PARIS (AP) - After a miserable start to the year, Edinson Cavani is back in favor at Paris Saint-Germain.
The Uruguay striker, who had been relegated to the bench in big matches since January because of a “behavior problem,” is now hailed as PSG’s supersub.
Cavani scored the winner with a shot through the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in PSG’s 2-1 win over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League’s last 16 game just four minutes after replacing Brazilian Lucas.
Since he joined PSG from Napoli in 2013, Cavani has been making headlines for his perceived poor attitude and reported tense relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Last December, his decision to go on holiday two days before his teammates led to his fall in PSG coach Laurent Blanc’s pecking order. Cavani seemed affected by the decision, scoring just once in 10 appearances before the Chelsea match. But he’s rebuffed critics at the right time with his crucial goal.
“I’m happy for Edi. I’ve said it often, because people doubt his scoring abilities, but he’s always shown he can score goals,” Blanc said. “He was going through a very difficult period and I hope that scoring this goal gives him his confidence back.”
Cavani might now return to Blanc’s starting lineup for Saturday’s game against Reims as PSG returns to business as usual in a league it has been dominating this season. PSG has a 24-point lead over second-place Monaco and is all but guaranteed to win a fourth straight league title.
Monaco hosts Troyes while fourth-place Saint-Etienne travels to Marseille in the weekend’s showcase match.
Some other things to know ahead of this week’s games:
THE REAL DERBY
Known as “Le Classique,” the match between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille became popular during the 1990’s when the arrival of prominent stars such as Rudi Voeller and George Weah in France ignited a strong rivalry.
But the real French derby pits Saint-Etienne and Marseille, the two most decorated clubs in French football.
Saint-Etienne - which has 10 league titles to its name, one more than Marseille - dominated French football during the 1960s and the ‘70s, with the Mediterranean club becoming one of its strongest rivals after regaining a spot in the top flight in 1966.
Marseille finished runnerup behind “Les Verts” in 1970 and won its first title in 23 years ahead of Saint-Etienne in 1971.
Although their rivalry softened eventually with Saint-Etienne’s sporting decline, both clubs still enjoy the support of a national fan base and their matchups are always intense. With Saint-Etienne back in form - the club was level on points with third-place Nice before traveling to Marseille on Sunday - expect this one to possibly be a classic.
DROGBA SPEAKS OUT FOR AURIER
Didier Drogba has jumped to the defense of fellow Ivory Coast player Serge Aurier, who has been suspended until further notice by PSG after insulting his coach Laurent Blanc in a video chat with fans.
Drogba posted a message of support to Aurier on Twitter, claiming double standards in the way Aurier “has been treated” after the scandal broke.
Aurier made obscene comments and then used a pejorative term to describe Blanc.
“Yes he made a mistake, yes he said things he should not have said, but we have all made mistakes, players (myself included), coaches, managers, referees, club presidents, even the fans,” the former Chelsea striker wrote. “Should we not be educating younger players on how to behave, preparing them for a world where social media can make or break your career? Or are we simply pointing the finger and banning some players but not others?”
INJURIES MOUNTING AT BORDEAUX
Jaroslav Plasil is the latest addition to Bordeaux’s long list of injured players.
The ninth-placed side that hosts Nice on Friday will be without the Czech Republic midfielder after he sprained his knee last weekend.
Plasil, who is expected to miss up to six weeks of action, joins Cedric Carrasso, Diego Contento, Milan Gajic, Robin Maulun, Nicolas Maurice-Belay, Nicolas Pallois, Gregory Sertic, Isaac Kiese Thelin, Jussie and Pablo on the sidelines.
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