Paris Saint-Germain vs. Reims: 6 Things We Learned
The French champions were not at their best, but with a 3-1 lead to protect in the second leg of their UEFA Champions league quarter-final encounter with Chelsea next week, it was no surprise.
PSG coach Laurent Blanc made major changes to the side that dispatched Jose Mourinho’s men 3-1 at the Parc des Princes three days earlier, but the result was still the same.
Thorough domination and a comprehensive scoreline followed, once again illustrating the gulf in class between PSG and the rest of the domestic competition in France.
Edinson Cavani ended a 499-minute goal drought across all competitions with a simple—but important—tap-in, before a pair of own goals from the unlucky Aissa Mandi completed the scoring.
Blanc was satisfied by what he saw, but should be more delighted with the sixth consecutive Ligue 1 clean sheet kept by Salvatore Sirigu. The comprehensive scoreline moves the defending champions 16 points clear as they take one step closer to a second consecutive Championnat title.
"I am satisfied with the result and the mindset displayed by the players, even if some of them are lacking game time," he revealed after the final whistle. "It was a good match. We scored three goals and could rest some players and play our youngsters."
"We will enjoy this win before preparing for Chelsea on Sunday. A match before the Champions League is never easy to prepare for. It is never easy to have the right mindset."
"The goal is to garner maximum points in the league so that our competitors cannot catch up. We will be champions, but not quite yet. You cannot predict when."
Here are six things we learned from PSG 3-0 Reims.
Life After Ibrahimovic?
PSG’s Edinson Cavani ended a goal drought of 499 minutes toward the end of the first half against Reims, immediately filling the void left by the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The big question now is whether or not el Matador can get back to the same clinical form that he showed in the first half of the season before his dip in goalscoring ability in early 2014.
As for the moment itself, it was a simple enough finish. However, the importance of the strike and its timing should not be underestimated. The Uruguayan needed to get back among the goals.
7 - Paris SG have scored seven goals and conceded none in their two league games without Zlatan Ibrahimovic this season. Detail.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 5, 2014
Now up to 15 for the season in Ligue 1, Cavani will be looked to for more goals as he targets a 20-plus total by the end of the next six matches.
Aissa Mandi’s Bad Day Was Worse Than Yours
With two own goals to his name—not to mention that it was also his touch that put the ball into the path of Edinson Cavani for the opener—it is safe to say that no matter how bad your day was, Aissa Mandi of Reims’ was worse. Much worse.
The 22-year-old Algerian international is one of Ligue 1’s brightest young defensive prospects, yet he had a day to forget in the French capital.
3 - Three of PSG's last four league goals have been scored by the opposition. Gift.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 5, 2014
Mandi’s second of the day was unavoidable once he had decided to commit to clearing the ball; it was a well-hit cross from Marquinhos that the Reims man converted with aplomb and there was little he could do about his inadvertent assist for Cavani’s goal.
6 - Reims have scored the most own goals in the major European leagues this season (Top 4 + Ligue 1). Oops.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 5, 2014
His first own goal was comical though, as he managed to kick the ball into his own face to take Lucas Moura’s header over the line.
Mandi will be hoping for better days in the future.
Lucas to Benefit Most from Ibrahimovic Absence?
Although Edinson Cavani stands to gain a lot from strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury, so too does Brazilian star Lucas Moura.
The 21-year-old was one of the more purposeful of the eight reinforcements selected by PSG coach Laurent Blanc on the day. His powerful header crashed off the post and was comically turned into his own net by Aissa Mandi.
Lucas’ performance was noteworthy for more than just the goal though; vibrant and full of energy, the Selecao star was a constant menace for the Reims defence. With Ibrahimovic out and Cavani moving inside, space opens up in the PSG starting XI once more for Lucas to take.
Although they far from disgraced themselves in their 3-0 defeat to PSG, Reims look like a team satisfied with what they have achieved this season and were content to be bossed around.
Hubert Fournier’s team have punched above their weight impressively this season and last, knocking on Europe’s door in recent weeks, yet they played like a team happy to have avoided being dragged into the relegation battle at the Parc des Princes.
While Reims are unlikely to do better than mid-table now for the rest of the season, it still remains an impressive achievement, even if their recent form is now starting to become something of a concern.
Their last victory was at the beginning of March, with the side having climbed as high as sixth back in January.
Pastore Back, but Patience Needed
Javier Pastore’s incredible solo effort against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday was hailed in France as ‘the goal that changes everything.’ While it might be too early to tell whether or not it has changed PSG’s status within the hierarchy of European football, it has certainly reinvigorated its scorer.
The enigmatic Argentine playmaker demonstrated greater confidence from the start against Reims—putting in a much-improved domestic performance—even if he did not score this time or even provide an assist.
El Flaco‘s passing and movement was reminiscent of the old Pastore—the one that delighted Palermo fans and Serie A enthusiasts between 2009 and 2011. Playing in the midfield three, in order to accommodate Jeremy Menez for the rarest of starts, the 24-year-old looked revitalised.
A second consecutive start against Olympique Lyonnais next week would not be undeserved.
Europe Now Gone for Reims
Reims’ 3-0 defeat to PSG means that their chances of European qualification are rapidly fading.
10 points adrift of fourth-placed AS Saint-Etienne prior to kick-off, that margin will likely be larger by the end of the weekend. It is difficult to see Reims making up the deficit in their final six matches.
Hubert Fournier’s men should be encouraged by their generally excellent showing so far this season, the month of March aside. However, the six-time French champions could be made to pay for their over-achievement with their star talents attracting admiring glances from elsewhere.