Who Will Bell the Zlat?By: Nikhil Apte | December 16th, 2012
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Olympique Lyonnais
Matchday 18, Parc des Princes, Ligue 1 â 2012/13
Darned be the Zlat. A monstrous expenditure capacity and a full blown intent to demolish central defenders all over France made PSG bring Swedish star god Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Ligue 1. The over-the-top, larger-than-life (and most people on the planet) figure that every football league in the world requires to appear on the front pages of football websites had arrived.
Table toppers Lyon finally get to pit their skills against the leagueâs leading goal scorer in his den.
Whatâs all the clamouring for?
Qatari investment meant that with Leonardo as the Director of Football at the club, and Carlo Ancelotti at its helm, AC Milan (connect the dots) soon became PSGâs suppliers. With the arrival of the Thiago Silva, the most expensive defender in the world, who was soon followed by Ibrahimovic, it seemed plenty stupid for any other club in the country to look for a position beyond No. 2.
Not everyone spelt doomsday, however. Football writer andÂ commentator Matt Spiro can now be forgiven for predicting on 8th August, before the start of the league, that Ibrahimovich would score not many more than 20 goals this season. Indeed, great players have previously failed in France. Somewhere in Paris, a narcissist took his words to heart. (Hey, he DID trademark âZlatanâ and âZlatan Ibrahimovichâ in 2003 and didnât appear for yesterdayâs team training over a silly car parking issue!)
Soon the 6â 5â striker was scoring at a pace of a goal a game, reaching a total of 17 goals in 14 played thus far, his last match being a hat-trick of a performance. Thatâs more than half the 32 goals PSG has scored overall.
His personal success aside, things werenât quite clicking at PSG. November saw three defeats including two against Saint Etienne, and being kicked out of the Coupe de La Ligue as a result of one of them. Itâs been a patchy performance of late, interspersed with 4 goal victories against bottom teams. Then again, PSG has scored 4 goals in a game six times this year in all competitions.
Like in finance, past performance is not indicative of future results. PSG and its arsenal of players and coaching staff is easily the biggest threat there is for Lyonâs title ambitions. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta, Maxwell, Jeremy Menez, Marco Verratti, and even old boys Hoarau and Kevin Gameiro are threats. That only leaves out the keeper Sirigu, I suppose. Â The team has been flourishing in their recent changes to formation, taking Ibrahimovich off the lone striker role and putting Jeremy Menez alongside him, making it a 4-4-2. It hasnât not worked for them so far.
Lyonâs record away at PSG hasnât been great lately. Last four games in Paris have earned us just 1 point. 3 losses and 1 draw. Hatem Ben Arfa gave Lyon its last win at Parc des Princes in October of 2010.
You get the drift.
And then there were none
Lyonnais players are on the run. It looked like a bench crowded with so many eligible players that one could rent a few. Only to have a sudden and untimely bout of âhamstrungâ patients. It began with Jimmy Briand against Bilbao on November 8th, followed by GrĂ©nier against Saint-Etienne, and then RĂ©veillĂšre and Lacazette (who rarely gets out injured) against Nancy. Yoann Gourcuff has a groin injury and will not be seen on the pitch before January. The fatigue seems to be creeping up on the crowd. Maxime Gonalons has escaped it. He was suspended for the first time in the season which saw him miss the match against Nancy, prior to which he had played for every minute that Lyon had played in Le Championnat. Dabo acted out his childish self and decided to fetch another shiny red card from the referee with a headbutt on Max-Alain Gradel. It got him a two match ban, meaning heâs unavailable for tonightâs game. Left wing goes to Umtiti once again. RĂ©veillĂšre seems to have recovered from his injury in time though, and should be available in the line-up tonight.
In spite of all the troubles in the world, Lyon is in prime position to become the Autumn Champion of France. Three points adrift of PSG and having better goal difference than Marseille (on equal points after their 18th match results), means a win tonight will certainly give OL the top spot on the table irrespective of the result against OGC Nice. Unless Marseille overturns an eleven goal difference, which is under threat in tonightâs match.
Bafetimbi Gomis, who is joint second in the league in terms of goals scored at 10 strikes will want to show Ibra his place tonight. Both Grenier and Gourcuff are injured, Michel Bastos is available too! Heâs arguably the best alternative to Lacazette here. Bisevac and Lovren will have to be in super form tonight. And provided Lisandro gives us the right kind of direction, Lyon does have its strengths to hold PSG off tonight, just as it has held off better and more fierce teams before this one.
Possible Team Lineups:
PSG : Sirigu – Jallet, Thiago Silva, Sakho, Maxwell â Lavezzi, Thiago Motta, Matuidi, Pastore â Menez, Ibrahimovic
Lyon : Vercoutre â RĂ©veillĂšre, Bisevac, Lovren, Umtiti â Gonalons, Malbranque, Fofana â Bastos, Gomis, Lisandro
Need a win! Need a win!