Ajaccio challenge awaits Ibra

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty ImagesZlatan Ibrahimovic will look to overcome his jinx of never scoring against Ajaccio when PSG travel to Corsica this weekend.

Since arriving in France back in 2012, Paris Saint-Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored against 19 of the 22 sides that he has faced in Ligue 1 so far. On Saturday, he and the defending champions take on one of the rare teams that he has so far failed to find the net against. While they may sit rooted to the foot of Le Championnat, Corsican minnows AC Ajaccio are one of the three sides to have stopped the majestic Swede from adding to his current 45 league goals from 52 appearances in France's top-flight.

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Montpellier HSC, Ligue 1 winners in the 2011-2012 season, and newly promoted FC Nantes are the two others. But Ibrahimovic has only faced Les Canaris once, while he has featured twice out of a possible three times against both Ajaccio and Montpellier. The 32-year-old has until the end of the season to change that, with all three still to come once more in Le Championnat. In fact, PSG's next league opponents are Nantes, with a Coupe de France round of 32 clash at home to Montpellier immediately afterward.

Following his superlative showing against Stade Brestois in the Coupe de France round of 64 earlier in the week, Ibrahimovic will be confident of completing the whole set come the end of the campaign. For now though, it is one game at a time and PSG will be hoping to avoid a repeat of their frustrating early season 1-1 draw at home to Ajaccio in order to at least maintain their three-point lead over title rivals AS Monaco at the top of Ligue 1. Guillermo Ochoa was in sensational form back in August when the two sides met at the Parc des Princes, but since then, things have taken a sharp nosedive for the Mexican and Les Ours.

Fabrizio Ravanelli was coach when the Corsicans visited the French capital earlier in the season, but the Italian was given the boot in November after a string of poor results. Ajaccio had only won one game all season; a 2-1 win over an unpredictable Olympique Lyonnais side in late September, but have since failed to add to that and are struggling to even find a tactician crazy (or desperate) and affordable enough to take over at the Stade Francois Coty.

Despite that, PSG failed to win either of their encounters against Les Ours last season (both finished goalless) and the Islanders almost pulled off a shock victory at the start of the campaign had it not been for Edinson Cavani's 86th minute strike -- El Matador's first for the French champions. Ibrahimovic, who has never played at Ajaccio's limited home venue, will sample the south of the beautiful island for the first time on Saturday. The Swede has already enjoyed great success in the north, against ACA's fierce rivals SC Bastia; bagging two goals early last season in his fifth appearance for the club.

One solitary strike could be enough this weekend though, as PSG travel to face a team who have only netted 13 times in Le Championnat this term earning them the label as Ligue's most feeble attack. Laurent Blanc will be without Marco Verratti once again; the Italian midfielder is still sidelined with an adductor problem, meaning that Adrien Rabiot is likely to deputise. Christophe Jallet has been ruled out after undergoing surgery on a back problem, hence the club's search for a new right-back this January, while Hervin Ongenda has once again been overlooked.

It was far from ideal to see the cup clash with Brest moved from last Sunday to this Wednesday, meaning that the team effectively had just two days to prepare for the encounter. However, with a trip to face Girondins de Bordeaux in the Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinals to come next Tuesday, it was always bound to be a busy period for Blanc and his players.

With so many cup appearances percolating this month’s calendar, it is vital that PSG do not drop any points in avoidable circumstances in Ligue 1 to put themselves under greater pressure. One or more appearances at the Stade de France this term are required, but that should not come at the detriment of league form. There is more than enough strength in depth, particularly going forward, to cope with fighting on so many different fronts.

On paper, Saturday's clash with Ajaccio is as good as won already, but the same was said ahead of the pair's meeting at the Parc des Princes earlier in the season and Blanc's side had to fight tooth and nail to even come away with a point. Ibrahimovic and PSG are operating on a drastically different level now though and the Corsicans should provide no such problems this weekend.


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