Cavani double helps Ibra-less Paris Saint-Germain cruise past Lorient

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No Zlatan Ibrahimovic, no problem. In fact, without the icon, Paris Saint-Germain got a chance to show off some somewhat forgotten talents against visiting Lorient, with Lucas Moura and Jérémy Menez putting Ligue 1‘s leaders up two by the 40th minute. Add in a  brace from Edinson Cavani, and the Parisians had another one-sided result, dismissing les Merlus 4-0 at the Parc de Princes.

It was the fourth time in six league games PSG had won by three or more, and while a few close games are interspersed in that run (2-1 over Marseille; 2-2 with Saint-Etienne), Laurent Blanc’s team have displayed a gear they never quite achieved last year under Carlo Ancelotti.

While that team won the French first division for the third time in club history, this one’s threatening to do so in style. Through 12 rounds the team is still undefeated (8-0-4), scoring 24 goals while conceding only seven times. Though Monaco and Lille are close behind at the top of the table, PSG’s putting pressure on them to keep up. This team seems poised to pull away at a moment’s notice.

Laurent Blanc deserves a lot of the credit, even if this space has cast our share of doubts on PSG’s first-year boss. The former Bordeaux man, however, has emphasized a possession game that’s helped produce these one-sided affairs. On Friday, PSG maintained 62 percent of the ball, two ticks below their league-best average (64.1 perfect). The 16.7 shots they’re averaging are three more than the league’s second-best mark.

That attack started today’s scoring in the third minute when a cross from Lucas Digne found Lucas Moura even with the far post. The Brazilian waited for the looping ball to fall to his right foot before blasting the day’s opening goal past Fabien Audard, beating the Lorient keeper from just outside the six-yard box.

Marco Veratti set up Menez for the second, giving PSG a 2-0 lead before Edinson Cavani moved to the top of the league’s scoring charts, heading into an abandoned net to send PSG into half up 3-0. Late the second, a tap in allowed the Uruguayan to complete his double for two yards out, his ninth goal of the year passing Monaco’s Radamel Falcao for the top spot in Ligue 1.

And to think: This was a somewhat shorthanded PSG team. Ibrahimovic is nursing a knee problem, while Ezequiel Lavezzi and Blaise Matuidi came off the bench. Maxwell and Gregory van der Weil sat out. Thiago Silva is still out injured. Yet Blanc’s side still ran out 4-0 winners, their early goal allowing them to pass their way through 90 drama-free minutes.

Against a Lorient side struggling in 17th, perhaps that shouldn’t be a huge surprise. But that doesn’t make PSG’s performance any less outstanding, and it doesn’t mean PSG aren’t making progress. Whereas last year they were champions, this year they have a chance to be great. Friday’s performance was just the latest hint of their potential.

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.

Report: PSG to dodge FFP by signing Mbappe on loan, sending Moura to Monaco

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Paris Saint-Germain’s fight to win a UEFA Champions League will receive a major boost from its main Ligue 1 rivals.

Reigning champions AS Monaco have been frustrated by phenomenal and combative forward Kylian Mbappe seeking a move to join Neymar at PSG. Mbappe was reportedly kicked out of Monaco training this week.

That move is very difficult for PSG to pull off thanks to Financial Fair Play; Les Parisiens spent more than $260 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

The way around it? Sky Sports says Monaco will reportedly loan Mbappe to PSG with an agreement to sell the 18-year-old striker permanently after this season. PSG midfielder Lucas Moura would go the other way for this season.

If that rings a bit hollow to those who’d like to see FFP work against massive clubs stockpiling talent, it should; This is hardly any different from spending all the money in one window when considering that Mbappe would join Neymar and Edinson Cavani effective this season.

Incredibly, Sky also has the notion that PSG will bring Fabinho to the Parc des Princes (Yes, from Monaco).

If Mbappe ends up in Paris — forget Fabinho for a second — PSG would be favored to get past its UCL quarterfinals blockade (Les Parisiens were eliminated in the Round of 16 last season by Barcelona after four-straight quarterfinal ousters).

UEFA Champions League playoffs: Differing levels of comfort

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Only one of 20 playoff-contending clubs has a strong foot in the UEFA Champions League group stage with 10 second legs set for this week.

That’s Scottish champions Celtic, who took a 5-0 lead for manager Brendan Rodgers last week at Celtic Park and heads to the capital of Kazakhstan for a Tuesday date with Astana.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

As for the rest, there are varying levels of comfort. Napoli leads Nice 2-0 and didn’t concede an away goal to the French side, so the Serie A side has to feel pretty good. Liverpool edged Hoffenheim 2-1 in Germany and brings two goals home to Anfield. That, too, is confident footing.

Steaua Bucharest and Sporting CP are the only sides level, scoreless after a match in Portugal.

But Olympiacos is in Croatia and a goal away from being on the wrong foot after a 2-1 win at home to Rijeka, and Hapoel Be’er Sheva has the same situation in Slovenia against Maribor.

At risk? Three high-profile away trips and the same number of group stage home paydays. The losers drop into the Europa League group stage.

Tuesday
All matches at 2:45 p.m. ET unless noted

Astana vs. Celtic (Celtic leads 5-0) — 11:30 a.m. ET
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1)
Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli leads 2-0)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel leads 2-1)

Wednesday
All matches at 2:45 p.m. ET

Copenhagen vs. Qarabag (Qarabag leads 1-0)
CSKA Moscow vs. Young Boys (CSKA leads 1-0)
Slavia Prague vs. Apoel Nicosia (Apoel leads 2-0)
Liverpool vs. Hoffenheim (Liverpool leads 2-1)
Steaua Bucharest vs. Sporting CP (First leg 0-0)

EFL Cup Tuesday preview: Seven Premier League sides enter

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Seven of the 13 Premier League teams to enter the 2017-18 EFL Cup second round will open tournament play Tuesday, while the remaining six wait until Wednesday.

West Bromwich Albion, Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove Albion, Crystal Palace, Swansea City, Leicester City, and Watford all begin their campaigns Tuesday.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

West Brom is one of two sides facing fourth-tier competition, and Tony Pulis‘ Baggies head to the Crown Ground for a match with Accrington Stanley.

Recently promoted Brighton and Hove Albion hosts its first Cup match as a Premier League side when Barnet comes to town. Ex-New York Red Bulls and New York Cosmos winger Ruben Bover is on the visitors side of the pitch.

Frank De Boer‘s Crystal Palace gets a tricky test from in-form Ipswich Town, as Mick McCarthy’s Tractor Boys are one of two Championship teams to start the season 4-0.

The seven PL sides competing in the Champions League or Europa League don’t join the fray until the third round.

Full slate of Tuesday’s second round matches
All matches at 2:45 p.m. ET unless noted

Accrington Stanley vs. West Bromwich Albion
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Barnet
Bolton Wanderers vs. Sheffield Wednesday — 3 p.m. ET
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town — 2:30 p.m. ET
Doncaster Rovers vs. Hull City
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Milton Keynes Dons vs. Swansea City
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
Queens Park Rangers vs. Brentford
Reading vs. Millwall — 3 p.m. ET
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Watford vs. Bristol City