Ibrahimovic and Cavani Watch: El Matador Goes Solo Against Reims

Jonathan Johnson@@Jon_LeGossipFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2014

PSG's Edinson Cavani reacts as he celebrates after scoring the opening goal during a Group C Champions League soccer match between Benfica and PSG at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Francisco Seco

Paris Saint-Germain started life without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Ligue 1 with a convincing 3-0 win over Stade de Reims on Saturday.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  Thiago Motta of PSG checks on teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he goes down injured during the UEFA Champions League quarter final, first leg match between Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2014 in
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Swedish international was ruled out for at least four weeks earlier in the week after suffering a thigh injury against Chelsea in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg clash at the Parc des Princes.

His absence gives strike partner Edinson Cavani a chance to shine for the French champions. Without the talismanic presence of Zlatan in the side, PSG’s goals are now expected to come from the Uruguayan who will have to become more decisive to fill the void.

Here is a closer look at el Matador’s performance against Reims this weekend.

Michel Spingler

Edinson Cavani

With Ibrahimovic unavailable for the foreseeable future and possibly past the provisional four-week estimate that has currently been set, PSG coach Laurent Blanc will deploy Cavani centrally. It is a move that suits him and a number of other teammates.

By bringing the South American inside, Blanc opens up the space on the right that is normally occupied by the 27-year-old for a faster and more creative talent like Lucas Moura. 

The Brazilian started against Reims, impressing with a dynamic display, but the difference it makes to Cavani’s game was also clear.

Although still not back to his predatory best, the Uruguayan was immediately more comfortable leading the line for the French champions. The former Napoli man looked sharper and more confident, even if still some way short of his best. 

Cavani got the goal he was craving, ending a 499-minute wait for a strike in PSG colours. Since the solitary tally in the 1-0 win over OGC Nice was credited as a Timothee Kolodziejczak own goal, his last goal actually came all the way back against Olympique de Marseille in early March. 

Michel Spingler

Gregory van der Wiel, so productive when it comes to helping Ibrahimovic find the net, looks capable of doing the same for Cavani when fit. The Dutch international put an inviting cross into the penalty area, after being found by Javier Pastore, only for Reims’ Aissa Mandi to divert the ball straight into the path of the onrushing marksman to score.

It won’t go down as one of Cavani’s best goals but, more importantly, he was in the right place at the right time and is starting to show more of a predatory touch and instinct in and around the area again.

Breaking his long-standing duck, especially going into a game as big as the Chelsea clash next week, it was imperative that he got off to a positive start to life out of the shadow of Ibrahimovic. 

Now that Cavani has done that, the confidence should flow for the normally prolific striker.

For the front three of him, Moura and Lavezzi to work, he needs to be decisive every time he is in front of goal and lately that has not been the case. Going into a match like Chelsea next week, it is important that he takes any and every chance that comes his way. 

On Wednesday, in the first leg against Chelsea, he missed a good chance towards the end that could have proven crucial. In Saturday's win over Reims, he ran through on goal relatively unchallenged and still managed to roll the ball wide in the second half.

There are signs that he is returning to his normal self though.

From a first half corner, Cavani tested Kossi Agassa with a header and the Uruguayan was looking much more dangerous in the final third, getting in behind his man with increased regularity.

Rating: 3/5 - It was not vintage Cavani, but he is getting there. The importance of his goal, no matter how simple a finish it was, cannot be underestimated. This timely confidence boost could be vital in Europe as well as domestically.

Michel Spingler


Looking Ahead

It is a big week for Cavani and PSG.

Blanc’s side travels to London for the second leg of their Champions League clash with Chelsea, before taking on old foes Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Gerland. After that, it is the Coupe de la Ligue final, against Lyon again, where Cavani will be needed to play to his most decisive standards.

With 15 goals now to his name this Ligue 1 season, el Matador is only five goals away from a very respectable total of 20 in the league for the season


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