeaten in November and have lost just one of their last eight matches in all competitions.

Striker Bafetimbi Gomis has finally hit a purple patch of form with three goals from four outings this month and top-scorer Alexandre Lacazette has tallied two in his last three in Ligue 1.

Lyon have also improved defensively in recent matches, with only two goals conceded in all competitions since their 2-1 defeat at Monaco in late October.

They’ve set themselves up to provide league-leading PSG with a stern test at Parc Des Princes—a ground where they haven’t won in the league since 2007.

That said, this is exactly the sort of match the hosts need to be winning if they hope to challenge for silverware on multiple fronts this season. Coming off a big win midweek, they’ll be wanting to avoid a stumble as title rivals Lille and Monaco play beatable opposition.

But they’re going up against an in-form side—one that after a difficult start to the season has improved to the point where they might just fancy a result against the best team in the country.