Can PSG make do without Cavani vs. Lille?

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

John Berry/Getty ImagesEdinson Cavani's status for Sunday's clash versus Lille is still unknown.

With victory over AS Saint-Etienne in the Coupe de la Ligue (after extra time) on Wednesday, Paris Saint-Germain proved once again that they are now adept at doing what is needed to get results when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is unavailable. Against title-chasing Lille OSC in Ligue 1 on Sunday, they might have to prove that they can also do it without Wednesday's match winner, Edinson Cavani.

- Report: Cavani may miss Lille clash

El Matador was granted permission to return to Uruguay in what are unknown circumstances following PSG's midweek clash. Although it is thought that the South American will be available for selection on Sunday, the club has not yet confirmed it. With Ibrahimovic returning from the suspension that ruled him out of the league cup clash, Laurent Blanc will have to be preparing for Sunday's final game of 2013 against Lille at the Parc des Princes with only one of his two star men.

On the face of it, that should not be a problem. Last time PSG were deprived of Cavani's services, the team won 3-0 away at Stade de Reims, and when Ibrahimovic was nursing an injury and missed the home clash vs. FC Lorient, the team won 4-0 in his absence. The 1-1 draw in the Champions League against RSC Anderlecht is perhaps more of a nagging memory though; the French champions were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw without the Uruguayan and the side looked particularly toothless.

While some of that can be put down to the simple fact that PSG were getting complacent in their Champions League group at that point, the fact remains that the side from the capital have convinced more thoroughly in Ibrahimovic's absence than in Cavani's. It is not beyond all doubt at present that PSG can fully cope without the 26-year-old summer signing; such has been the strength of his impact in the French capital. In just 25 appearances in all competitions for the Parisians, the South American has netted 18 times already.

In the past few weeks, most notably in the 5-0 romp at home to FC Sochaux-Montbeliard, the partnership between Cavani and Ibrahimovic has really come into its own. The pair are enjoying a run that has seen both players score at least once each while on the pitch at the same time in three matches out of the last four. Against Sochaux they went further than that; assisting each other once and, at present, the duo have plundered 26 league goals between them and outscored 17 of the 19 other sides in Le Championnat.

Ibrahimovic, for his part, has 14 league goals, but his monopoly on penalties (of which he has scored five) means that he is numerically more prolific than Cavani. However, without those spot-kicks the Swede has nine goals and subtracting the same penalties from El Matador's record puts him better off by one on 10. There is no doubt that Ibrahimovic enjoys the lion's share of chances between the two of them, and he is also far more creative and has assisted six goals (officially) to Cavani's one (which was also later removed because of a deflection off of a Sochaux defender). However, the Uruguayan is more clinical than his strike partner and scores the same amount of goals from fewer chances, with limited opportunities from the penalty spot.

When you take into account Cavani's superior work rate, something that even Ibrahimovic cannot contest, the Uruguayan becomes as important, if not slightly more, than the mercurial Swede. Ibra is an irreplaceable player, unique and unrivalled in what he does, but Cavani is the player Blanc should fear being without more than his number 10. PSG paid a pretty penny with the 64 million euros they shelled out to prise the South American away from SSC Napoli in the summer, and considering they bought him to score goals and plenty of them, it has to be said that it has been money very well spent so far.

In Cavani, PSG have an almost guaranteed match-winner that, when added to the majesty of Ibrahimovic, was bound the create goals and win plenty of matches. Former sporting director Leonardo's judgment was questionable on a number of occasions, but when saying that the two could play together and form a lethal partnership, he has already been proved exactly right. The Ibra-Edi tandem is already indispensable to the defending champions, but if either one was to be considered more important to the side now; it has to be Cavani based on how decisive his contributions have been.

Losing the Uruguayan for Sunday's encounter would be a blow, particularly because PSG are coming up against Ligue 1's toughest defence. In 18 games, Lille have conceded just six goals. PSG's record over that same period is 11, and that is still an improvement compared to this time last year when Carlo Ancelotti's side had shipped 12 and were eight points worse off. Of course Ibrahimovic has more than enough quality to decide this sort of game all by himself; in fact, he did just that at the Stade Pierre Mauroy last year with a double in a 2-1 win last September. However, should Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama frustrate the Swede in the same way that he has thwarted the likes of Radamel Falcao, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Filip Djordjevic, Cavani's absence will be underlined as it was against Anderlecht in Europe.

2013 has been a fantastic year for PSG: winning a first Championnat title in 19 years as well as reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League after an eight-year absence from the competition. Finishing with a flourish would enable Blanc's side to move into a commanding five-point lead atop the Ligue 1 table. Regardless of the result, PSG are already symbolic autumn champions (for the third consecutive season) thanks to AS Monaco's surprise 2-1 home defeat to Valenciennes, so the year will end as it started -- with PSG at the very top of the pile.

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