5 things to know about the French league
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain can clinch the French league by beating Rennes at home on Wednesday, or in the unlikely event that Monaco loses at home to Guingamp on the same evening.
The matches were rescheduled from the weekend because Rennes and Guingamp were playing in the French Cup final, which Guingamp won 2-0.
PSG, which is looking to win its second straight league title and its fourth overall, leads Monaco by eight points with three games remaining. Here are five things to know about Wednesday’s games.
IBRA’S RENNES RETURN: Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic hopes to make his comeback for PSG against Rennes after a month out with a hamstring injury. Ibrahimovic, who has 40 goals in all competitions, was injured in the Champions League quarterfinals against Chelsea. “I’m feeling better now, I’ve worked hard on the muscle. I hope to play against Rennes — that’s the objective,” he said. Ibrahimovic has two years left to run on his PSG contract, and hinted he would be happy to stay even longer and finish his career with PSG. “If the club still wants me and the whole of France wants me, then I will be here,” the Sweden forward said. “You won’t get rid of me that easily.”
CAVANI’S COMEBACK: After facing some stern criticism following his lackluster performance against Chelsea in the Champions League quarterfinals, Edinson Cavani has bounced back impressively. The Uruguay striker scored both goals in the 2-1 League Cup final win against Lyon, and was at his opportunist best last weekend, controlling a long ball on his chest and volleying home in the 1-1 draw against Sochaux. He was voted the club’s best player for April and has 25 goals in all competitions, including 16 in 29 league games, most of those playing wide on the right rather than in his preferred center-forward’s role.
CUP JOY, RELEGATION FEARS: Guingamp won the French Cup for the second time in five years with a comprehensive win against Brittany rival Rennes, and now both clubs face an anxious battle to avoid relegation. Guingamp is 16th and just one point above the relegation zone. Earning a draw away to second-place Monaco seems a tall order, and coach Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side will then play Toulouse at home before a potentially decisive final game away to improving Marseille. Rennes is 15th, two points above Guingamp and, after the PSG game, has a difficult match against Sochaux to follow. Sochaux is in 18th and in most danger, but has found form at the right time, and will be confident of a win against a Rennes side that has failed to win its past four league games.
RANIERI’S REGRET: Although Monaco has guaranteed second place and an automatic berth in next season’s Champions League, coach Claudio Ranieri is left with a feeling of regret. Monaco has not won a trophy since the 2003 League Cup, and seemed odds on to end that drought in the French Cup, only to lose to Guingamp in a semifinal upset. “My only regret is the Coupe de France, but Guingamp deserved their victory,” Ranieri said. “They are a good side and will be full of confidence after Saturday’s big win at the Stade de France.” Ranieri, whose own future at the club remains uncertain, thinks a title shot was unrealistic this season, especially given striker Radamel Falcao’s season-ending knee injury. “We had 19 players who had never played in Ligue 1 (before), and we only had Falcao for five months,” Ranieri said. “Second place is a great result for the team. We have had a fantastic championship.” Monaco still has a remote chance of winning the league.
POINT PROVED: Some observers doubted whether veteran forward Dimitar Berbatov would be a good signing after joining Monaco from Fulham in January. The former Bulgaria and Manchester United striker has proved those skeptics wrong in emphatic style. Berbatov has four goals in his past three games, including an audacious chip from a narrow angle into the opposite corner in the 1-0 win against Nice. Altogether, he has netted eight times in 13 games, three of them as a substitute when he first joined. Berbatov’s plans for next season are not yet known, since he signed a six-month deal.