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Time running out for Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

PSG vs Manchester City: Is it now or never for Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

April 5, 2016 By Michelle Bonsu
PSG star Zlatan Ibrahimovic finds himself in the Champions League knock-out rounds for yet another season, but he has yet to feature in a final. Is this his last shot?

Despite a pretty impressive trophy haul that includes domestic titles in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and France, there is one piece of silverware that continues to elude Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic: the Champions League. Whilst, of course, this coveted prize is won by a team and not one man, the lack of this award on his CV for some represents a black mark against the 34-year-old.

To date, the furthest Ibrahimovic has gone is to the semi-finals, which he achieved in the 2009/2010 season with Barcelona. In a cruel twist of irony, he and the Blaugrana were knocked out by his own former side - Inter - who went on to win the trophy after beating Bayern Munich in the final just a month later. He would again experience the same unfortunate occurrence when he left Barcelona for AC Milan in the 2010/2011 term, only to see the Blaugrana clinch the trophy.

In all fairness, by the time he arrived at the San Siro, Milan's heydays had long passed. So, in all fairness he never really had much of a chance at even coming close to the semi-finals whilst in a Rossoneri shirt, but for the first time in the past three seasons, he, in theory, is just 180 minutes away from his first final four appearance in six years.

Big on the small stage, but small on the big stage...Ibrahimovic's frustrating quandary

Since arriving at PSG in the summer of 2012, Ibrahimovic has been playing some of the best football of his career. 30 goals and 11 assists in Ligue 1 alone are nothing to scoff at - even if some critics do view the French top flight as a "one-horse" league due to PSG's unprecedented dominance over the past couple of seasons. Yet, although Les Parisiens have firmly established themselves as France's top side - thanks to the arrival of new ownership in 2011 - PSG have yet to even make a dent on the continental stage.

That is, until this season. For the past three terms, PSG have been unfortunate to have to face Barcelona in two out of their three quarter-finals ties. Ask anyone, and they will tell you that the Blaugrana are the last side they would want to face at any stage of the Champions League, and curiously enough, since 2007, an very interesting trend has started to form: Beat Barcelona, and you will book your ticket to the Champions League final.

In 2014, Atletico Madrid overpowered them in the quarter-finals en route to securing their spot in an all-Spanish affair against Real Madrid. In 2013, Bayern Munich made the most feared side on the continent appear to be a bunch of schoolboys as they humiliated them 7-0 on aggregate en route to featuring in a historic all-German final versus Dortmund at Wembley. And in 2012, Chelsea edged them out en route to winning their first ever Champions League final at the cost of Bayern Munich.

But returning to Ibrahimovic's quandary - he has shone on the domestic stage, but so far, failed to inspire much on the continental front. That is, until this season. The English are particular notorious for their snide comments about the Swede's lack of goals against teams from the UK (although ironically, they are all apparently clamouring to have him feature in the Premier League next season), and to some extent, they do have a valid point.

Ibrahimovic's English hoodoo: Another chance to prove his doubters wrong against Manchester City

Up until scoring two against Chelsea during PSG's 4-2 defeat of the Blues in this season's round of 16, Ibrahimovic had only netted three goals, and all of them were against Arsenal. That, still, has not prevented them from pointing out that this adds to five goals in 20 appearances against Premier League sides, and he has yet to score against Liverpool, Tottenham, and Manchester United.

Well, this Wednesday, he will have the chance to net against yet another new English side: Manchester City. The Citizens are totally green at this juncture, having made it to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in their history. And to pit the tie more in PSG's favor, Manuel Pellegrini's side will be missing quite a few key players for this upcoming match, which will give the on-fire Ibrahimovic not just a chance to score, but to also inspire his team to victory over these two legs.

Make it to the semi-finals, and it really is anyone's game. Although reigning champions Barcelona, of course, are viewed as the favorites to win it in Milan, the Blaugrana are not unbeatable. Anyone who watched Saturday's Clasico tie, in which Real Madrid picked up all three points despite having a man down - and ended their opponents' 39 match unbeaten streak - will be certainly aware of that.

Real Madrid, whom PSG faced twice in the group stages are not infallible, either, and despite losing one of their games 1-0, Les Parisiens more than have the quality to trouble the ten-time Champions League winners. And with Bayern Munich expected to be the other side in the semi-finals, all PSG have to look to is the positivies in Juve's performances over the two legs to get some ideas, whilst, of course, avoiding the same mistakes Massimiliano Allegri's side made in Munich to figure out a way to navigate past Guardiola's side.

So does this season represent Zlatan Ibrahimovic's last chance at Champions League glory? Perhaps. Even if he does move on to a Premier League side next season, Europe's premier club competition is a fickle creature. English clubs, in addition, have not enjoyed the same level of success as they did not too long ago; this season, only Manchester City is in the final eight. Last season, there were just two in the round of 16 and none in the quarter-finals.

Plus, one never really knows exactly what will happen next term. What is certain is that PSG are in the quarter-finals. They will be facing Manchester City, a team that certainly has the quality to cause trouble, but are not yet at the levels of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, or Real Madrid. Simply put, this season does represent a golden opportunity for Ibrahimovic to finally get his hands on that trophy that has eluded him his entire professional career. All he - and his teammates - have to do is seize it.



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