In what might prove to be an ultimately decisive weekend of Ligue 1 action, Paris Saint-Germain extended their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to eight points thanks to a 2-0 win over fierce rivals Olympique de Marseille on Sunday.
The French champions were afforded that margin by AS Monaco’s 2-0 defeat away at AS Saint-Etienne the day before, and although eight points is by no means an unassailable lead, it seems unlikely that the principality outfit will be able to overhaul PSG.
Edinson Cavani was back in action for PSG and marked his return with a goal, while prolific striker partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic laid on the capital club’s other goal that was scored by Maxwell.
However, Monaco’s Dimitar Berbatov was given just nine minutes to impress in the Rhone. The Bulgarian could not help Claudio Ranieri’s men to make up the two-goal deficit, and ASM fell behind in the title race.
Here is a closer look at how the three fared individually.
Ibrahimovic went into the clash with Marseille needing just one goal to become the leading goalscorer in the history of Le Classique. Although he did not get it and is still on joint-top scorer, he did make an equally important contribution in providing Maxwell’s opener.
The Swede is now on 10 league assists for the season, the best total in Le Championnat thanks to a brilliant pass to his longtime friend and teammate at left-back to score.
Until that point, Ibrahimovic had been largely frustrated, particularly with teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi, who wasted a number of good chances and elected to not pass when the towering striker was well positioned.
However, the 32-year-old is still leading the Ligue 1 standings by a massive eight points, despite teammate Cavani cutting the margin down to eight with his goal.
Cavani featured in the PSG squad for the first time since a 2-0 home win over Girondins de Bordeaux at the end of January, although he had to settle for a place on the bench on Sunday.
The Uruguayan did not have to wait long to get himself back amongst the goals, though, scoring eight minutes into a 20-minute cameo appearance.
El Matador put the finishing touches on an excellent team move with a powerful header from a brilliant Gregory van der Wiel volleyed cross to complete the scoring at 2-0.
Cavani could also have had a second. He was flagged offside in a tight decision toward the end of the game from what would have been Ibrahimovic’s second assist of the game, but it was ruled out.
The 27-year-old will be delighted to have immediately picked up where he left off with his strike partner in overbearing form and a new role to continue to get used to.
His return is also particularly well timed in that it will boost PSG’s options in Europe as well as domestically once again as Laurent Blanc’s side look to make the most of their eight-point cushion by rotating heavily in the UEFA Champions League.
Once again this week it is difficult to make a proper judgment on Monaco’s Berbatov, because he did not play more than 10 minutes of their 2-0 loss against Saint-Etienne.
Ranieri obviously does not feel that the Bulgarian is up to starting a match just yet, having restricted him to just substitute appearances so far. Once the 33-year-old is match fit, though, expect to see him feature more regularly for Les Monegasques.
Emmanuel Riviere, Valere Germain and Anthony Martial are all ahead of Berbatov in the pecking order at the Stade Louis II at present.
Considering the former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur man’s experience, it can only be that he is still getting used to his new surroundings.
After the short international break, Ligue 1 will be back in action next weekend. Ibrahimovic, Cavani and PSG travel to Corsica to face SC Bastia on Saturday in a potentially difficult encounter.
The pair will now be expected to feature alongside each other once again following the Uruguayan’s successful return from injury, making the champions more clinical as a result.
Monaco and Berbatov will host struggling FC Sochaux-Montbeliard, a team that held them to a 2-2 draw in this season’s earlier fixture. The game could be the perfect chance for the temperamental striker to finally make his full Monaco debut.
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