PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out for the match against Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain must find a way to cope without him.
Ibrahimovic, the French league's top scorer over the past two seasons, has been ruled out of Tuesday's Champions League match with a left heel injury. He missed the last two PSG games because of the injury and coach Laurent Blanc said intensive treatment up until Monday morning failed to resolve the problem.
"We tried this morning. But in reality I'd already started preparing for the match without him," Blanc said. "It won't be easy and we know it. We had some difficult games without him last season. The opponents are much more attentive when he's around."
PSG has made a sluggish start to the season, drawing six of nine games so far.
Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani is expected to lead the attack in his favored center forward's role against a Barcelona team that has yet to concede a goal.
Cavani is still short of the form which saw him score 78 goals in 104 games for Napoli before joining PSG for 64 million euros ($81.3 million) last season. The Uruguay striker has been craving a chance to play in his center forward role, however, and now has a chance to show what he can do on the big stage.
But when Ibrahimovic has been missing, PSG has won only 40 percent of its matches.
"It's a very important game for us and we need him," PSG left back Maxwell said. "We're still lacking in intensity and tomorrow is a good chance for us to show that we're still to be reckoned with."
Blanc said other players need to step up a level now that Ibrahimovic is not around to bail them out with his spectacular goals.
"If we don't play well as a team tomorrow it's going to be hard," Blanc said. "We can compensate for his absence through our teamwork."
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is not concerned either way.
"It doesn't change anything for us that Zlatan isn't playing," Enrique said. "It's obviously a big loss for PSG but our way of playing won't change."
Ibrahimovic turns 33 next month and has been picking up injuries more often.
He tore a thigh muscle last April and missed the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Chelsea, which PSG lost 2-0 to go out on away goals after winning the home leg 3-1.
"We'll see how the injury goes from day to day," Blanc said. "The medical staff are doing all they can and we'll be delighted if we get him back for the Monaco game (on Sunday)."
Blanc puts PSG's slow start to the season down to a lack of intensity, which his players will certainly need to show more of in order to stop a Barcelona attack led by Lionel Messi and Neymar.
"Tomorrow we'll be playing our masters, or almost, given that they've been playing with this same philosophy of play for 30 years," Blanc said. "It's an extraordinary match to take part in. If we're determined and aggressive then we'll do well."
But he thinks Barcelona's defense has frailties, despite not conceding a goal.
"I've seen all of their games and their opponents had chances in every one," Blanc said. "But Barcelona hurt you when they're on top, they take advantage. That's what we're missing and we have to get that back."