Hexagoal Ligue 1 Trophy

Cavani hoping to return as PSG go to Nantes

Publish on 12/01/2018 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS


Edinson Cavani will hope to return to the Paris Saint-Germain line-up as the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders face Claudio Ranieri's FC Nantes at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Sunday evening.

FC Nantes  -  Paris Saint-Germain

Cavani has not played in either of PSG's two games in 2018 so far following a late return to France from a mid-season break in South America. Without the Uruguayan, Unai Emery's side have progressed in both domestic cup competitions, romping to a 6-1 success at Stade Rennais FC in the round of 64 of the Coupe de France before easing past Amiens SC 2-0 at the Stade de la Licorne in the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Ángel Di María has profited from Cavani's absence to start both of those games. The Argentine joined Kylian Mbappé and Neymar Jr in scoring a brace at Rennes and then it was his corner that led to Adrien Rabiot sealing victory at Amiens after a Neymar penalty had put Paris in front.

However, Cavani will be hungry to come back into the side and add to his 25 goals for the campaign in all competitions. His last strike came in the 3-1 win over SM Caen at the Parc des Princes just before Christmas, which left him on 155 goals as a PSG player, just one shy of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record of 156.

Highlights: Cavani goal helps PSG see off Caen

Javier Pastore has also missed PSG's first two matches of the new year after a late return from a break in Argentina, although he this week rejected suggestions he wants to leave the club during the January transfer window, writing on Instagram: "It is not true that I wish to leave. I'd like to stay here for the rest of my career."

Certainly Emery needs all of his players with this PSG's third game out of at least 10 matches in a seven-week spell before they go to Real Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie next month. They host Dijon FCO at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.

Nine points clear at the top of the table over the winter break, Paris have won their last six games in all competitions and scored 22 goals in that run. A Nantes defence that has conceded less than a goal a game on average in the league this season has already been torn apart by PSG this season, with Claudio Ranieri's men losing 4-1 in the capital in the reverse fixture in November.

Exceeding expectations

Les Canaris exceeded expectations to sit in fifth place in the table over the winter break and Ranieri has challenged his side to stay there, with European qualification the aim. They finished 2017 five points behind Olympique de Marseille in fourth but six ahead of OGC Nice in sixth.

"I am curious to see how we get on. We had a good first half of the season. I want to see if we can hold on to fifth place or improve on it," said the veteran Italian before he saw his side ease past fifth-tier Senlis 4-0 in the Coupe de France last weekend, with Yacine Bammou and Valentin Rongier netting in the first half before a late brace by Emiliano Sala.

Highlights: Last-gasp Sala heroics as Nantes win at Amiens

"We play football to be involved in big matches like this," said the defender Nicolas Pallois. "We know that they won't need six or seven chances to score a goal so we will need to make sure we defend really well. These are games you need to enjoy and give everything out on the pitch."

Nantes have Léo Dubois back after suspension kept him out of the Cup game last weekend, while Nigerian defender Chidozie Awaziem hopes to return as well after missing the Senlis tie to deal with a family matter.

Probable teams

Nantes: Tatarusanu; Dubois, Diego Carlos, Pallois, Djidji; Touré; Thomasson, Girotto, Rongier, Lima; Sala

Paris SG: Areola; Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Berchiche; Verratti, Lo Celso, Draxler; Mbappé, Cavani, Di Maria