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PARIS – Paris Saint-Germain has proved that it can win without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Wednesday night's 1-0 win against Apoel Nicosia was a fifth straight success for coach Laurent Blanc's side. But none of these victories was particularly entertaining and PSG is still looking a poorer side without its talismanic player.
PSG fans will be hoping the imposing Sweden striker recovers from injury in time to face Marseille on Sunday night, when a win would move second-place PSG to within one point of its bitter rival.
Should PSG lose its unbeaten start to the season, however, resurgent Lyon could move into second place with a home win against struggling Guingamp.
Here are some things to know about this weekend's French league games:
ZLATAN CLOSE TO RETURN
Blanc is optimistic that Ibrahimovic may return to play a part in the table-topping clash against league leader Marseille.
Ibrahimovic has not played since the 1-1 home draw against Lyon on Sept. 21, but his nagging heel injury has kept him out for much longer than was first expected.
He returned to training on Thursday, increasing speculation he could play.
"Things have been evolving very well over the last few days. I think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. We've seen some very positive signs," Blanc said. "He has started joining in training and he's been doing some running. He hasn't lost that much fitness in cardiovascular terms. If things continue to improve over the next few days anything is possible."
Even if Ibrahimovic does not recover, PSG is well off in the forward department, with striker Edinson Cavani scoring a goal in each of his past four games.
PSG captain Thiago Silva has leapt to the defense of midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who has been in and out of the side since joining from Newcastle in January.
Cabaye's poor performance in last weekend's gritty 2-1 win at Lorient saw him heavily criticized in the French media.
Although a regular in midfield for France, Cabaye has struggled for PSG, scoring only one league goal in 25 games. He has not played the full 90 minutes of a game so far this season and was hauled off after one hour against Lorient.
"PSG's problem isn't Cabaye," Silva said. "The problem was the match against Lorient and especially the first half, because none of the players did well."
Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac is the league's joint top scorer, but he needs to end a barren run at Paris Saint-Germain's stadium to add to that tally on Sunday night.
Gignac has never scored at Parc des Princes in eight previous outings with Marseille and his former clubs Toulouse and Lorient.
The France forward has made his best start to a domestic season with 10 goals in 12 games, putting him level with Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette.
But Gignac has looked slightly jaded in his last two games, failing to score in the 1-0 loss at Lyon and the 2-1 home win against Lens.
Two seasons ago, he scored two superb goals as Marseille drew 2-2 at home to PSG, with Ibrahimovic netting twice for the visitors.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Marseille is always a showpiece match in the French league calendar and is also an attractive game abroad.
According to French league statistics, Sunday night's game will be shown by 42 different broadcasters across 160 countries.
Even fans in India will get to see it courtesy of Ten Sports, while beIN Sports will show it in the United States and Canada.
Frederic Antonetti is in talks with Bastia over the vacant coaching position after former France midfielder Claude Makelele was fired on Monday.
The Corsican club is in 19th place ahead of Saturday's game against mid-table Montpellier.
Antonetti, who is Corsican, held long talks on Tuesday with Bastia president Pierre-Marie Geronimi.
The 53-year-old Antonetti started his coaching career with Bastia in 1994, and then had a second spell with the club.
"I need to take the time to think. There are a lot of things to take into consideration and I know Bastia only too well," Antonetti said. "It's not an easy situation and Bastia is the club of my heart, but I will give the directors my answer very quickly."
He also coached Rennes from 2009-2013 and prior to that had spells managing at Nice and Saint-Etienne.