Time for Cavani to take his chance


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On the eve of Paris Saint-Germain's 3-1 victory against Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final last week, Zlatan Ibrahimovic admitted to a room full of English journalists that he would probably never grace the Premier League.

Sorry to disappoint you lads, but I'm happy where I am, earning nearly £15 million per year, and besides the owners will never let me go, was essentially his message.

But Ibrahimovic's comments contrasted markedly with those made by his team-mate Edinson Cavani in an interview with sports daily L'Equipe published that morning, in which the Uruguayan acknowledged his frustration at what has been a difficult first season in France since a record-breaking €64 million (£52.9 million) move from Napoli last summer.

Cavani's PSG career has thus far been hampered by a series of problems. There are the family issues, such as protracted divorce proceedings that have forced him to travel back to Uruguay on a couple of occasions. There have been the injuries too, like a hamstring problem that kept him on the sidelines for all of February.

But more than anything there is the fact that he has been unable to play in his favourite position because of the presence of Ibrahimovic. The 27-year-old says was convinced to come to Paris by the prospect of playing alongside the Swede in a 4-4-2 formation under Laurent Blanc, but that has only happened once, in a 1-1 draw with Ajaccio in August.

Blanc soon switched to a 4-3-3 which maximised the potential of his midfield, and PSG have never looked back. But Cavani has been forced to settle for a role out on the flank and has spent as much time helping out defensively as he has in the opposition box.

"For an attacker used to finishing off moves and scoring goals but who must now fulfil other tasks, it's not easy. The 4-4-2 was my vision of the team when I arrived in Paris and it was one of the arguments that convinced me to come," Cavani told L'Equipe before hinting that things will have to change if he is to remain next season.

"Let's finish the season and then see what happens. There are definitely things that I need to talk to the club about, things that need to be done differently."

Despite being forced to play a supporting role to Ibrahimovic, the man who was the leading scorer in Serie A last season still 22 goals this season. However, only four of those have come since Christmas, and against Chelsea last week he looked a shadow of his old self as his former Napoli team-mate Ezequiel Lavezzi led PSG to victory.

But the hamstring injury suffered by Ibrahimovic midway through the second half of that game has to be good news for Cavani. Ibrahimovic is enjoying the best season of his career, having scored a club record-breaking tally of 40 goals in all competitions, yet now he looks likely to be out for at least four weeks, ruling him out of a potential Champions League semi-final and the upcoming League Cup final against Lyon. Now Cavani will get his chance to play through the middle of the attack.

Against Reims on Saturday, he scored his 22nd goal of the campaign, bundling in a Gregory Van der Wiel cross to set Paris on their way to a 3-0 win, their 11th victory on the bounce. The strike ended a goal drought of 499 minutes. Flanked by Lucas and Jérémy Menez, he played more than an hour before being substituted with the trip to Stamford Bridge in mind.

"I would have liked him to have scored a couple more, but it is always important for strikers to get goals. He is getting back to his best and I am not worried for him," said Blanc later.

"Obviously it is in that position that I feel most comfortable and that I am at my best. But it is also a really big responsibility to be back there," added Cavani, who can expect Chelsea to make life far tougher for PSG than a feeble Reims, whose full-back Aïssa Mandi managed to score two own-goals.

The French champions will miss Ibrahimovic enormously, but Cavani's moment has now arrived.

Flanked by the lightning-quick Lucas and the in-form Lavezzi, he should not be starved of service, and against Chelsea he will be driven by the chance to gain revenge for a last-16 defeat to the London club with Napoli two years ago.

By Andy Scott - on Twitter @andpscott

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