By Robin Bairner
Under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco met in what was Ligue 1’s biggest match of the season to date. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Radamel Falcao exchanged goals in a first half that matched the hype but after the interval, when PSG started to dictate proceedings, the game became more tactical and there would be no further scoring.
Monaco, therefore, remain at the summit of Le Championnat with the capital side two points behind.
On an evening in which the spoils were shared, Goal takes a look at the individual winners and losers...
Finding a good balance has been difficult for Laurent Blanc in his first months as PSG boss, yet the three-man midfield he deployed on Sunday offered a wonderful insight into what the future may be for the Parisian club.
Marco Verratti has typically found it difficult to feature regularly this season but he was the figure who dictated the speed of this match with a composed and mature performance in the heart of the park that was not even marred by his usual booking.
Alongside him, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta provided the energy and muscle respectively for what appears to be the best balanced set-up that Blanc has fielded to date.
It promised to be a tough night for the young PSG centre-back, who was making his Ligue 1 debut against the toughest of opponents. His evening grew even more complicated when the imposing figure of Thiago Silva was forced off injured before quarter of an hour had been played, though he showed maturity beyond his years to subdue the threat of the visitors almost entirely.
PSG did have a hiccup in the immediate aftermath of losing their defensive fulcrum as Falcao found the net, but in the second half it was not at all evident they were without their best two central defenders.
Along with Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, the young left-back showed there is more to Monaco than only big-money signings. The ex-youth team player initially struggled against a rejuvenated Gregory van der Wiel but would ultimately turn in the kind of performance that will have head coach Claudio Ranieri questioning whether he truly needs to sign another option in this role.
With star-studded players all over the field, Kurzawa’s presence is almost uncomfortably incongruous but the 21-year-old showed at Parc des Princes that he has the attitude and ability to go a long way.
While it is much too early to write off Cavani’s career at PSG, there can be little doubting that Sunday’s game complicated matters for him. With Ibrahimovic showing he remains the kingpin of Blanc’s side, the Uruguayan was forced to play a role on the right of a forward three that did not suit him.
Worse, with the midfield so effective for the home side, it will be difficult for Blanc to revert to the 4-4-2 system he has used earlier in the campaign, meaning there will have to be a dramatic and unlikely shift in the status quo if the ex-Napoli man is to be used in his strongest position as a centre forward.
A hamstring injury forced the talented Brazilian off after barely 15 minutes had been played, with the discomfort of the former AC Milan defender evident as he handed the captain’s armband to Ibrahimovic.
Although the home side showed they can cope without the 29-year-old, he remains a key performer for Blanc, who will eagerly be awaiting the assessments of the scans that are to come. It will be a huge blow for PSG if arguably their best player is to be absent for more than a few weeks at the busiest point of the season.
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