Paris Saint-Germain were crowned autumn champions for a third consecutive time as Ligue 1 finished up for 2013 with Game Week 19’s matches.
The defending champions played out a 2-2 draw with Lille OSC, but were assured of their status as mid-season winners thanks to AS Monaco’s shock 2-1 defeat at home to Valenciennes on Friday.
Claudio Ranieri’s side now find themselves trailing PSG by three points, but Radamel Falcao did return to action after a recent spell out through injury.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on target for the capital club, netting once as Laurent Blanc’s side recovered from throwing away a one-goal lead to salvage a point.
Edinson Cavani was not present, instead in Uruguay to deal with his impending divorce, but did help PSG to the quarterfinals of the Coupe de la Ligue earlier in the week.
Here is a breakdown of each of Le Championnat’s “big three” and their weekly performances.
Finally returning from injury after spending over a month on the sidelines, Falcao came on as a second half substitute for Monaco against Valenciennes.
The Colombian may wish that he had not though as the same problems that have dogged him in recent weeks prior to the injury resurfaced once more.
In the 83rd minute, El Tigre stepped forward to take a penalty with his team 2-0 down. However, Nicolas Penneteau saved his spot-kick and even though James Rodriguez did manage to pull a goal back minutes later, Falcao’s recent rest appears to have had an adverse effect.
During that time out, the South American has been under an unsettling amount of scrutiny and that pressure was reflected on the pitch with the 27-year-old often looking inhibited at the Stade Louis II.
The principality outfit are still struggling to fully integrate the Colombian, but he appears to have lost confidence in his own ability following criticism over his recent performances and inability to get involved in the play outside the box.
Falcao only played 45 minutes, but they were uninspiring ones and he and Monaco have plenty of work ahead of them in 2014 in order to catch up with PSG.
After missing his side’s Coupe de la Ligue victory over holders AS Saint-Etienne (after extra time) on Wednesday, Ibrahimovic was back to prove that PSG cannot be without him despite Cavani’s recent goals.
The Swede netted a deflected free-kick after 36 minutes to give his side the lead, but he could not prevent them from then falling behind 2-1 early in the second half.
5 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 5 goals from direct shots in Ligue 1 since 2012/13, a highest. Missile.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) December 22, 2013
Ibrahimovic was lucky not to see red after a flash point involving Lille captain Rio Mavuba in the first half, but so too was the French international.
After receiving a yellow card, Ibra managed to tone down his aggression, so as to not compromise his team, but was left frustrated by his teammates’ lack of composure in front of goal.
Considering how prolific PSG are when Cavani and Ibrahimovic are on the pitch together, there is a case building to suggest that the Ibra-Edi tandem is becoming indispensable for Blanc already.
He might not have played against Lille, but it was still a relatively good week for Cavani.
Back in Uruguay to take care of some personal issues, El Matador was in excellent form to lead PSG past Coupe de la Ligue holders Saint-Etienne into the quarterfinals of the competition.
It took 118 minutes until the South American eventually put the tie to bed, but he managed it without Ibrahimovic who was suspended.
Like Cavani on Wednesday, the Swede was without his strike partner on Sunday and he suffered and PSG were unable to win.
The combination of Ibrahimovic’s genius and Cavani’s hard-working attitude is starting to pay dividends on the pitch and the pair are forming a dynamic and potent striker partnership.
However, one is now seemingly unable to function without the other in something of a role reversal from earlier this season.
Blanc cannot afford to let the Uruguayan miss any more matches unless he is injured or suspended.
12 - Edinson Cavani has scored 12 goals in his last 12 competitive games for PSG. Unstoppable.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) December 18, 2013
With 2013 now over, Ligue 1 does not reconvene until January 10th when Falcao and Monaco travel to Montpellier HSC.
The Colombian will be keen to get himself back on the scoresheet immediately against the struggling 2011-2012 champions.
Ibrahimovic, Cavani and PSG face a trip to Corsica to take on Ajaccio though and will be hoping to continue their impressive form into 2014.
Before that though, the PSG pair have a prestigious friendly against Real Madrid in Doha on January 2nd as part of the team’s mid-season training camp.