Paris Saint-Germain’s bid to retain the Ligue 1 title will be boosted by the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when the leaders travel to Nantes on Sunday.
Sweden striker Ibrahimovic was slapped with a three-match ban in April for a foul-mouthed rant about referee Lionel Jaffredo in the aftermath of PSG’s 3-2 defeat at Bordeaux in March.
However, Ibrahimovic has served his punishment and PSG’s top scorer will now hope to score the goals to fire the champions to a third consecutive league title in the final four league matches.
Coach Laurent Blanc may have a dilemma on his hands, though, considering PSG have scored 12 goals in their three league victories during Ibrahimovic’s absence.
One of the main beneficiaries has been Uruguay international Edinson Cavani, who has netted four times in that period, while Ezequiel Lavezzi scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 battering of Lille last weekend.
Another player flourishing for PSG is Javier Pastore, who produced three assists in a comfortable 3-1 triumph over Metz on Tuesday which ensured the champions have won five Ligue 1 games in a row.
The Argentine midfielder believes that the credit for the team’s current form rests with Blanc.
“We all have a very good relationship with him,” Pastore told Surface magazine. “Personally, I’m very happy. Instead of criticising Laurent Blanc we should congratulate him for all the achievements to date.”
On the reasons for his own superb form, which led to Manchester United great Eric Cantona labelling him as the best player in the world, he added: “This season, for the first time since I arrived at PSG, I could perform a complete physical preparation before the start of the season.
“The fact that I feel perfectly fine physically helps me play my football.”
The decision on whether to select Ibrahimovic is sure to give Blanc a welcome headache, and the former Barcelona striker was pivotal to PSG’s success in December’s reverse league fixture as he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory.
Recent history also suggests that PSG, who are three points clear of second-placed Lyon, should have little problem overcoming Michel Der Zakarian’s men at the Stade de la Beaujoire with Nantes’ last victory over the capital club coming in October 2004.
Such is the tight nature of Ligue 1 this term, 10th-placed Nantes are not yet mathematically sure of survival.
But a 1-0 victory over Marseille and a 1-1 draw at Toulouse last weekend has left them seven points clear of the bottom three.