Runaway leader PSG held 0-0 at home against Lille in France
PARIS (AP) — Runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for its Champions League encounter with Chelsea by dropping points for only the fourth time in the French league this season, held 0-0 in a scrappy home draw by Lille on Saturday.
PSG hosts Chelsea in the first leg of their last 16 match on Tuesday, and coach Laurent Blanc clearly had that game in mind as he left star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of his squad.
But PSG still fielded a strong side with Edinson Cavani leading the attack — and missing two good chances. The former Napoli striker has come under pressure after a string of below-par performances, but Blanc is backing him.
“We have to help Cavani. We need to help him get his confidence back,” Blanc said. “We tried, we were a bit wasteful and we could have done better with our finishing. But in terms of our attitude, I have nothing to reproach my players for.”
Blanc was more worried about avoiding any injuries before the visit of the Premier League champion, which is finding its form following a turbulent start to the season and the firing of coach Jose Mourinho.
“We had to avoid picking up injuries, and we succeeded in that,” Blanc said. “Two players have come back from injury (midfielders Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore) and they are fine. All we were missing were those two extra points.”
PSG, which had won 16 straight games in all competitions heading into the match, last failed to win a league game on Dec. 1 — drawing 0-0 to Angers away.
It makes little difference as second-place Monaco trails by 25 points ahead of its trip to Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Jean-Kevin Augustin replaced Ibrahimovic in attack and had a good chance in the ninth minute after being set up by winger Angel di Maria but Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama palmed away his low shot.
Enyeama made a nice save to stop Di Maria’s toe-poke in the 37th, and Lille midfielder Rio Mavuba was the next to rescue his side as he headed left back Layvin Kurzawa’s header off the line four minutes later.
But Cavani should have done better in the 57th when Enyeama flapped at Blaise Matuidi’s cross from the left. The ball fell to Cavani but he failed to hit the target.
Cavani had another chance with five minutes to go after midfielder Benjamin Stambouli picked him out on the left of the penalty area but Enyeama thwarted him.
“It’s not the perfect preparation for Chelsea because we didn’t win,” PSG’s Brazilian center half Marquinhos said. “Lille played very well: they were very aggressive and didn’t leave any space in midfield.”
Elsewhere, Nantes moved provisionally up to fourth place with a 2-1 home win against Lorient, as Brazilian midfielder Adryan Oliveira Tavares and striker Emiliano Sala grabbed a goal each.
Bordeaux scores goals as easily as it concedes them. Following a 4-3 midweek defeat to Nantes in the French Cup, Bordeaux bounced back with a 4-2 win away to Guingamp — taking the total of goals conceded to 18 in six games.
Also Saturday, last-place Troyes won 3-2 at Gazelec Ajaccio; Montpellier beat struggling Toulouse 2-0 to move away from the relegation zone; and Bastia won 1-0 away to Reims, which slumped to 17th place.
In Sunday’s other matches, Lyon hosts Caen and Nice takes on Marseille.