5 things to know about the French league
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain hosts bitter rival Marseille on Sunday. Still the only team undefeated at home in the French league, PSG holds a five-point lead over Monaco, which in turn hopes for a victory at Saint-Etienne to keep the pressure on. Third-place Lille is neck and neck with Saint-Etienne and Marseille in the race for a Champions League spot and hopes to shake off its poor form at bottom-side Ajaccio on Sunday.
Here are five things to know about the French league this weekend:
PSG has looked like a scoring machine in its last two matches, thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in the Champions League and beating Toulouse 4-2 in the French league. However, Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac is confident his team can get a good result at Parc des Princes.
“We can trouble them with our skills, our motivation and our team spirit,” Gignac told the club’s website.
Marseille midfielder Andre Ayew nevertheless acknowledged PSG was the overwhelming favorite.
“We have nothing to lose,” Ayew told the website. “If we win, it’s a feat. If we draw, it’s almost a feat. And if we lose, people will say it’s normal.”
PSG has won its last four games against Marseille.
A SPECIAL FLAVOR
It’s never a dull game when PSG plays Marseille. The referee gave seven yellow cards and sent off Thiago Motta when PSG beat Marseille 2-1 at Stade Velodrome in October.
“Matches between Paris and Marseille are special because of our long rivalry,” Matuidi told the club’s website. “We will do anything to win.”
The rivalry between the two clubs dates back to the end of the 1980s when Marseille and PSG were fighting for the league title.
PSG is undefeated in its last 10 games in the league and will rely on Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to crack the Marseille defense.
IN HENRY’S FOOTSTEPS
Monaco’s ambitions were dealt a blow when Radamel Falcao suffered a serious left knee injury on Jan. 22. But youngsters Emmanuel Riviere, Valere Germain and Anthony Martial have stepped up to keep Monaco’s title bid alive.
Martial has notched two goals and one assist in eight league games this season. The 18-year-old forward was signed from Lyon last summer for five million euros and has one thing in common with Thierry Henry: as kids, they both played at Club Omnisports Les Ulis in the Parisian suburb.
“If I could draw my inspiration from a player, that’d be Thierry Henry because we come from the same city,” Martial told the club’s website. “That’d be great if I could enjoy the same career that he had.”
Henry started his professional career at Monaco before joining Juventus and then Arsenal. He is France’s all-time leading goalscorer and won the World Cup in 1998.
NOT FOR SALE
Alexandre Lacazette is having a breakthrough season with 13 goals from 24 league matches. He has arguably been the most consistent player for Lyon, outshining striker Bafetimbi Gomis and midfielders Yoann Gourcuff and Clement Grenier.
Lacazette’s contract expires in June 2016 but Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas is adamant that the versatile forward will not leave the club.
“He is not for sale,” Aulas told a news conference. “We’re submitting him a contract extension. Yes, we have received offers for him.”
Lacazette can play as a striker but also as a winger or as a playmaker. He led France to the Under-19 Euro 2010 title by scoring the winning goal in the final, a 2-1 victory over Spain.
THE COURBIS EFFECT
Montpellier was 17th in the French league when Rolland Courbis took over the coaching duties on December 9, a few days after Jean Fernandez resigned. The club now sits in 11th place, 10 points above the relegation zone. Only PSG and Lyon have racked up more points than Montpellier since the winter break.
“Rolland has managed to instill a new dynamic and give a lot of confidence to the squad,” Montpellier chairman Laurent Nicollin told the club’s website.
Montpellier visits sixth-place Lyon on Sunday.