5 things to know about the French league
PARIS (AP) — After thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in the Champions League, French league leader Paris Saint-Germain looks in ominous form ahead of its trip to Toulouse on Sunday. PSG is five points ahead of second-place Monaco, which hosts Reims on Friday. Elsewhere, third-place Lille faces Lyon on Sunday. Here are five things to know about the upcoming games.
UNSTOPPABLE IBRA: The worrying news for other teams is that Zlatan Ibrahimovic seems to be getting better the longer the season goes on.
The Sweden forward scored twice in the rout of Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday to take his season’s tally to 34 goals in all competitions, including 10 in six Champions League games.
“Ibra scores goals, it’s no surprise,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “When people ask if he’s going to make the difference, it bothers me a bit. It’s a pretty daring thing to question him.”
Ibrahimovic has scored 19 league goals in 24 matches and, with another 13 games to go, remains on course to match or even beat his 30-goal mark from last season.
Since joining PSG, he has plundered 49 goals in 58 league games and 69 in 81 games overall.
NO REGRETS: Even though Yohan Cabaye has to fight for a first-team place at PSG, he feels it was worth leaving the Premier League for.
“PSG need not envy the biggest teams in England,” said Cabaye, who joined from Newcastle last month and scored his first PSG goal against Leverkusen. “PSG has got some great players.”
Cabaye was Newcastle’s star player and his place in the side was guaranteed. Not so at star-studded PSG.
“It’s never easy to join a team in January, even if I was coming back to France. You have to adapt to your teammates and find your place,” he said. “I’m more confident on the pitch and I think this will liberate me.”
WE WON’T SIT BACK: Toulouse coach Alain Casanova could be forgiven for having nightmares about Ibrahimovic, yet he insists he is not afraid of facing PSG.
Although Toulouse has won only one of its past six games, Casanova remains in upbeat mood.
“It’s not a case of sitting back and soaking up the pressure for 90 minutes,” Casanova said. “Against them it’s a case of being patient, having spells of possession and creating space. You must play!”
Casanova, however, thinks PSG is better than it was last season under former coach Carlo Ancelotti.
“Their teamwork is better, and they have a more competitive spirit,” he said.
NOT A FAN: Not everyone is a fan of PSG — especially someone who plays for bitter rival Marseille.
Marseille winger Florian Thauvin has called into question PSG’s big-spending policy. PSG has four players in its squad who cost more than €40 million ($55 million) each.
“It’s true that they have good players and a great team. But there are no values anymore at PSG— all they talk about is money,” Thauvin said in an interview with Surface football magazine, which comes out on Friday.
Thauvin’s view may be considered somewhat ironic, considering that he boycotted training with his previous club Lille during the offseason to push through a lucrative move to Marseille.
The 21-year-old Thauvin joined on a five-year deal with reports estimating the transfer at €15 million ($19.8 million) — five times the fee Lille paid Bastia for him last year — and he never even kicked a ball for Lille.
NO ABIDAL RIFT: Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri insists there is no rift with veteran center half Eric Abidal.
The 34-year-old was left out of the squad for last weekend’s 2-0 win at Bastia and watched the game from the stands, prompting speculation of a falling-out between coach and captain.
But Ranieri insists it is nothing personal, having previously left star players Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez out of his squad.
“A player has two possibilities: Either he accepts or he doesn’t accept. If he doesn’t accept, he no longer plays,” Ranieri said. “I don’t have a problem with any player.”
Abidal is set to return against Reims.
“He’s going to play,” Ranieri said. “He’s a great captain, he’s recovered well and he’s in good shape.”