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Ibrahimovic's antics a problem at Paris Saint-Germain in race for French title

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PARIS — As Paris Saint-Germain gears up for the final sprint to the finish in the French league, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is becoming a problem for the defending champions.

The Sweden international remains the biggest star of the league but is going through his worse season in the French capital, having played just 29 matches in all competitions so far with an average ratio of 0.69 goal per game, compared to 0.89 last term when he bagged 41 goals.

A heel injury forced the 33-year-old forward to miss seven weeks in the autumn and his impact on PSG's performances has been limited.

Laurent Blanc's team even achieved its most notable result without him, when PSG eliminated Chelsea from the Champions League last week at Stamford Bridge after Ibrahimovic was sent off for a rough tackle in the 31st minute.

Four days later, Ibrahimovic's brace at Bordeaux was not enough to prevent PSG from slumping to its third league defeat, and his goals were overshadowed by his offensive post-match rant against the referee that is likely to cost him a four-game suspension.

"Zlatan has a difficult season, with injuries and suspensions," Blanc said. "Hopefully his sanction won't be too heavy and he will be able to show everybody that he remains an astounding player."

More than his mediocre displays on the pitch, which could only be temporary struggles, it's Ibrahimovic's bad boy image and antics that now seem problematic to the Qatari owners of the club, who have cleaned up PSG's controversial reputation of being a club with a strong base of racist hooligans since taking over.

For now, Ibrahimovic remains an essential piece of Blanc's tactical puzzle. The club's other strikers — Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck — are not contesting his supremacy in the dressing room and Ibrahimovic, whose deal with PSG runs through the 2015-16 season, is expected to lead PSG' attack on Friday against Lorient.

But Ibrahimovic's agent, Mino Raiola, has warned that he could leave if he was to lose too much of his influence.

"Zlatan will extend his contract only if he can give his best," Raiola told L'Equipe newspaper. "He won't be a substitute who can come in during a match, help the team in the dressing room. Either he is the best player in the team, or he is nothing."

Here are some other things to know ahead of the weekend's matches.


PSG EYING MARSEILLE CLASH

After hosting Lorient, PSG travels to Marseille in the country's biggest rivalry on April 5.

With nine rounds of games remaining, the race for the title is wide open, with PSG trailing leader Lyon by two points and Marseille — which plays at struggling Lens on Sunday — in third place two points further back. Lyon hosts Nice on Saturday.

The game at the Velodrome could mark a turning point in the season and Blanc was worried he could miss three key players for the trip. All of them should finally be available after the former France coach received reassuring news about David Luiz and Yohan Cabaye, who limped off the field during the 3-2 loss at Bordeaux.

Both players are expected to miss next week's friendly match between France and Brazil but should be back on time for the "French clasico."

Ibrahimovic can also feature in the Marseille game before a possible ban, as he won't be heard by the league's disciplinary commission before April 9.


SUPER SUBASIC

Danijel Subasic has been one of the driving forces behind Monaco's success this season.

The little-known Croatian goalkeeper has conceded only 24 goals in 36 games in all competitions as Monaco reached the Champions League quarterfinals and remains in the hunt for the French title.

Monaco has the best defensive record in the league and has produced 15 clean sheets this season.

The 30-year-old Subasic was the hero of Wednesday's 2-0 loss against Arsenal in the return leg of their last 16 game, making a decisive save on his line to stop a header seven minutes from time. The save allowed his side to progress on the away goal rule after a 3-3 aggregate tie.

Subasic's excellent form has raised the interest of rival clubs, but he has no intention of leaving.

"I would like to stay in Monaco until the end of my career," he said.


ARRIBAGE ON A MISSION

Toulouse new boss Dominique Arribage starts his bid to save the southwestern club from relegation with a tricky home game against Bordeaux.

A former Toulouse defender, Arribage has replaced Alain Casanova, who stepped down this week after seven years in charge.

"I'm not going to focus on defense just because I was a defender, otherwise I won't go far," said Arribage. "I also want my team to attack and hurt its opponents."

Toulouse is currently 18th, three points away from safety, but has a relatively favorable schedule until the end of the season.

Arribage will try to build on his own experience, having fought off relegation with Toulouse as a player on the very last day of the 2007-08 campaign.

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