Moura key to solving Ibra-Cavani conundrum at Saint-Etienne?

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Paris Saint-Germain will travel southeast on Sunday to face AS Saint-Etienne at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard full of confidence. Laurent Blanc’s side are unbeaten in Ligue 1 and have captured Europe’s attention with some devastating displays in the Champions League over the last few weeks.

However, PSG face their bogey side in Les Verts.

In their last 10 trips to Le Chaudron, PSG have won just twice. Outside those two wins, the last time the Parisians were triumphant in the Loire was in the mid-1990’s. ASSE’s two three-year spells outside of Le Championnat account for this in part, but Stade Geoffroy-Guichard has indeed been l’enfer vert (the green hell) for PSG for the best part of 20 years.

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Last season, Carlo Ancelotti’s PSG side came up against Christophe Galtier’s men three times and failed to win. The eventual champions squandered an early 2-0 lead in this fixture last season before drawing 2-2. Saint-Etienne also won at the Parc des Princes before eliminating PSG from the Coupe de la Ligue (which Saint-Etienne won) 5-3 on penalties.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a first-half penalty back in March to put his side 2-0 up inside of 20 minutes, but the Swede is yet to taste victory over the Stephanois and witnessed how the raucous home crowd can inhibit any visiting side.

Ibra has been in irresistible form in recent weeks, netting a sensational quadruple in midweek as PSG crushed Anderlecht 5-0 in the Champions League. But it will be the 32-year-old’s league form that has Sunday’s opponents concerned, following his taekwondo flick masterpiece in the 4-0 win over SC Bastia last weekend.

Despite the immeasurable positives that can be taken from Ibrahimovic’s immense feats, problems still exist between the talismanic striker and new teammate Edinson Cavani. The pair both netted doubles in separate halves against the Corsicans before finally getting on a score sheet together with both on the pitch in Belgium.

That simple achievement does not immediately make the partnership a success, though.

There have been a handful of signs that there is an understanding waiting to be struck up between the pair, but it does not look likely to happen while Cavani remains isolated on the right. El Matador has fared impressively well so far this season, considering that he has spent it almost entirely being played out of position, but Sunday’s clash could offer Blanc the chance to experiment with a new approach.

Ezequiel Lavezzi’s recent performances, particularly against Anderlecht, have left something to be desired. The Argentine is frighteningly quick and works extremely hard, but he appears to offer little else for PSG going forward in this current 4-3-3 formation. When the chances fall El Pocho’s way, he regularly fails to take them and Lucas Moura’s recent improved showings suggest that a change might benefit Blanc and his side this weekend.

When played, Moura is on the right side of the attacking three. If started, Cavani would have to shift to the left to accommodate Mora. Again it is not an ideal solution, but if it enables Blanc to maintain his three-man midfield away from home then it is arguably a risk worth taking. The Uruguayan has often played on the left with La Celeste on international duty and, in order to benefit from Moura’s creativity, PSG may be better served with Cavani starting there.

Moura, who will sport a garish new brand of Adidas football boots to much fanfare if played this weekend, arguably offers more to PSG than Lavezzi at present.

Both have only scored once in Ligue 1 so far this season, but the Brazilian star has also provided one assist. It may only be one and admittedly both players are not in the best form overall, but Moura demonstrated his impressive ability against Bastia with an energetic display despite not getting a deserved goal.

If Blanc wants to get the best out of Ibrahimovic and Cavani without making too many risky changes to his preferred starting XI, then experimenting with Moura on the opposite side to Cavani may be the best solution. With the 21-year-old now under fire following his poor recent performances with the Selecao, he has a point to prove.

Saint-Etienne away would be the perfect place for him to rediscover his best form and help Ibrahimovic and Cavani strike up their partnership. Win on Sunday, and PSG then have a favourable run of five home matches in the next six across domestic and European competition.

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