Paris Saint-Germain took full advantage of AS Monaco’s 1-1 draw away at Montpellier HSC in Ligue 1 on Friday night with a narrow 2-1 win at struggling AC Ajaccio one day later.
However, for the first time this season when all three have been in action, none of Ligue 1’s star trio of Radamel Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Edinson Cavani managed to score.
Only in Week 16, when the Colombian was absent through injury and did not play, have none of the three featured on a scoresheet for their respective side.
While PSG were able to cope without their two star men and found alternative sources of goals through Ezequiel Lavezzi and Blaise Matuidi, Monaco are badly in need of Falcao’s contribution on the scoring front.
As a result of Les Monegasques’ marginalised threat going forward, PSG are now five points clear at the top of Le Championnat. The defending champions will still be four points clear of Lille OSC come the end of the weekend, even if Rene Girard’s side beat Stade de Reims.
Here is a more in-depth look at the trio’s exploits this weekend.
In the final Ligue 1 match before the French winter break, Falcao made his return to action for Monaco in a 2-1 defeat at home to Valenciennes.
His comeback could not have gone much worse, missing a penalty after coming on as a second half substitute, but Claudio Ranieri’s side failed to show many signs of improvement after that loss against Montpellier.
Finally back in the starting XI for the first time since recovering from a thigh injury, the Colombian struggled once again and was mostly the target of a succession of crosses. He had very little in the way of clear opportunities at the Stade de la Mosson.
The biggest problem for Monaco at present is their inability to create the right kind of opportunity for El Tigre to thrive on. With the January transfer window currently open for business, the principality outfit do have the chance to address this now.
Earlier this week, Ibrahimovic was in sensational form as PSG saw off Ligue 2 side Stade Brestois in a rearranged Coupe de France clash in Brittany. The Swede bagged a treble on Wednesday as well as providing an assist.
However, by the time Laurent Blanc’s side arrived in Corsica to face rock-bottom Ajaccio on Saturday, it was quickly obvious that the talismanic striker and his teammates were jaded.
That did not stop Ibrahimovic from having a crucial impact on the game though.
The 32-year-old provided assists for both goals to ensure that PSG extended their lead at the top of Ligue 1, even if it came at his own expense on the day.
Ibrahimovic has never scored against Ajaccio; they are one of the three Championnat sides since he arrived in France that he has not managed to find the net against.
But, in a move that featured great play from Cavani and Matuidi, the Swede provided the killer pass for Lavezzi to stroke home an equaliser as half-time approached at the Stade Francois Coty.
Then, in the second 45, his perfect cushioned header from an exquisite Javier Pastore pass fell into the path of Matuidi who bravely scored with a diving header to secure the points.
Even when visibly tired and not at his best, Ibrahimovic still managed to make two key contributions to pull level with Monaco’s James Rodriguez as Ligue 1’s joint-most prolific assist provider with eight this season.
While strike partner Ibrahimovic enjoyed another prolific week, Cavani is taking his time to get off the mark in 2014.
El Matador was unselfish in providing the Swede with his third against Brest on Wednesday and once again put the team’s needs before his own in Ajaccio by contributing towards Lavezzi’s well-worked opener.
Aside from that, the Uruguayan struggled to influence the game and was restricted to half chances and a couple of ambitious efforts from long range and far from ideal angles.
However, Cavani could have put the finishing touches on an impressive move when he very nearly scored a sensational goal after demonstrating what can only be described as "Zidane-esque" control late on at the Stade Francois Coty.
The 26-year-old missed PSG’s final match of 2013 against Lille because of personal reasons.
Judging by his wasteful form in the friendly against Real Madrid in Doha and quiet showings in the cup clash with Brest and now Ajaccio in the league, it seems that his mind is still not entirely focused on the team’s on-field matters just yet.
It does not look like getting any easier for Falcao and Monaco. They now travel to face a Toulouse side buoyed by their recent victory over Girondins de Bordeaux in the Garonne derby.
Alain Casanova’s side held Les Monegasques to a goalless draw at the Stade Louis II in the third game of the season and the two will meet again on the Sunday.
For Ibrahimovic, Cavani and PSG though, in action shortly after Monaco on the same day, they welcome this season’s surprise package FC Nantes to the Parc des Princes.
It is another busy week for the capital club’s star duo; they travel to Bordeaux for a Coupe de la Ligue quarter-final on the Tuesday before that clash.
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