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Sports

PSG take on Angers in first step of marathon

media Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a late winner in the French Cup to help PSG advance to the last 16 of the tournament. Reuters/Andreas Hillergren

With 17 games remaining, the big question in the French first division appears to be who will come second. Champions Paris Saint-Germain are unbeaten, 21 points clear of Monaco and are looking set to collect a fourth consecutive title before the winter winds have departed.

PSG host third-placed Angers in Ligue 1 on Saturday for the first match in a run of eight games in 21 days.

The chasing pack need PSG to lose seven of the remaining 17 Ligue 1 fixtures to enjoy any hope of challenging the roster of stars. Last season PSG claimed an unprecedented treble of League Cup, French Cup and French championship.

They are in the hunt to repeat those highs.

On Wednesday night, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted a late penalty allowing them to beat Toulouse 2-1 to advance to the last 16 of the French Cup. Angers slumped out of the competition on Tuesday night following a a 2-1 home defeat to Bordeaux.

PSG boss Laurent Blanc says he will rotate his squad in the matches leading up to the visit of the English Premier League champions Chelsea for the first leg in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League.

"We have to get through this month of January, which is difficult with this crazy schedule," Blanc said.

On paper PSG should cruise past a Chelsea side struggling in the nether reaches of Premier League. The Londoners go into Sunday's derby against Arsenal as underdogs. The sacking of manager Jose Mourinho in November has not brought a noticeable boost in performances or results. When Chelsea visited the Emirates towards the end of last season, they were the top dogs and Mourinho was in his bristling pomp.

Interim manager Guus Hiddink has been drafted in to steady the ship which he admits is in danger of sinking into the second division.

Such misfortunes are leagues away for PSG. Blanc can ponder over whether to leave 50-million-euro striker Edinson Cavani on the bench while he bloods youngsters and the likes of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Javier Pastore and Marco Verratti are nursed back to health.

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