Paris: Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain will hope that record signing Edinson Cavani can fill the void left by the absence of injured top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic as they prepare to host Reims on Saturday.
The meeting with the club from the Champagne country comes in between the two legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea, with Laurent Blanc’s side leading 3-1 ahead of Tuesday’s return at Stamford Bridge.
And given that the capital club sit 13 points clear of nearest challengers Monaco at the top of the table with just seven games left, Blanc is bound to give a rest to some of his key players with Chelsea in mind.
One man who will definitely miss the game is Ibrahimovic, who is set for a spell on the sidelines after coming off in the second half against Chelsea with an injury to the back of his right thigh.
“I just hope he comes back quickly because we will need him,” admitted Blanc of the Swede, who has scored a club record 40 goals in all competitions so far this season.
However, one man who stands to benefit from Ibrahimovic’s misfortune is Cavani, the Uruguayan who cost 64 million euros (#52.9m, $87.7m) from Napoli last summer.
Cavani has scored 21 goals altogether in his debut season in France, but he has only three in an injury-hit 2014 and earlier this week he admitted his displeasure at having to play on the wing in a 4-3-3 formation.
“For a striker who is used to finishing chances, having to fulfil other tasks is not easy,” he told sports daily L’Equipe, before adding: “There are things that I need to talk about with the club, things that need to be done differently.”
Paris are on a club record-breaking run of 10 consecutive wins in all competitions and have not lost at home in the league since November 2012, so it would be a huge shock if they failed to record a positive result this weekend.
Opponents Reims have twice reached the European Cup final themselves, including in the first ever final in 1956, when they were beaten 4-3 by Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes.
These days their aims are rather more modest, but they are enjoying an excellent season under coach Hubert Fournier and come into the weekend just a point behind Marseille in sixth.
“It will be difficult, we can’t hide that. But we are going to the Parc to get a result,” insisted Reims’ Cape Verde winger Odair Fortes.
Elsewhere, second-placed Monaco will look to bounce back from a shock defeat at Evian last weekend when they host Nantes on Sunday, with the principality club’s coach Claudio Ranieri sweating on the fitness of Layvin Kurzawa, Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez.
Lille are just six points behind Monaco in third but they face a tricky test at Toulouse, whose five-game unbeaten run means that a top-five finish, and possible European qualification, is not out of the question.
“Europe is not a taboo word for us and it’s great that the players are talking about it,” said Toulouse coach Alain Casanova last week. “But talking about it and actually going out and doing it are two different things.”
The south-western side are poor at home, though, having won just one of their last eight games in front of their own fans.
Fresh from winning last week’s Rhone derby at Lyon, Saint-Etienne in fourth continue their push for a podium finish and a Champions League berth when they host Nice, while Lyon go to struggling Valenciennes in between the two legs of their Europa League quarter-final against Juventus.
Meanwhile, Lorient entertain Evian amid ongoing uncertainty about the future of their long-serving coach Christian Gourcuff, who has been linked with a move to take over the Algerian national team.