Zlatan Ibrahimovic has vowed to become an even better player in 2014 and that could spell trouble for Ajaccio, Paris Saint-Germain’s first Ligue 1 opponents of the calendar year in Corsica on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking after netting a first-half hat-trick as PSG brushed aside Brest 5-2 in the round of 64 of the Coupe de France, Ibrahimovic said: “I want to develop my game and become even better in 2014. On a collective level we want to win all the trophies we’re aiming for and give the PSG supporters pleasure.”
Ibrahimovic is Ligue 1’s leading marksman at the halfway mark with 15 goals, three down on where he was last season at this stage when he went on to finish with 30 against his name. The Swedish international’s phenomenal form has seen him score 26 in all competitions this campaign at club level, although only three of those goals have come in away fixtures.
With Ibrahimovic firing on all cylinders anything seems possible for the Ligue 1 champions who are competing for trophies on four fronts. Midfielder Blaise Matuidi said: “As well as the league, PSG must win at least one of the domestic Cups, the Coupe de la Ligue or the Coupe de France. With a player of Zlatan’s class in our ranks it is possible.”
Following the winter training camp in Qatar, Blanc was determined to give his stars a taste of competitive action before facing Ajaccio and rotating in goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez for Salvatore Sirigu was the only alteration from his strongest available side at the Stade Francis Le Bl├®.
Blanc said: “After two weeks without a competitive game, I needed to name the best team possible to give them some minutes before playing Ajaccio. Even if Paris wants to compete for trophies on all fronts we will have to establish a hierarchy in terms of our priorities.”
While things look rosy for PSG the same cannot be said for Ajaccio, bottom of the division, without a win in their last 12 in the league and eight points adrift of 17th-placed Montpellier. The Corsicans did pull off the great escape from bottom of the table at Christmas two seasons ago under Olivier Pantaloni yet things look far bleaker this time around with the team’s confidence shot to pieces and the gap to safety at this point of the season some five points larger than it was in 2011-12.
ACA went close to suffering an embarrassing Cup exit at amateur club Quimperl├® in the Coupe de France last weekend, having to recover from a goal down to prevail 2-1 for Christian Bracconi’s first victory in all competitions since succeeding Fabrizio Ravanelli. ACA have managed a mere two points from the seven Ligue 1 fixtures Bracconi has overseen and he is more than aware of the size of the survival task.
Quoted after the 4-1 loss at Reims in Week 19, Bracconi said: “We have to keep our heads up for the second half of the season and there are hopeful signs. The team is progressing. This club always goes through difficult times but always remains dignified and stands up on its own two feet. We believe in survival and that’s a must even if after our latest loss the prospect of staying up has moved further away from us.”
Ajaccio:┬áOchoa; Hengbart, Tonucci, Perozo, Bonnart; Mostefa, Faty, Lasne; Andr├®, Cavalli; Eduardo
Paris-SG:┬áSirigu; Van der Wiel, Alex (or Marquinhos), Thiago Silva, Digne (or Maxwell); Rabiot, Thiago Motta, Matuidi; Cavani, Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi