PSG out to prove that they're more than Ibra

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty ImagesWith Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended, Kevin Gameiro has a chance to lead the PSG line.

Paris Saint-Germain head into Sunday's visit to Montpellier off the back of another virtuoso performance from Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he assisted in all four of PSG's goals in their midweek Champions League win versus Dinamo Zagreb. However, the Swede will not be in the squad at the Stade de la Mosson as he serves the first part of a two-match ban. 'Ibra' saw red last weekend as the capital club went down 1-2 at home to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang-inspired Saint-Etienne team, in a game where PSG's star man was below his dominating best and saw his game end following a dangerous clash with goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier. The suspension has reignited the debate surrounding Carlo Ancelotti's reliance on his most prolific talent and, outside of a recent Coupe de la Ligue clash with Marseille, Sunday's clash will be the first time les Parisiens have been deprived of Ibrahimovic's services.

Looking at the stats, it is easy to see that Ibrahimovic has been PSG's most valuable player so far this season, notching 12 goals in 14 games in all competitions, with 10 tallies coming in Ligue 1 action. A more damning statistic shows that the former AC Milan striker is actually responsible for 59% of the side's goals this year while fellow attackers Kevin Gameiro and Guillaume Horaru have just four goals between them in as many appearances.

Despite neither having started more than three games, none in Hoarau's case, the aforementioned pair has offered substance to the argument that there is life without 'Ibra' at the Parc des Princes. Hoarau, a Frenchman, was enjoying the adulation of the PSG faithful after grabbing a rare chance to impress and finding the net against Saint-Etienne. He went on to score again against Zagreb along with Alex, Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez thanks to Ibrahimovic's service. For Hoarau, it was impressive for a man who was considered to be surplus only a month ago. It is amazing what a difference a month makes. Just ask Gameiro.

The diminutive Frenchman has been struggling with a back injury since hitting a purple patch alongside Ibrahimovic a month ago. Once restored to the side, he may find that Hoarau has taken that spot from him in the Swede's absence, not to mention the return of Ezequiel Lavezzi from injury. The trip to Montpellier though could be the perfect venue for Gameiro to return to action as Ancelotti's side seeks to emulate last season's impressive 0-3 mauling of the eventual champions. Two goals and a sublime showing from Javier Pastore and a goal for Gameiro saw the visitors take top spot for the first time last term.

PSG arrived in Languedoc-Roussillon in fourth place in need of a strong showing to establish their title credentials and they got it. That showing was a real statement of intent from then-manager Antoine Kombouare's side and many expected the team to go on and claim the title however, that championship never materialized. This time they need a result and performance that demonstrates an independence from Ibrahimovic and an illustration of the team's various other important players.

Montpellier are defending champions but their form so far this season belies the talent in the squad. Performances have been disappointing and la Paillade are not the same team as last season and the defence in particular is an area that Ancelotti's men should look to exploit. Rene Girard's men have shipped 16 goals so far this term, almost half of last season's entire total as Montpellier struggle to compensate for some key losses, most notably top-scorer Olivier Giroud.

Despite having won six of their last seven games, the capital club find themselves under criticism for their perceived lack of invention and tendency to grind out narrow victories. Ancelotti puts this down to being “efficient, if not attractive to watch.” But those justified claims will look hollow though if an improved PSG side can't beat a weakened title-winning Montpellier side. With Ibrahimovic absent, it is the perfect time for other members of the squad to step up and contribute.

ESPN Conversations