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5 things to know about the French league

November 21, 2013

PARIS (AP) — Unbeaten in 33 matches, Paris Saint-Germain next plays at Reims on Saturday in the French league.

Here are five things to know about this weekend’s games:

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CONTRACT TALKS

Paris Saint-Germain’s season is going perfectly to plan. Behind the scenes, however, contract talks with several key players are dragging on.

Midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta have been crucial to PSG’s consistent form, but Matuidi’s contract expires in June, meaning he is free to choose another club in January, and Motta’s deal runs out a year later.

The 31-year-old Motta is eager to stay at PSG so long as he gets a pay rise.

“Honestly, we’re far away from reaching an agreement,” Motta’s agent, Alessandro Canovi, told L’Equipe. “The club’s offer doesn’t suggest he’s an important player for PSG’s project.”

Matuidi, meanwhile, is caught in a tussle between two agents that will be settled in court.

Central defender Alex, left back Maxwell and goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu all have contracts that run out at the end of next season.

“I feel good here,” Alex said. “I’d like to stay a year or two longer.”

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PASS MASTERS

While Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored another hat trick in PSG’s 3-1 win over Nice last weekend, the opening goal in that match highlighted an encouraging trend in the French league.

Ibrahimovic finished off a move involving 25 passes, already the third time a goal has been constructed with more than 20 passes in the league this season, compared to just one at the same stage last year.

Ibrahimovic’s goal against Monaco on Sept. 22 concluded a 20-pass move and Filip Djordjevic scored after his teammates had strung together 26 passes against Evian last month.

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HEADS UP, MONACO

After spending the early part of the season battling with PSG at the top of the league, Monaco’s form has dipped and the team has dropped behind Lille into third place.

Monaco’s main problem is defending under the high ball, which is surprising given that it has two experienced players — Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abidal — at the back.

Six players have scored with headers against Monaco, while Lille striker Nolan Roux scored against Monaco in a 2-0 win after defender Marko Basa had nodded the ball down to him.

Monaco travels to Nantes on Sunday and a loss would see Nantes take third place and Monaco drop to fourth.

Still, at least Monaco won’t have to worry about dealing with headers: Nantes is renowned for its slick passing game, and likes to keep the ball on the ground.

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AYEW OUT

Although Ghana’s qualification for the World Cup was easy enough, it came at a price for Marseille.

Winger Andre Ayew has been slowly coming back to form but limped off early in the second half after twisting his left knee in the second leg of World Cup playoff against Egypt, which Ghana won 7-3 on aggregate. He will have an operation on Monday and will be out for about eight weeks, the club said Thursday.

Marseille has a busy schedule with a trip to play Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday and a home game against Montpellier three days later.

Right back Rod Fanni, who is recovering from a groin injury, also misses Friday’s trip to play Ajaccio.

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REIMS RETURN

PSG is unbeaten in 33 games dating back to March 2, when it lost 1-0 at Reims.

PSG goes to play at the Stade Delaune on Saturday and sixth-place Reims is in decent form with three wins from its last four games.

“We feel that there’s a lot of expectation for this match,” Reims coach Hubert Fournier said. “We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing for several weeks, which is to prepare for this match as calmly as possible but with a lot of concentration.”

PSG has scored 24 goals in the past eight games and the Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been scoring freely for club and country.

“If there’s a small window of opportunity, we will climb through it,” Fournier said. “We’ll need to show ambition and to be solid defensively, because that will be crucial. We’ll have to take our chances, too, because we won’t get very many.

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