Paris Saint-Germain vs. Saint-Etienne: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain restored their eight-point advantage at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-0 win over European qualification hopefuls AS Saint-Etienne at the Parc des Princes on Sunday. That just hours after title rivals AS Monaco had closed the gap to only five points.
Les Monegasques’ 3-2 win over Olympique Lyonnais put the pressure on PSG heading into the clash against a side that they have struggled to beat in recent encounters. Christophe Galtier’s men put up limited resistance, but a Zlatan Ibrahimovic double was enough to secure three more points
The juggernaut from the capital rolls on, and Parisian coach Laurent Blanc was delighted at how his side remained focused and disciplined, while many questioned pre-match whether the French champions could keep themselves motivated between now and the end of the season.
"Every victory is important. We must win our home matches, so is is mission accomplished in that respect," le President revealed to PSG.fr (in French) after the match.
"It was a busy week with three back-to-back victories against SC Bastia, Bayer Leverkusen and now Saint-Etienne, opponents of quality, technical skill and adventure."
"Winning 2-0 tonight means that we had a very good week."
PSG answered their critics with a measured and efficient display. Here are six things we learned from PSG’s 2-0 win over Saint-Etienne.
PSG Focus and Determination
One of PSG’s biggest problems this season has been a lack of focus at certain times, mostly in Ligue 1.
While the side from the capital are regularly at their best when it comes to continental competition, they often lose their concentration when it comes to the bread and butter domestic games.
That attitude was nowhere in sight at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night, with PSG showing real grit and determination to re-establish their lead over Monaco at the top of Le Championnat.
If Blanc’s men can continue to show such dedication in all of their remaining league fixtures, then the Parisians will be celebrating their first back-to-back titles.
Saint-Etienne's Lack of Goal-Scoring Threat
Since the departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Borussia Dortmund, Saint-Etienne have lacked a true goal-scoring threat up top.
For all of Brandao’s hard work and industry, the Brazilian is not prolific and Aubameyang’s absence has been sorely felt at times this season. Although the team is stronger than it was last season when the Gabonese international was running riot in Ligue 1, les Verts are still poorer without him.
If they can adequately replace him over the summer and keep the current squad intact, then a third-place finish next season might not be an overly ambitious aim. For now, though, it is difficult not to feel that last season’s Coupe de la Ligue winners are far from the finished article.
PSG Slam Door Shut on Title Race Again
AS Monaco narrowed PSG’s lead at the top of Ligue 1 down to a provisional five points thanks to a 3-2 win over Olympique Lyonnais earlier on Sunday. No sooner had les Monegasques’ hopes of a continued title been reignited, though, the defending champions were extinguishing them.
With only nine games left until the end of the season, the side from the principality have missed their chance to make up ground on Blanc’s men by failing to win at the Stade Louis II in February.
Now, barring a PSG implosion, Monaco are not going to catch the side from the capital.
40 - PSG have only lost once in their last 40 Ligue 1 games (W30, D9). Boss.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 16, 2014
Despite some suggesting that the Parisians might get complacent between now and the end of the season, having reached the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League once again, Sunday’s victory was a firm statement of intent to see out a second straight title win.
While defeat to PSG in their current form is understandable, Saint-Etienne’s inconsistency looks like it will once again derail their season.
A loss away at FC Lorient the week before is the result that has really hurt les Verts’ chances of finishing third, and it is those sorts of results that Galtier’s men need to avoid.
Although Saint-Etienne came to the French capital last season and managed to escape with a 2-1 win, PSG are now a far more dominant side. ASSE cannot realistically expect to pick up points at the Parc des Princes.
However, they can and should expect to take the maximum from games such as Lorient, Toulouse, Stade Rennais and Girondins de Bordeaux, all sides that have beaten last season’s Coupe de la Ligue winners.
Ibrahimovic and Cavani Partnership Showing Signs of Life
Since Edinson Cavani returned from the hamstring injury that kept him out for a month from the end of January, the Uruguayan has struggled for game time alongside strike partner Ibrahimovic because of an ill-timed return to South America for personal reasons.
The duo featured together in midweek for the 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, and questions were once again raised over their compatibility.
10 - Only Lionel Messi has scored as many league goals than Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10) in Europe’s Top 5 leagues in 2014. Kings.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 16, 2014
Both answered the critics with an improved showing, featuring a greater sense of togetherness and a Cavani assist for Ibrahimovic’s second of the night.
Have ASSE Reached Their Limit Under Galtier?
For the past couple of seasons, Saint-Etienne have been a team on the cusp of qualification for the Champions League via third place in Ligue 1.
In the last two campaigns, they have fallen away badly toward the end, and last term they only managed UEFA Europa League football because of their Coupe de la Ligue win.
Galtier has done a superb job to create a team that are competitive, entertaining to watch and difficult to beat, but it seems like they are just not cut out to go the step further that the Frenchman needs them to go.
With money and pulling power at a premium at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, have Saint-Etienne gone as far as they can under Galtier?