After heroics of beating Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain looks to hit top form in French league



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PARIS — Given how well Paris Saint-Germain played in Tuesday night's thrilling 3-2 win against a previously unbeaten Barcelona side, the club's poor league form remains somewhat of a mystery.

The two-time defending champion has drawn five of eight league games and coach Laurent Blanc said after the Barca game that perhaps his players lack enough motivation when they're playing in the less competitive French league. Still, victory over Monaco on Sunday is paramount as league leader Marseille is gradually building up a healthy lead over PSG.

Here are some things to know about this weekend's games:


IBRAHIMOVIC DOUBT

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc is sweating on the fitness of star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic ahead of Sunday's home game against Monaco. Ibrahimovic is struggling to recover from a left heel injury which has kept him out of the past three matches.

If Ibrahimovic fails to recover in time to face Monaco, his absence may not be such bad news, after all.

Without Ibrahimovic, the players gelled much better as a team, and showed in Tuesday's win against Barcelona that they could finally step out of his imposing shadow.

"I told the players before the game that to get great results there has to be great teamwork," Blanc said. "Even though there were a lot of good individual performances, it was a collective performance above all."

However, PSG is clearly better off having Ibrahimovic around. He was the French league's top scorer in the past two seasons and totals 61 goals in 72 league games since joining PSG from AC Milan.


PASTORE OR CAVANI?

Javier Pastore's outstanding performance in Tuesday's 3-2 win against Barcelona in the Champions League means he will be hard to leave out of the side from now on.

The Argentine playmaker was PSG's first big signing when he joined for 42 million euros ($53 million) three years ago, but over the past two seasons Pastore has failed to hold down a regular place under coach Laurent Blanc.

He made a huge contribution against Barca, however, and was the best player on the night with his darting runs and superb passing.

Blanc now faces somewhat of a headache, for when Ibrahimovic recovers from injury and returns to the side, Blanc will have to decide whether to go with one center forward in a 4-3-3 formation or two up front in a 4-4-2.

If he goes with just one, he must choose if he wants to keep Edinson Cavani or Pastore as one of his wide players.

The problem is that Cavani cost PSG 64 million euros ($80.1 million) and dropping such a costly player may prove problematic.

A 4-4-2 would accommodate both Cavani and Pastore, but Blanc is not as keen on that formation.


MAGNIFICENT SEVEN?

Led by the irrepressible form of top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has eight goals already, Marseille will be looking for a seventh straight league win when it travels to Caen on Saturday.

With five goals in his past three games, it is little wonder that Marseille's notoriously hard to please fans voted him their best player of the month for September.

It has been quite some turnaround for Gignac, who was beset by weight issues when he first joined the club four years ago and mercilessly teased by his own fans, who even nicknamed him "Big Mac" for his love of fast food.

After managing only nine league goals in his first 51 games, Gignac turned his fortunes around by scoring 24 in his last 43 matches to become Marseille's No. 1 striker.


SANE SIDELINED

Second-place Bordeaux has defended consistently well this season, and center half Lamine Sane's absence will be a big blow to coach Willy Sagnol.

Sane had an operation on his troublesome right knee Wednesday and he faces up to six weeks out.

Sagnol had initially hoped Sane would only need physio treatment on his knee, but the operation means he will miss the trip to face defending champion Paris Saint-Germain on Oct. 25.

Sane could return in time for the trip to Marseille three weeks later.

Left back Diego Contento is also out of the Reims match because of a muscle problem.


MALOUDA EFFECT

Florent Malouda is proving to be somewhat of a lucky charm for Metz.

Since the former Chelsea and France winger joined Metz — following a brief spell with Turkish side Trabzonspor — the newly-promoted side has won three straight games with Malouda proving influential.

Malouda, who played 80 times for France, set up his side's third goal for Venezuelan striker Juan Falcon in last weekend's 3-0 win against Reims.

Metz is in fifth place and finds itself in the unexpected position of being level on points with Paris Saint-Germain, which is ahead only on goal difference.

Metz will be confident of securing a fourth straight win when it travels to play 18th-place Evian on Saturday.

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