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5 things to know about the French league

December 19, 2013

PARIS (AP) — Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain will be looking to keep top spot in the French league over the winter break when it hosts Lille on Sunday. Newly promoted Monaco can usurp it — at least briefly — with a victory over Valenciennes on Friday.

Here are five things to know ahead of this weekend’s matches:


CAVANI-TASTIC: Edinson Cavani’s two goals on Wednesday in Paris Saint-Germain’s league cup victory over Saint-Etienne improved his tally to 18 in all competitions since his arrival from Napoli in the summer. “He fought hard as he always did,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “And technically I think he had a really, really good game. Cavani has scored in his past four matches for PSG and will hope to do so again when the league leader hosts third-placed Lille on Sunday.

FALCAO RETURN: Star striker Radamel Falcao could make his long-awaited return from injury when second-placed Monaco hosts Valenciennes on Friday. Falcao has missed Monaco’s past four league matches with a thigh injury but is back in training. “Falcao is training normally,” Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri said. “He has recovered well but he hasn’t trained properly for a month. I decide my team the night before the match.” Monaco has won its past four matches without Falcao, with youngster Anthony Martial proving an able understudy.

SAVING SUBASIC: Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama went 1,062 minutes without conceding a goal this season and Monaco shot-stopper Danijel Subasic is on his way to challenging that mark. Subasic is still a long way off but has not let in a goal in 520 minutes, keeping five clean sheets since he was last beaten by Evian’s Daniel Wass. Gaetan Huard holds the record for the longest time without conceding a goal, 1,176 minutes while with Bordeaux during the 1992-93 season. Monaco is second, two points behind PSG.

CARELESS LYON: Lyon let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against Marseille last weekend and almost did the same in the league cup against Reims midweek. It led 2-0 and won only 3-2 thanks to a decisive save by Anthony Lopes two minutes from time. “When you lead by two goals, normally it’s easier to play football,” Yoann Gourcuff said. “But here it’s the opposite. We retreat, we start being timid and allow our opponent to still believe they can do it. It’s a pity. We have the means to have more relaxing ends to matches.” Lyon visits Lorient, which has soared up the table following a run of five successive wins.

CONFIDENCE ISSUES: Marseille is slowly starting to regain its confidence following a poor run of form which led to a change in manager. The team followed last weekend’s draw against Lyon with a 2-1 victory over Toulouse in the league cup. “With a new coach, it’s a new start,” midfielder Florian Thauvin said. “And we’re all listening to what he asks of us.” Marseille dismissed coach Elie Baup following a defeat to Nantes and replaced him with sporting director Jose Anigo until the winter break. “We needed to find a way to reassure the players in the past two matches,” Anigo said. “There is still a lot of work, but it’s already a bit better. They were more organised and coherent on the pitch than against Lyon. I’m happy with the team.” Marseille hosts Bordeaux, which has moved up to fourth in the table after four straight wins.

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