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In-form Edinson Cavani sets the tone as PSG chases 2nd straight win in Champions League


LVIV, Ukraine — Last January, when reports linking Edinson Cavani to Arsenal emerged, the most commonly identified reason behind the Uruguay striker's unhappiness at Paris Saint-Germain was his fraught relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Cavani complained throughout last season that he was forced to play out of position in coach Laurent Blanc's 4-3-3 formation to accommodate Ibrahimovic. But Paris Saint-Germain president ruled out selling Cavani, who is now making the most of Ibrahimovic's dip in form.

While the Sweden international struggled with an abdominal injury that reduced his appearances to six matches so far, Cavani has been in stellar form. Ahead of Wednesday's Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk, Cavani has found the net eight times in 10 matches.

"Paris always showed desire to keep me, which is very important. For three years now a lot has been said, but I feel very good, really," said Cavani, as PSG chases a second straight win in the Champions League after opening with a 2-0 win against Malmo in Group A.

In the group's other game, Real Madrid travels to Malmo after thrashing Shakhtar 4-0.

Here are some things to know about Wednesday's matches:


A string of phantom saves from Johan Wiland kept the score down as Malmo escaped from its one-sided Champions League opener in Paris with a 2-0 loss.

The 34-year-old goalkeeper knows he must have another spectacular evening Wednesday for his team to have any chance against Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Ronaldo has everything. He's good with the head, shoots well with both the right and left foot," Wiland told Swedish news agency TT. "It's hard to know what he's going to do. You just have to be ready for everything."

Wiland has faced the Portugal winger in the Champions League before, with FC Copenhagen in 2013. The Danish team lost 4-0 in Madrid and at home 2-0, though Wiland saved a penalty from Ronaldo.

"You cannot just focus on Ronaldo. Then someone else will step up," Wiland said. "Of course it's going to be really hard to get a point in this kind of match. Everyone who has any football knowledge knows that. But we'll go out there and give it a try."


When Euro 2012 finished, most people in host city Lviv didn't expect top-class football to return to western Ukraine any time soon.

That was before the conflict in eastern Ukraine flared up, driving Shakhtar out of its home city of Donetsk and into indefinite exile. Wednesday's game against PSG marks the second season in a row that Shakhtar will play its Champions League games in Lviv.

PHOTO: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo kicks the ball during a La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo kicks the ball during a La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Shakhtar's 3-2 Ukrainian Premier League win Saturday over Olimpik Donetsk, another exiled team, came a day before the six-year anniversary of the opening of its 52,000-seat Donbass Arena, which was briefly one of Europe's top football venues but is now being used as a depot for humanitarian aid for those suffering in the conflict.

On the field, Shakhtar has started the season solidly, taking second place in the Ukrainian league behind Dynamo Kiev and coming through the Champions League qualifying rounds. However, an opening 4-0 loss to Real Madrid shows how hard it will be for Shakhtar to qualify for the knockout stages.

Midfielder Taras Stepanenko is suspended for the game against PSG after being sent off against Real Madrid for two bookings.


Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo is scoring goals in bunches this season.

The Portugal winger has netted eight goals in seven games, but all of them have come in just two appearances. He scored three times against Shakhtar in Madrid's 4-0 win to start the Champions League, and he recorded his second career five-goal game in a 6-0 thrashing of Espanyol.

Otherwise, the Ballon d'Or holder has come up empty. He ended Saturday's 0-0 draw with Malaga visibly frustrated, shaking his head and kicking the upright after two late misses rarely seen from the scoring ace.

Ronaldo is the Champions League's all-time leading scorer with 80 goals, three more than Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. Ronaldo can gain ground on his rival with Messi out for seven-to-eight weeks with a torn knee ligament.

Ronaldo is also eyeing another record. According to UEFA, he needs three more goals to break Raul Gonzalez's club record of 323 in all competitions.

Madrid will still be without the injured Gareth Bale (calf), James Rodriguez (thigh), Danilo (foot), and now Pepe (muscle) has joined the list. Sergio Ramos is also doubtful with a dinged shoulder.


Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has said the French club could sacrifice its chances in one cup this season to focus on the Champions League.

The main goal for Blanc is to rest a maximum of key players for big matches, something he was not able to do over the past two seasons. He has a full squad available for Wednesday's game against Shakhtar.

"The most important thing is to have our main players in form when spring comes", Blanc said. "We need to be careful with our rotation system and our training sessions and we may forget about one national cup, or at least not put all our strength in it. We'll discuss it."

PSG secured a historic domestic treble last season but lost in the Champions League quarterfinals for the second straight year.

It came from behind to win 4-1 at Nantes on Saturday to remain the only unbeaten team in the French league and had the luxury of resting several players, although Thiago Motta and Ezequiel Lavezzi came on in the second half, as did Edinson Cavani, who scored PSG's second goal.

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