PSG still seeking top form in French title chase
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain’s fans are getting frustrated.
Despite extending its unbeaten run to 22 games, PSG still trails league leader Marseille as the expensively-assembled side — featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic and five players costing more than 40 million euros ($50 million) — struggles to dominate opponents in the French league.
Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Lille was hardly encouraging with a big game coming up at Barcelona in the Champions League next week. Before that, PSG faces Nantes at home, while Marseille hosts Metz on Sunday.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s games:
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc is under the spotlight after deciding to rest striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Lille on Wednesday.
The move seemed to backfire as PSG drew 1-1, missing several chances, and failed to overtake Marseille at the top of the league.
Blanc justified leaving Ibrahimovic out by saying that he was keeping him fresh for Saturday’s home game against Nantes and next Wednesday’s trip to Barcelona in the Champions League. Although both sides are already qualified, that match will decide who finishes first in Group F.
But the decision to rest the Sweden forward prompted surprise, and the dropped points against Lille led to questions of Blanc’s management, particularly given that Ibrahimovic needs plenty of games to recover his full fitness after only recently returning from nearly two months out with a heel injury.
Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac will have a point to prove in Saturday’s home game against Metz after his sloppy finishing on Tuesday.
Gignac is Marseille’s top scorer with 11 goals but he fluffed three good chances inside the last 10 minutes in the 1-1 draw at Lorient.
“I’m a bit angry with myself, because I could have got the win for my team,” said Gignac, who has scored only once in the past six games for Marseille. “Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. But I’m disappointed.”
Given that Paris Saint-Germain drew 1-1 at Lille the next day, Marseille could have moved futher ahead in the title race.
Daniel Wass is making a name for himself as a goal-scoring midfielder for unheralded Evian, and Lyon’s defenders will be keeping a close eye on him on Sunday.
The 25-year-old Dane has scored in three straight games, with Evian wining those matches to move five points above the relegation zone.
Wass cost Evian 1 million euros ($1.24 million) when he joined permanently from Benfica two seasons ago, having played the season before on loan. Evian coach Pascal Dupraz said this week that he expects Wass to join a much bigger club in the offseason.
Lyon’s defense was sloppy in last weekend’s 3-0 loss at Saint-Etienne, and Wass will be confident of adding to his seven league goals so far.
SHARING THE BURDEN
Third-place Saint-Etienne has finally found a way to start scoring, netting five goals in the past two games after managing only six in the previous 10.
The goals are being shared around, too, taking the scoring burden off Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Defender Moustapha Sall, midfielder Renaud Cohade and Wolfswinkel were all on target in last weekend’s 3-0 home win against local rival Lyon, while defenders Florentin Pogba and Paul Baysse scored in Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Montpellier.
Christophe Galtier’s side faces last-place Bastia on Saturday.
Led by the strong wing play of Paul-Georges Ntep, fourth-place Rennes is gaining momentum after a difficult start to the season.
Coach Philippe Montanier’s side won only two of the first eight games and was languishing in 15th place in early October. The turnaround has seen Rennes win five in the past six and move above early-season pace-setter Bordeaux.
“We’re compact and resilient,” Montanier said. “The defense is playing well, the midfield’s working hard and Ntep is in good form.”
The 22-year-old Ntep has scored seven league goals so far this season and set up four more, causing problems on both flanks with his pace and trickery.