Week 24 review: Cavani blow for PSG, Rennes red hot
By S. Willis
PSG's 1-0 win over Bordeaux proved expensive, a hip injury ruling Edinson Cavani out of the UEFA Champions League tie with Man U, while Rennes warmed up for UEFA Europa League action with a 3-0 beating of Sainté.
Already without the services of the world's most expensive footballer Neymar Jr for the upcoming UEFA Champions League last 16 tie with Manchester United, PSG boss Thomas Tuchel will also have to do without star centre-forward Cavani, who hobbled off in the 1-0 win over Bordeaux after hitting the winning goal from the spot.
The Uruguayan has been diagnosed with a hip tendon injury and is expected to be out of action for a month, meaning that he will not only miss Tuesday's trip to Old Trafford to face a Red Devils side surging under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but most likely the return leg in Paris on 6 March as well.
"Tonight Edinson suffered an injury. The match against Manchester United is coming up very soon, and we will use the time to recover as quickly as possible," said Tuchel, who will also be without Belgium right-back Thomas Meunier, suffering from a concussion. "This match is a huge challenge for us and it's always better to play these types of matches with your key players. We already know that Ney is out, and we have doubts about Marco [Verratti] and Edi [Cavani]."
Despite all the bad news, Paris did actually win the match - their 12th in a row at home, a record in Europe's top five leagues this season - and maintained their ten-point lead atop the Ligue 1 Conforama standings.
Excellent European warm-up
After beating Amiens 1-0 in Week 23 then taking out in-form LOSC 2-1 for a Coupe de France quarters berth in mid-week, Rennes made it three in a row in all competitions by thumping Saint-Etienne 3-0 at Roazhon Park on Sunday - as the first leg of their UEFA Europa League clash, at helm to Real Betis, looms on Thursday.
"We're happy with the result as we knew it was a key match for climbing up to near the top of the table," said Rennes boss Julien Stéphan, whose first UEFA Europa League match in the Rennes dugout was a 2-0 win over Astana that saw the club clinch its first-ever European knockout-round berth. "We played well against a good team and maybe the score was a bit harsh on them. We wanted to start February well and we have."
Montpellier, LOSC on point
The result takes Rennes eighth, one point off the European places, while Sainté slip to fifth on the back of three consecutive league defeats, ceding fourth to Montpellier, who joined them on 37 points with a 2-2 draw at home to Monaco. With former coach Leonardo Jardim and a host of winter signings in place, the principality club are improving every match and were unlucky not to get the win.
Meanwhile second-placed LOSC let PSG know once again that they will be there waiting to pounce and reduce the ten-point deficit should the champions-elect slip up. For the fifth time in a row, Christophe Galtier's side took all three points, this time thanks to goals from Rafael Leao and Loïc Rémy that put another nail in bottom club Guingamp's relegation coffin.
PSG-killers OL tumble in Nice
Sunday's night prime-time match saw Lyon - who last weekend became the first Ligue 1 Conforama side to beat PSG this season - miss the chance to keep pace with LOSC as they fell 1-0 in Nice. It was a much improved performance from Patrick Vieira's men, who lost 4-0 to LOSC in Week 23, with Rémi Walter sealing the deal late from the spot to take them to a season-high seventh.
"We played a solid match and we stayed focused. We suffered out wide in the first half, but Walter [Benitez] made two or three big saves. After that, we stuck together and got a deserved goal," said Vieira, whose side won by the same margin in Lyon back in Week 4. "We deserved the win. We played a great match in terms of intensity and tactical acumen."
Ocampos screamer caps OM fightback
Marseille made it back-to-back wins for the first time since November, building on last week's 1-0 win over Bordeaux by coming from behind to take out Dijon 2-1, thanks notably to a sublime winner from Lucas Ocampos after Mario Balotelli had scored his second in three matches since his winter move from Nice.
Nîmes took an important step away rom the drop zone by clawing their way back from two goals down to beat Nantes 4-2 at the Stade de la Beaujoire, where tributes to Emiliano Sala continued, the team wearing black jerseys with the Argentine's name on the back.
Angers also distanced themselves from the bottom three, PSG youth academy product Wilfried Kanga bagging a double to hand in-from Coupe de la Ligue BKT finalists Strasbourg their first league defeat since Week 18, while Amiens claimed a crucial first win since Week 17 1-0 in their relegation six-pointer against Caen.
Ivorian star Max-Alain Gradel struck a sublime leveller as Toulouse clinched a 1-1 draw at home to Reims.