Posted: Thursday January 31, 2013 7:14 AM

Sirigu the unexpected star for league leader PSG

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PARIS (AP) -Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu has achieved the rare feat of taking the spotlight away from striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in recent weeks as the key player in a team that has an increasingly rock-solid defense.

Ibrahimovic has not been his usual ruthless self in front of goal since the French league returned after the winter break, and Sirigu's consistency has helped PSG to win some close games - such as last weekend's scrappy 1-0 victory over Lille and the equally lackluster 1-0 win at Bordeaux the previous week.

PSG has not conceded a league goal since the loss at Nice on Dec. 1 and Sirigu has not been beaten in 775 minutes, surpassing Bernard Lama's PSG record of 697 minutes, ahead of Friday's trip to Toulouse.

"I don't pay too much information to that. It's down to the whole team and our defense. We are an attack-minded team but it's important to have a solid defense,'' Sirigu said. "It's true that our play may have been a bit more spectacular in December. Since the league resumed we've come up against teams that defend very well. It's also true that the winter break came during our best spell of the season.''

Sirigu said PSG "had more luck'' last Sunday against Lille, which had a valid goal disallowed in the first half, and he is wary of facing a Toulouse team that caused PSG's defense problems in a recent French Cup match.

"We know Toulouse very well. They can cause problems for us because they have some good players,'' Sirigu said. "We will have to be wary of them because they can be dangerous in attack with players who like to make runs from deep.''

PSG leads Lyon only on goal difference and is three points ahead of Marseille, which wasted the chance to close the gap when it drew 2-2 draw at Rennes last weekend - with goalkeeper Steve Mandanda's blunder gifting the hosts a late equalizer.

Marseille, which beat Rouen 2-1 in the French Cup on Wednesday, will be hopeful of picking up a win when it takes on last-place Nancy at home on Sunday, while Lyon travels to play Ajaccio.

"We're in a good position, we have to make sure we hold on to third place because it's very important for the club,'' Marseille winger Morgan Amalfitano said. "We know the teams we have ahead of us, they're not pushovers. We want to improve our league position. We're humble but we know what we're capable of. There are 16 rounds left, and we will give everything.''

Lyon, meanwhile, takes on Corsica with a depleted attack following Brazilian winger Michel Bastos' move to German club Schalke and with forward Jimmy Briand close to joining Monaco, meaning there will be even more pressure on strikers Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez to rediscover their scoring touch.

Also Saturday, it's: Lorient vs. Rennes; Bastia vs. Evian; Bordeaux vs. Valenciennes; Brest vs. Nice; Lille vs. Troyes; and Sochaux vs. Saint-Etienne.

Montpellier hosts Remis in Sunday's other game.

 
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