Yes, that’s what the Paris Saint-Germain-AS Monaco match has been termed. It was billed as the battle of the big strikers, and it was truly that in every way, with the big-money men on the scoresheet.
PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring before Monaco’s $90m man Radamel Falcao leveled things up in the 75th minute.
Monaco, cashing in on Russian riches, continue to lead Ligue 1 with the Qatari-financed PSG sitting two points back.
The game was overshadowed a bit by the events which happened in Manchester, where the blue side of the city was quite literally overpowering their neighbors. Manchester United suffered the Etihad annihilation, while Napoli proved too strong for AC Milan, coming out 2-1 winners in the end. That also marked the first ever penalty miss by Mario Balotelli in his professional career.
Coming back to France, the match at Parc des Princes shaped a few talking points:
Money (can)not buy happiness
Yet another Russian billionaire decided to invest in a football club, quite generously. The club was Monaco, who were promoted to Ligue 1 this term and the billionaire is Dmitry Rybolovlev. Monaco spent about 170 million Euros ($230 million) this summer.
PSG, on the other hand, cashed in by Qatar Sports Investments, splashed out 114 million Euros ($154 million), having spent more than that last season.
Falcao joined Monaco from Atletico Madrid in a deal estimated to be worth 60 million Euros ($79 million), while Cavani cost PSG 64 million Euros ($84 million), the fifth most expensive transfer in history.
The lure of money is of the highest order, and a club offering tax-free salaries to its players is a difficult offer to turn down. No wonder, three of the world’s best strikers are in France, and contested this game.
As things stand at the top of the league table, Monaco lead PSG with 2 points. If they win Ligue 1 after 13 years, it could be yet another story of riches behind trophies.
PSG by now should be used to extravagant riches. But with great money, comes even greater demand for trophies. It will be interesting to see which team comes out with flying colors.
Edinson Cavani’s form
This is not yet a time to worry but Edinson Cavani uncannily seemed to fall behind PSG main man Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The star summer signing continues to tussle as the Uruguayan had to endure another night of frustration with PSG in need of his goals.
Despite regularly playing wide for his country, the signs so far suggest that he does not work in Blanc’s 4-3-3 formation. Although the side from the capital played some lovely passing football, producing little or no end product is hardly what they were looking for.
Before the duo of Cavani and Ibrahimovic were paired together on a football pitch for the first time, many suggested that Ibrahimovic would struggle to adapt to the partnership more than Cavani.
But Ibrahimovic was particularly in one of his daring moods, trying his luck with ambitious shots, one from 35 yards and was mostly controlling possession.
Cavani seemed at a loss, sometimes making the same runs and at other times isolated. It took 30 minutes for him to get any space and when he did, he fired a shot that flew above the post.
“Their partnership could be better, We have to try and fight the right system”, acknowledged Blanc.
Cavani did have two chances to win the match for PSG in injury time but first his shot was blocked by defender Andrea Raggi and then his header went wide moments later.
Paris Saint-Germain has problems in defense with Thiago Silva set to be out for several weeks after pulling his hamstring in Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Monaco.
“I think we’ll be without him for a little while,” Blanc said of Silva.
That left Blanc to employ a temporary defensive pairing of 19-year-old Marquinhos and fourth-choice center back Zoumana Camara to face Falcao. That proved futile as three minutes later the Colombian sprinted to the near post and headed in Joao Moutinho’s cross from the left to level the match.
Blanc must be wishing that he still had Mamadou Sakho to choose, who has been signed by Liverpool. His problems in central defense continue to persist.
Who Are The Title Contenders?
Monaco’s resilient performance against PSG offered encouraging signs that the newly-promoted side can challenge the big-spending PSG for the French title.
Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri, who has also managed Chelsea, Juventus, Valencia and Roma, definitely had an edge over his PSG counterpart Laurent Blanc by cleverly shaping his side after it had conceded a goal in the fifth minute.
Ranieri said at the start of the season that he was eyeing third place, but surely now they ought to dream bigger. Buoyed by Sunday’s performance, Ranieri was quick to add: ”I think it’s too early, I will wait until we get to the halfway point in the league and then I will say.”
Nonetheless, PSG will be looking to kick start their season once again hoping to defend the title. They can gain consolation from the fact that were still the better side in the match, only lacking the killer instinct needed to come out with a victory.
Midfield Accommodation for PSG
From the PSG point of view, it was their midfield which seemed to inspire them throughout the game.
The dominant performance displayed by the midfield trio of Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti demanded appreciation. The trio controlled the midfield and did not allow Monaco to take control of the game.
As the Frenchman Blanc is looking reluctant to ditch the 4-3-3 with his midfield in such good form, it will be interesting to watch where he accommodates Cavani.
With their defense shaky and Silva limping off due to a thigh injury, they can take solace in an above par midfield performance.