Zlatan Ibrahimovic superb for PSG in victory over Reims
Paris Saint-Germain brought a physically and mentally demanding start to 2016 to an end with a 4-1 rout of Stade de Reims at Parc des Princes on Saturday.
The Ligue 1 leaders have played 14 matches already since the start of the year and they have only failed to win once -- a 0-0 draw at home to Lille OSC last weekend -- and now they have more than a week to rest before they take on Olympique Lyonnais at Parc OL next Sunday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as he has been on so many occasions since he arrived in Paris back in 2012, was in inspired form and decisive for the French capital outfit. The Sweden international scored two and provided two more as Laurent Blanc's men clinically disposed of struggling Reims.
Gregory van der Wiel and Edinson Cavani were the lucky recipients of two pieces of the 34-year-old's magic in Paris. The PSG No. 10's two assists mean that he now has 23 goals in Le Championnat and 10 assists from 21 appearances. If he continues at his current rate, the talismanic striker will realise his best season yet with Les Parisiens.
It was not all rosy at Parc des Princes though. Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp and defender Layvin Kurzawa combined to allow Prince Oniangue a sloppy consolation goal for Reims, and Blanc withdrew Angel Di Maria and Marco Verratti early as a precaution against potential injuries.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Kevin Trapp, 4 -- After arguably his best ever PSG performance in the 2-1 win over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, the German goalkeeper let himself down against Reims. It might not have been entirely his fault, but Oniangue's goal should not have been allowed to happen and the 25-year-old must share the blame with Kurzawa over a lack of communication.
DF Gregory van der Wiel, 8 -- It was exactly the sort of performance the Netherlands international required after Serge Aurier's recent demise. With the starting right-back role available again, at least for the foreseeable future, a neat goal and an assist for Ibrahimovic's second will have put the 28-year-old in a position of power over makeshift full-back Marquinhos. The only complaint about Van der Wiel's outing was a first half yellow card.
DF Thiago Silva, 7 -- The Brazilian was composed and uncompromising, as always, but his defence conceded from a set piece for the second time in as many games. Although the goal had nothing to do with him, as captain, the 31-year-old needs to help his back line get to grips with dead balls. O Monstro also made a majestic late block to deny a good Reims opening.
DF David Luiz, 5 -- This was not the Brazil international's best display. A headless chicken at times and all-action at others, the 28-year-old lost the ball in dangerous areas at times and lacked discipline.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 6 -- Aside from playing a role in Oniangue's compensatory goal for Reims, it was a good showing from the Frenchman. The 23-year-old was strong in the tackle, put in some inviting crosses and was generally intelligent in his play.
MF Thiago Motta, 6 -- Started alongside partner in crime Marco Verratti once again, the midfield was balanced once again. However, once the younger Italian was withdrawn at half-time, the 33-year-old lost his way a bit before he made way for Marquinhos after 71 minutes.
MF Marco Verratti, 6 -- Brought off at half-time as a precaution, the Italy international's performance over the first 45 minutes was still enjoyable. The 23-year-old displayed some neat touches and passes, without ever needing to really excel.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 -- Like Motta and Verratti, the France under-21 international was not required to be at his best, as the Reims midfield offered limited opposition and Ibrahimovic was dominant every time PSG went forward.
FW Angel Di Maria, 5 -- For the 39 minutes he was on the pitch, the Argentina international was relatively subdued. Aside from a few teasing crosses, El Fideo did little of note and some of his passing was off -- not to mention his non-existent work rate. He still found enough time to stamp on Thievy Bifouma's calf, though, and should consider himself lucky that such petulance did not land him in trouble.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 9 -- Two goals and two assists, it was another decisive performance from the mighty Swede. Now into double figures for both goals and assists in Ligue 1 this season, the 34-year-old's supreme form is relentless and PSG must offer him at least a one-season contract extension. Simply insatiable and indispensable at present, not to mention almost certain to record his best ever campaign in the capital club's colours.
FW Edinson Cavani, 7 -- The Uruguay international picked up where he left off against Chelsea on Tuesday with another well-taken goal. El Matador had Ibrahimovic to thank for playing him in perfectly, but the 29-year-old's finish was unerring as well. The South American was denied a second -- from another Ibrahimovic assist -- when Reins goalkeeper Johann Carrasso repelled a stinging second half drive from distance. However, the PSG No. 9 did pick up an unnecessary booking late on.
FW Lucas Moura, 6 -- The Brazilian replaced Di Maria after 39 minutes and was more of a threat than the Argentine. However, it was Ibrahimovic and Cavani who did the damage, leaving the 23-year-old in the shade.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 6 -- Sent on in place of Verratti at half-time, the France international added some much needed mobility and drive in the middle, even though he cannot replicate the Italian's creativity.
MF Marquinhos, NR -- Thrown on to replace Motta with 19 minutes left, the Brazil international did a good job in his tertiary role of defensive midfielder, but will be disappointed that he was not given the nod over Luiz from the start.
Jonathan Johnson is based in Paris and the voice of PSG TV. He also writes for French Football Weekly. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.