Ibrahimovic and PSG struggling in French league

AP, Monday 22 Sep 2014

Paris Saint-Germain's dependence on Zlatan Ibrahimovic is proving to be problematic for coach Laurent Blanc

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaves the pitch after the Group F Champions League match between Ajax and Paris Saint-Germain at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. (Photo: AP)

When Sweden's all-time top scorer doesn't perform, PSG struggles, as it was again the case in a 1-1 home draw with Lyon on Sunday that prompted jeers and boos from the home crowd.

After dropping its first points at home this season, PSG is fifth in the league standings, three points behind leader Marseille ahead of Wednesday's trip to Caen.

Here are some things to know about this week's matches:

Uninspired Ibrahimovic

PSG has drawn its last three games in all competitions after failing to hold onto its lead. Laurent Blanc's side remains unbeaten, but with 10 points from six games the club got off to its worse start to the season since Qatari investors took over in 2011.

Blanc's preferred 4-3-3 lineup has the backing of a majority of players but the system did not give much trouble to PSG's opponents so far, especially when Ibrahimovic underachieves.

The imposing Swede looked out of sorts against Lyon, taking his first shot after 77 minutes and having only 40 touches on the ball, his lowest tally in a full league match.

''We need to work hard and come back,'' Ibrahimovic said without elaborating on his own display.

Despite his rivalry with Ibrahimovic for the sole striker spot, Edinson Cavani is the only real positive at PSG these days. After netting PSG's goal in a 1-1 draw against Ajax in the Champions League, the Uruguay striker was again on the scoresheet against Lyon.

''When the club fails to get good results it creates a sense of unease,'' Blanc said. ''The players are very disappointed. When you're at a club like PSG, you have to get results.''

Gignac is back

Often criticized for his weight and his taste for junk food, Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac is answering back with his best start to a season.

Back to his best under new coach Marcelo Bielsa, a no-nonsense disciplinarian, Gignac is in great physical shape and tops the scoring charts with six goals ahead of Tuesday's match at Reims.

Gignac missed out on a spot in France's World Cup squad but the pace and determination he showed in a 3-0 win over Rennes over the weekend could lead France coach Didier Deschamps to give him a recall for next month friendlies against Portugal and Armenia.

''Hard work is paying off,'' Gignac said, explaining that competition for the striker spot at Marseille is having a positive effect on him. ''The training sessions are really difficult and I have to repay the club with the trust it puts in me. This year I'm playing with Michy (Batshuayi), who would deserve more time on the pitch and can score with both feet. I need to be a leader by example.''

Basa extends deal

Lille remains the only team unbeaten in the French league alongside PSG, having conceded just one goal in six matches.

Rene Girard's team has found the net only six times in the meantime and is being slammed for its supposed boring style of play by pundits and rivals. Girard is not looking for more offensive power though, having just convinced Montenegro defender Marko Basa to extend his stay in northern France.

The 31-year-old Basa, who joined the club from Lokomotiv Moscow in July 2011, has been playing a crucial role in Lille's defensive solidity and was close to leaving for Roma as his performances did not stay unnoticed in Europe. He has finally decided to sign a four-year contract extension until 2019.

Back on track

After a poor start to the season, things are starting to gel at Monaco and Lenordao Jardim's team will be looking for a third consecutive win in all competitions at Montpellier.

Monaco, which lost Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, was lucky to win its Champions League opener against Bayer Leverkusen last week after the German club dominated for long stretches before conceding against the run of the play.

The win boosted the team's confidence and Monaco improved in a 1-0 win over Guingamp that lifted the club outside the relegation zone. Monaco's profligacy could be a source of worries for Jardim, who prefers to focus on the defensive improvements.

''We believe in the players who are in this side,'' Jardim said. ''The team is starting to stabilize, especially in central defense.''

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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