PSG looks to keep up with league leader Marseille
PARIS (AP) — While second-place Paris Saint-Germain remains unbeaten, it has yet to play with the same consistency as last season, and goals are proving hard to come by in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
He has been sidelined for the past month by a heel injury.
Injury-hit PSG faces a stern test at Parc des Princes against third-place Bordeaux on Saturday, with both teams battling to keep pace with runaway league leader Marseille.
Coach Marcelo Bielsa’s rampant Marseille goes for a ninth straight league win when it travels to Lyon on Sunday.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s games:
GUESSING GAME: The mystery surrounding Ibrahimovic’s problematic heel has turned into a guessing game as to when he will finally return.
Ibrahimovic has been in Sweden for more treatment this week, and he is all but certain to sit out the home game against Bordeaux, meaning he will miss a ninth consecutive game for club and country.
PSG’s following match is at Lorient on Nov. 1, but Lorient’s synthetic surface is not good for the joints, and Ibrahimovic may not be risked. PSG then hosts Apoel Nicosia four days later in a match it should be able to win without him, making for a more likely return against bitter rival and league leader Marseille on Nov. 9.
EIGHT AND COUNTING: Marseille’s superb form has been in tandem with striker Andre-Pierre Giganc’s best ever start to a season.
When Marseille bids for a club record ninth straight league win in Lyon, Gignac will be looking to score his 11th goal in as many games.
Gignac, who recently broke back into the France team, needs two more goals to reach 50 league goals for Marseille. After initially struggling when he joined the club four years ago, he should reach the milestone of 100 league goals before too long. Gignac, formerly with Toulouse and Lorient, has 91 in 262 games.
STRIKER SHORTAGE: For all of its big spending over the past three years, PSG is woefully short of attacking options against Bordeaux.
Without Ibrahimovic (heel injury), Edinson Cavani (suspended), and Ezequiel Lavezzi (hamstring), coach Laurent Blanc may have to rely on unheralded forward Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, who has six league goals in his entire career.
The homegrown Bahebeck, who is more of a winger than a center forward, spent the past two seasons on loan to Valenciennes and Troyes. However, when he came off the bench against Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday, he helped to set up Cavani in a last-gasp 1-0 win.
Alternatively, Blanc could play Brazil winger Lucas up front and use Bahebeck and Argentina’s Javier Pastore as his roaming wingers.
FINDING FORM: Fourth-place Lyon has found form following a difficult start to the season, and looks to extend its unbeaten run to seven games when it faces Marseille on Sunday.
Despite fielding young, homegrown players, the goals are flowing with 12 in four games.
Striker Alexandre Lacazette’s matchup with Marseille’s Gignac promises intrigue. Like Gignac, Lacazette is trying to force his way into the France squad after missing out on the World Cup.
Lacazette has eight goals, while midfielder Nabil Fekir has four. Both are homegrown.
Reassuringly for Lyon, coveted midfielder Yoann Gourcuff is injury-free and scored twice in a 5-1 win against Montpellier last weekend.
BERBATOV OUT: Monaco forward Dimitar Berbatov will be out for three weeks after a left hamstring injury against Benfica on Wednesday. The former Manchester United striker limped off after 32 minutes during the 0-0 draw in the Champions League.
Before that, Berbatov was struggling with an ankle complaint from the previous Champions League game, a 0-0 draw at Zenit St. Petersburg.
Berbatov misses Saturday’s trip to Corsican side Bastia, and ensuing games against Reims, Saint-Etienne and the return match against Benfica in Lisbon.
He will likely be replaced in attack by Lacina Traore who, at 2.03 meters, is the tallest player in the French league.