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PREVIEW: Ligue 1 - AS Monaco v PSG

It's first versus second in Sunday night's big game in Ligue 1. Two of football's most talented talisman are set to do battle in Monte Carlo

Sunday night’s big game in France sees Champions Paris Saint-Germain take on 2nd place AS Monaco at the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo. Anything but a win for Claudio Ranieri’s home side would all but crown PSG as this year’s winners of Le Championnat.

Monaco go into the game five points behind Laurent Blanc’s side after having to come behind twice last week just to earn a 2-2 draw at FC Lorient. Ranieri was quick to dismiss any suggestions that his side can pip the Parisian’s to the post, but a win in-front of a sell-out crowd would give the Monegasque a sliver of a chance.

"For us it is important to play well, but Paris won the title before the start of the season," said the Italian, a coach who has never lifted a major championship throughout his illustrious career. "It will be a match apart from all others, just like the last meeting of the teams (when they drew 1-1 at the Parc des Princes in September). I'm thinking more about the following match against Bastia."

Ranieri’s chances of catching PSG were given a huge blow when Colombian €60 million striker, Radamel Falcao was ruled out for the rest of the season when he injured his ACL in the Coupe de France in Monaco’s 3-0 win over Chasselay Monts d'or Azergues.

To replace the former Atletico Madrid forward, Ranieri made the move to bring in Bulgarian talisman, Dimitar Berbatov from Premier League side Fulham. At first the move was reported as a short-term loan deal, but the French league revealed this week that the deal was recorded as a permanent signing after Fulham released the player from his contract.

The former Manchester United forward took advice from his former teammate, and ex-Monaco defender, Patrice Evra, before making the move from London to the Cote d’Azur. It seems like Berbatov and Monte Carlo was a match waiting to happen, and he has been impressed by what he has seen so far at Monaco:

"I was looking for something new. When Monaco contacted me, I spoke to Patrice Evra, who is a good friend of mine, and I thought why not," he said at his unveiling. "It was an easy choice for me. They are a great team and I knew the coach from my time in England. It is a new adventure. We'll see how quickly I can adapt. I am not here to take anyone's place. It is a big challenge to replace Falcao but I am here first and foremost to help the team."

Berbatov will often be compared to PSG’s very own talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but while both players have the ability to create moments of magic from absolutely nowhere, the Bulgarian has much more to prove to show that he is capable of rivalling the Swedish striker for determination and ability while playing in France.

Ibrahimovic has been declared fit for Sunday night’s game after sitting out training this week with back pain. In the 1-1 draw in September, it was Zlatan that opened the scoring for the home side, before Falcao equalised before half-time. Everyone knows it is near impossible to fully replace the Colombian’s strike power, but in Berbatov, Monaco have a player that could just provide that moments of inspiration, and spark Monaco’s title comeback.

Probable line-ups:

Monaco: Subasic - Raggi, R. Carvalho, Abidal (c), Kurzawa - Moutinho, Toulalan, Obbadi - J. Rodriguez - E. Rivière, Berbatov

Paris Saint-Germain: Sirigu - Van der Wiel, Alex, T. Silva (c), Maxwell - Verratti, T. Motta, Matuidi - Lucas, Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi

images: © john1710, © john1710

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