Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 victory over Stade Rennais ensured their two-point lead over title rivals AS Monaco at the top of Ligue 1 remains intact with one game to go until the winter break.
Thiago Motta, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani were on target for the defending champions, while Romain Alessandrini netted a consolation strike for Rennes.
Laurent Blanc’s men were good value for their victory, even though they made it hard for themselves by allowing their hosts back into it towards the end.
Philippe Montanier’s side could not muster an equaliser though and instead PSG killed the game off with Cavani netting late on.
"This is an important victory and a well-deserved one," Blanc told PSG.fr after the match (translated from French as a bilingual).
"We dominated the ball for the majority of the match and we used it well. When we put these ingredients together, as we did tonight, we are difficult to beat."
Ibrahimovic moves up to 14 goals for the season, while El Matador takes his tally to 12. But despite the usual suspects providing two of the three goals, it was very much a team performance.
Here are six things we learned from PSG’s 3-1 win.
Since the start of the season, Thiago Motta has played a key role in PSG’s success.
The Italian is one of the main reasons Laurent Blanc’s side has been able to switch relatively seamlessly to a more possession-based style of play.
His importance to this side is often taken for granted, though, as demonstrated recently by his absence during the defending champions’ 2-0 defeat at Evian Thonon Gaillard.
By scoring the opener against Stade Rennais, his first Ligue 1 strike of the campaign, Motta ensured he gets to enjoy some well-deserved, but rare, plaudits.
His importance lies outside of his goals, though, and, instead, in his ability to dictate the pace of a game. That was illustrated by his 116 completed passes against Rennes, a Ligue 1 record this season.
Since taking over at Stade Rennais, Philippe Montanier has overseen something of a clear out.
He has stripped the team down to a mixture of the most influential senior players and the most promising youth academy graduates.
The focus of his current side is predominantly youth, and because of that, the former Real Sociedad coach has to be more patient with his team in order to see results.
Cedric Hountondji’s naïve foul on Blaise Matuidi for the penalty early in the second half perhaps best demonstrates this.
Rennes are a club famed for their ability to nurture young talent, and Montanier is looking to tap into that productivity in order to produce a side capable of competing in the upper reaches of Le Championnat.
However, those youngsters need to take the experience from this sort of game and build on it in order to develop into the kind of side that will be able to hold its own.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in dominating form so far this season, but, against Stade Rennais, he occupied a deeper-lying playmaker role as opposed to his regular deployment as the focal point of the attack.
That didn’t stop him scoring from the spot early in the second half, though, moving him to 14 goals for the season.
His partnership with Edinson Cavani continues to thrive, though, and, for the second week in a row, the pair were both on the score sheet.
Although Ibrahimovic has been in untouchable form in recent weeks, his current tally is still short of the 19 goals he had to his name going into last season’s winter break.
That decrease in goals overall has been because of the Swede’s change in role since Laurent Blanc took over as coach and Cavani’s arrival.
PSG’s lethal pairing now have 26 goals between them this season, making them the most efficient strike pairing in Europe.
That is also more than 18 of the other 19 teams in Ligue 1 have managed this term.
His thumping free-kick was only a consolation goal on the day, and perhaps, Salvatore Sirigu should have done better, but it was Romain Alessandrini’s third goal of the season for Stade Rennais.
Prior to an unfortunate injury last year, the 24-year-old was being spoken of as a potential French international and even received a call-up for Les Bleus.
Since that injury, Alessandrini has had to work hard to get himself back to full fitness and into Philippe Montanier’s starting XI.
A summer transfer feud, while still injured, did not help. But Alessandrini is slowly—but surely—re-emerging as a key player for Rennes.
His set pieces, generally speaking, still need some work, though. Although he scored from one, he wasted a number of good opportunities with poor deliveries from corners and free-kicks.
Marco Verratti’s performance against Stade Rennais demonstrated exactly why he is hailed as one of world football’s brightest young prospects.
He still has plenty to do before he realises his full potential, but he is getting better all the time.
Despite showing immense quality in moments at the Stade de la Route de Lorient, he provided equal measures of inexperience and ill discipline to illustrate how he is still a work in progress.
The Italian international’s brilliant pass to Blaise Matuidi created the penalty that put PSG 2-0 up. It was also his pass that set Edinson Cavani away for the team’s third on the counter-attack late on.
However, Verratti’s indecision and a misplaced pass in the second half allowed Rennes a glorious chance to equalise.
He also picked up his first Ligue 1 booking since October for a foul on Jean II Makoun, showing that his habit of collecting unnecessary yellow cards is still there despite greater self-control this year.
The 21-year-old has been one of PSG’s best players so far this campaign but, as he showed here, he is still developing and is equally capable of absolute brilliance or naïve mistakes.
Philippe Montanier’s move from Real Sociedad to Stade Rennais in the summer was something of a surprise considering.
The Spaniards had just qualified for the Champions League and Rennes had just finished 13th in Ligue 1.
Despite plenty of promise in the squad from players such as Cedric Hountondji, Adrien Hunou and Abdoulaye Doucoure, it is difficult to see what Montanier saw in the side to justify his decision to leave San Sebastian.
Granted, there are still talents in the team such as Jonathan Pitroipa (pictured), Julien Feret and Jean II Makoun, nobody stands out at the Stade de la Route de Lorient.
There was little in their performance against PSG to suggest that immediate success will be possible with the current side and, if anything, investment is needed.
At various points throughout the match, Rennes showed that they have the ability within the team to bother sides like PSG.
The talent is there, but there is no belief they can compete with bigger sides just yet.
Obviously, it is a long-term project, but the club’s overall objective under Montanier is unclear. It is difficult to see where this side can go in the future.