Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 win over Girondins de Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes on Friday moved them five points clear of title rivals AS Monaco after Claudio Ranieri’s men could only draw with FC Lorient on Saturday.
Heading into next week’s clash with the Radamel Falcao-less principality outfit, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and PSG could be heading to the Stade Louis II without other star striker Edinson Cavani.
The Uruguayan left the field injured on Friday, replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi, and the extent of his thigh injury is now thought to be a three-week absence according to ligue1.com.
However, one of Laurent Blanc’s two star marksmen was firing and Ibrahimovic netted one of the hosts’ two goals on the night. Brazilian defender Alex claimed the other one, with his second goal in as many league games per the match report from ligue1.com.
It was a welcome return to form for the French champions who had suffered a Coupe de France exit at home to a resurgent Montpellier HSC side before suffering a 1-1 draw away at EA Guingamp.
Lucas Moura also proved a point, providing two assists as he looks to stake his claim for a regular place alongside Ibrahimovic and Cavani in the PSG front three.
Here is a closer look at how the talismanic Swede and El Matador fared on Friday.
After a two-match drought over the Coupe de France and Ligue 1 recently, Ibrahimovic broke a relative scoring duck with the opener against Bordeaux on Friday.
However, it was a largely frustrating game for the 32-year-old as PSG struggled to break down a resolute Girondins defence for large parts of the game.
Ibrahimovic was afforded few chances by Francis Gillot’s well organised side, although he was still central to the attacks that the capital outfit mustered in a creative capacity.
The mercurial striker’s controversial opening goal on 58 minutes, an excellent first-time finish from an inviting Moura cross, was clearly offside.
However, the strike moves Ibra to 18 goals for the season, just 12 behind last season’s impressive tally of 30.
13 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 13 goals in his last seven league games at the Parc des Princes. Homey.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 31, 2014
Cavani is still behind him in second place, but the gap is widening between the PSG pair and now stands at five.
Ibrahimovic showed his frustration at assist provider Moura from time to time on Friday, with the Brazilian wasting some good opportunities that he helped to create.
But his goal celebration with the Selecao star indicated his acute awareness of the 21-year-old’s need to impress and a belief in his teammate’s ability to function alongside he and Cavani on a more regular basis.
Perhaps it was not vintage Ibrahimovic, but it did not need to be.
PSG eventually secured three important points in the build-up to next week’s showdown with Monaco in the principality.
It was not such a good evening for Ibrahimovic’s strike partner Cavani though.
As well as failing to find the net for a second consecutive league match, the Uruguayan limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring problem (but has since been diagnosed as a thigh issue) after 76 ineffectual minutes.
Cavani was not his usual clinical self on Friday, although he did not enjoy any clear opportunities either, and he was restricted to shots from outside of the area or difficult angles.
That was no reflection of selfishness on his part, just simply that PSG were up against yet another side that opted to try to keep the champions at bay instead of attacking them.
Even Ibrahimovic was barely able to enjoy a clear-cut opportunity, with both falling foul of Bordeaux’s offside trap on a number of occasions.
11 - Check out the average position of Bordeaux's XI in the first-half. Deep. pic.twitter.com/tO16VjZj5n— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 31, 2014
When Cavani’s partner in crime did break through, it was from an offside position, but the pair’s efforts on the night cannot be faulted given the final result.
The South American still tracked back and defended with his usual high level of commitment and energy, but it is difficult to escape the feeling that something is not quite right with the 26-year-old at present.
Prior to his return to Uruguay for personal reasons at the end of 2013, he was prolific and in excellent form with or without Ibrahimovic.
Since the turn of the year, however, he has appeared distracted and is not his normal, clinical self.
Whatever his reasons for returning home prior to Christmas, believed to be finalising a divorce, according to ESPN FC, it appears to have had a profound effect on the player’s confidence.
Two goals in seven appearances across all competitions since the start of 2014 might not sound like much, but his overall scoring statistics are still impressive despite the recent loss of form.
It is a big week coming up for the PSG duo.
Not only do they travel to Monaco to take on their closest title rivals in what could eventually prove to be a Championnat-deciding encounter, but they also travel to take on FC Nantes in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final.
Cavani’s involvement is up for debate at present, with the extent of his injury unknown.
It is likely that he will not start at the Stade de la Beaujoire in the hope that he will be fit to face Monaco and their new star striker Dimitar Berbatov, who arrived in the principality on transfer deadline day, as revealed by ESPN FC.
A victory in Nantes would take PSG to the Stade de France with the chance to become the most decorated side in the Coupe de la Ligue and a win against Monaco would almost certainly put the Ligue 1 title beyond Claudio Ranieri’s men.
It is just another week for Ibrahimovic, Cavani and the French champions, who by now are accustomed to such busy schedules.