5 things to know about the French league
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain can strike a decisive blow in the French title race and open up an eight-point lead at the top if it wins away to second-place Monaco in Sunday’s clash. Elsewhere, Lille looks to consolidate third place when it faces struggling Sochaux at home on Saturday, and fourth-place Saint-Etienne, one point behind Lille, goes to Toulouse in Friday’s game. Here are five things to know about the upcoming games.
DETERMINED DIMITAR: Dimitar Berbatov is confident his goals can lead Monaco to the French title ahead of their table-topping clash with PSG.
The 33-year-old Berbatov, who joined from Fulham on loan, has stepped up his training program in order to make his debut and pit himself against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG’s 31-goal top scorer.
“It’s perfect to start with this match, to show what I can do. Everyone knows Ibra, there’s nothing new I can say about him,” Berbatov said. “Paris is in good form but Monaco drew 1-1 over there, so it’s not just a question of individuals, but also teamwork.”
Monaco has also spent lavishly in a bid to rival PSG, which has four players in its squad costing more than €40 million ($54 million)
“Monaco is a big club and this year they have a good chance to win the championship, so it’s good if I can help them do this,” said Berbatov, who scored 94 goals in the English Premier League during spells with Tottenham, Manchester United and Fulham. “I can play up front or behind the striker. I like scoring goals but also playing for the team. I like passing.”
NO RECORD SIGNINGS: While Monaco copes without €60 million ($78 million) striker Radamel Falcao, who is out with a long-term knee injury, PSG will also be without its record signing — forward Edinson Cavani — on Sunday.
Cavani limped off clutching the back of his right thigh during last Friday’s 2-0 home win against Bordeaux. The Uruguay striker, who cost €64 million ($84 million), faces at least three weeks out and coach Laurent Blanc is not prepared to rush him back.
“It’s not that serious, but we can’t make it worse,” Blanc said, adding that Cavani — who has scored only twice in his past seven games — needed a rest.
“It will do him some good. He had lost a bit of sharpness in front of goal,” Blanc said. “We’ll have important games coming up in March and April.”
FAMOUS FAN: Monaco’s most famous fan will be taking his seat at Stade Louis II as usual, and Prince Albert is confident of beating PSG.
“It’s very important to play well against this PSG team that scares everyone, with all their big names,” he said in a club statement. “But I think we have enough to rival them; we showed that in the first game. I am sure we will rise to the occasion.”
The prince has been on the phone to Falcao, who tore knee ligaments last month, to offer his encouragement.
“I’ve spoken to him and gave him all of my best wishes for a speedy recovery,” he said. “You need a lot of mental strength to come back from such an injury. I hope he gets back to the highest level as quickly as possible.”
STILL BITTER: Nantes coach Michel Der Zakarian is still angry about Tuesday’s League Cup defeat to PSG.
Ibrahimovic’s last-minute winner gave PSG a 2-1 win, but Der Zakarian has accused the club of foul play.
“I regret that they’re a malicious team, they’re cheats,” he said after Nantes lost to PSG for the third time this season. “When I see the amount of fouls Thiago Motta makes— he left his foot in two or three times and a foul wasn’t even given. (But) that’s Paris.”
STAYING PUT: Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier turned down a move to Newcastle so as not to risk his chances of making France’s World Cup squad.
After selling Yohan Cabaye to PSG, the English Premier League club turned its attention to the 23-year-old Grenier, who is a freekick specialist.
“I was well advised by my agents, even though I had the last word,” Clement told RMC radio in an interview. “I’m lucky enough to enjoy playing for the club, to play a lot of games. It’s important to be playing regularly if you want to go to the World Cup.”