Zlatan Ibrahimovic steps up bid to face Marseille
PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic resumed full training on Friday following a heel injury, stepping up his bid to be ready to face Marseille in the French league table-topping clash on Sunday.
Ibrahimovic joined in with his Paris Saint-Germain teammates, having previously trained alone or done light jogging in the past week.
Ibrahimovic, who has five league goals in as many games this season, has not played since a 1-1 home draw with Lyon on Sept. 21. He has missed the past six league games, as well as Champions League wins against Barcelona and Apoel Nicosia.
“This is the kind of match you have to win,” said Ibrahimovic, the league top scorer over the past two seasons. “I’ve played in a lot of derbies in my career, in the Netherlands, in Italy, in Spain, so I’m used to this situation.”
Two-time defending champion PSG is unbeaten, and in second place, four points behind league leader Marseille.
Ibrahimovic’s return is eagerly anticipated by the club and its fans.
Although PSG has coped well without him in terms of results — winning the past five games — it has also failed to play the attractive football its fans demand.
Last weekend’s gritty 2-1 win away to Lorient included what was deemed by coach Laurent Blanc to be the worst first-half performance of the season, and PSG followed that with a scrappy 1-0 home win against Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Ibrahimovic scored the winning goal away to Marseille last season in a 2-1 win. The previous season, he scored both in a 2-2 draw away from home, and got the second goal in a 2-0 home win. Three days later, he netted twice more against Marseille in a 2-0 home win in the French Cup.
If Ibrahimovic returns at center forward, Blanc will need to move Edinson Cavani to a role out wide on the right, which the Uruguay forward does not favor.
Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa expects Ibrahimovic to start the match and has been studying how to contain him.
“From what I’ve seen, Ibrahimovic is fit enough to play,” Bielsa said Friday. “We will have to block Ibra in the middle of the pitch, track all of his runs and never let him out of sight. We’ll try and ensure that Ibrahimovic’s qualities don’t have a bearing on the game.”