PSG’s improving form comes at right time for Blanc’s team
PARIS (AP) — With seven wins in the past eight matches, Paris Saint-Germain’s season has picked up just at the right time.
After dropping points around Christmas and New Year, coach Laurent Blanc’s team has climbed from fourth to second place, level with bitter rival Marseille and two points behind Lyon. But with PSG involved on four fronts — both domestic Cup competitions and the Champions League — Blanc has no choice but to rotate his team to prevent tiredness from creeping in.
Lyon, which is not involved in any cup competitions, does not have this problem, and neither does Marseille. They only have the league to worry about.
But Lyon is bracing itself for a tough run with four of the next five games away from home, and Marseille needs to recapture its scoring form after netting a paltry seven goals in the past seven games.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s games:
PLAY OR REST?
PSG coach Laurent Blanc must decide whether to rest star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Saturday’s home match against Caen, with a crucial match against Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ibrahimovic, who sat out Wednesday night’s French Cup win against Nantes, has yet to find his best form since returning from a heel injury. He has only four goals in his past 10 games — and two of those were penalties.
PSG is locked in a tense battle for the French title and can ill afford to drop points and so Blanc may need him on Saturday.
Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa is concerned about his team’s dip in form, with only three wins in the past seven league games.
Since topping the table from the end of September until early January, Marseille is now two points behind Lyon in second place and bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain has caught up.
“There’s a feeling of disappointment and incredulity given the team’s potential,” Bielsa said. “We can’t deny the current level of our play.”
Although home form remains strong, Bielsa’s team has not won an match away from Stade Velodrome since Oct. 4 — and last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Rennes was a seventh league game on the road without a win.
“We had problems with our finishing against Rennes,” he said. “This is at odds with all of our efforts because we work on our attacking play every day.”
PSG midfielder Yohan Cabaye is pushing for a starting place in Saturday’s home game against Caen after impressing in midweek.
Cabaye has been in and out of the side since joining from Newcastle one year ago. Although a regular in midfield for France, the 29-year-old Cabaye has struggled to break into the PSG midfield — which is shaped around Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi.
Chances have been limited this season for Cabaye, but he sent a timely reminded to coach Laurent Blanc by scoring the team’s second goal in Wednesday night’s 2-0 French Cup win against Nantes.
Lyon is sweating on the fitness of league top scorer Alexandre Lacazette ahead of Sunday night’s trip to play Lorient.
The highly-rated forward has been out since pulling a hamstring muscle against Metz on Jan. 25 — a minor injury expected to sideline him for only three weeks.
Lyon has coped reasonably well without him, drawing 0-0 away to Monaco and holding title rival Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-1 draw last weekend.
But against PSG the Lyon attack looked somewhat limited without the pace, touch and movement and finishing skills of Lacazette, who has scored 21 league goals this season.
Coach Hubert Fournier must decide whether to risk him on Lorient’s hard plastic pitch.
Marseille defender Brice Djadjedje is confident of being fit to face Reims on Friday despite sitting out training this week because of a thigh strain.
The 24-year-old Djadjedje has been one of Marseille’s most consistent performers this season, starting 23 of 24 league games.
“I’m still getting treatment,” he said. “But it will be fine for Friday. The medical staff is doing everything to get me fit for Friday.”