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5 things to know about the French league

September 19, 2013

PARIS (AP) — Five things to know about the French league for this weekend’s matches:

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CLASH OF BILLIONAIRES

The two biggest spenders in the league square off on Sunday as Monaco visits Paris Saint-Germain.

Owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, promoted Monaco spent about 170 million euros this summer to upgrade its squad. The outlay has had an early payoff: Monaco top the league after five rounds.

Monaco and third-place PSG, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, are the only teams still undefeated.

PSG was more frugal than Monaco this summer, spending 114 million euros to hire Edinson Cavani, Marquinhos and Lucas Digne. However, for the match of the round, the Paris club will have more experience.

PSG has won its last four matches in all competitions, including a 4-1 victory over Olympiakos in the Champions League on Tuesday.

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IBRACADABRA?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has shown little of the magic he’s renowned for, scoring only once this season. The PSG forward is far from the pace that made him the leading scorer in the league last season with 30 goals.

Ibrahimovic is expected to rise to the occasion on Sunday against Monaco, whose summer signing Radamel Falcao has already found the net four times.

The Sweden striker is reportedly negotiating with PSG to extend his contract to 2016, when he will turn 35.

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LIFE WITHOUT AUBAMEYANG

Saint-Etienne’s status as a contender for a European spot was questioned when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang departed for Borussia Dortmund this summer.

The Gabon striker was the second most prolific goalscorer in the league and led Saint-Etienne to the French League Cup title and to a fifth-place league finish last season.

But Saint-Etienne simply replaced Aubameyang by sharing goals around, as Romain Hamouma, Benjamin Corgnet, Brandao, Fabien Lemoine and Loic Perrin have scored to propel their team into second place.

Saint-Etienne could snatch the lead if Monaco drops points this weekend. On Friday, Saint-Etienne hosts lowly Toulouse, which is still chasing its first win.

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BOUNCING BACK

Marseille started its season with three league wins before a string of mediocre results. It lost 2-1 to Monaco at Stade Velodrome, drew 1-1 with lowly Toulouse, and was defeated 2-1 by Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday despite having seven more goal attempts than the English club.

Summer signing Florian Thauvin could help fourth-place Marseille rediscover its finishing touch when it visits Bastia on Saturday. The 20-year-old striker netted three goals this summer to help France win the Under-20 World Cup.

Bastia sits in the middle of the table but has won all of its home matches this season.

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TALISMANIC

Dario Cvitanich scored 19 goals last season to guide Nice to a fourth-place finish, the club’s best performance since the 1975-76 league.

The Argentine striker was expected to be Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s successor when he signed with Ajax in 2008. However, Cvitanich’s career did not take off in the Dutch league. He was loaned out to Mexican side Pachuca and Argentine club Boca Juniors before Nice signed him for less than a million euros.

Nice is relying on Cvitanich to lead the attack when it hosts Valenciennes for its first match in the new Allianz Riviera Stadium. Nice sits in seventh place and has won every match in which Cvitanich has scored this season.