5 things to know about the French LeagueBy JEROME PUGMIRE , Associated Press
Mar. 27, 2014 7:56 AM ET
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain is coasting toward a second straight French title and is 10 points ahead of second-place Monaco with eight matches remaining. Only a monumental slip up will prevent coach Laurent Blanc winning the league title for the second time, after his success with Bordeaux in the 2008-09 season. PSG travels to play Nice on Friday night, giving it plenty of time to recover for a massive midweek Champions League game against Chelsea. Monaco, which is at Evian on Saturday, has a nine-point lead over third-place Lille, which hosts Guingamp on Sunday. Elsewhere, Lyon faces Saint-Etienne in their battle for fourth spot.
Here are five things to know about this weekend's games.
With a Champions League quarterfinal coming up next week, PSG coach Laurent Blanc may rest some of his stars and pick some fringe players against Nice.
Winger Jeremy Menez is unlikely to be one of them, however, after criticizing Blanc this week.
Menez has started only three matches since the turn of the year and is out of contract at the end of the season.
He fell out with Blanc in October when he stormed off to the dressing room before the end of a Champions League game against Benfica, when he found out he was not coming on as a substitute. Blanc then left him out of his squad for the next game against Marseille.
"Competition doesn't scare me. It's part of the job. But I think a lot of people have seen that at times the competition wasn't always so healthy at PSG. Even giving your all was never enough," Menez told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, adding that he preferred playing under former coach Carlo Ancelotti. "Ancelotti is closer to the players and he makes you feel important. Blanc has a different style of handling the club."
Menez got a one-game ban for using inappropriate language toward his own goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, playing for France during the European Championship two years ago — when Blanc was the coach.
Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri is embroiled in a rift with Eric Abidal after his club captain walked out of the stadium when he was dropped from the squad for the home game against Lille last weekend.
Ranieri expected him to take his seat in the stands and asked Abidal to explain why he left without giving a reason.
After the game, which finished 1-1, Abidal tweeted "match nul ce soir" - which means "we drew the match tonight." However, the word "nul" also means "rubbish" and his comment could otherwise be interpreted as "rubbish match tonight."
To make matters worse, Abidal's agent David Venditelli, said the 34-year-old Abidal had been shown "a real lack of respect" by Ranieri, who has left him out several times this season.
"Oh, really? It's me who didn't respect him and not him who didn't respect us?" Ranieri retorted. "The captain should always stay with his team. If his agent wants to come and talk to me I'll explain to him what respect means."
Marseille coach Jose Anigo has blasted some of his players for putting their personal interests first and forgetting what it means to play for France's most successful club.
Last weekend's 1-0 home defeat to struggling Rennes was a third loss in the past four league games, leaving Marseille in sixth place and 10 points behind third spot and a place in next season's Champions League qualifying rounds.
"Those who have the World Cup in mind as a personal objective or who want to join a big European club had better finish the season well," Anigo said Wednesday in an interview with L'Equipe. "I'm not sure their current performances will have impressed many scouts."
Marseille won the Champions League in 1993 — the only French side to do so — and has won the league title nine times.
"I get the impression some of the players aren't really aware of who they're playing for, what the Marseille shirt means, and the demands that come with wearing it," Anigo said.
Marseille's fans are quick to turn on the players but Anigo thinks they should toughen up.
"Jeers shouldn't stop you from running and jumping," Anigo said. "Sometimes you can lose a game having given everything. ... But against Rennes they gave up and that bothers me."
Valenciennes remains in the relegation zone after throwing away victory last weekend and president Jean-Raymond Legrand is adamant that several players will pay.
Valenciennes, which is in 18th place, led 2-1 against last-place Ajaccio before the Corsican side scored twice in the last three minutes.
"I'm not going to give names but let's say that those responsible have been identified," Legrand said. "I think a few of them will end up on the bench against Montpellier" on Saturday.
Legrand clearly feels that some players don't care enough about avoiding relegation.
"When you're winning a few minutes from the end in a match that's so important for the club's future, then you stick together and you don't mess around," he said. "Obviously there are some players who don't feel like giving 100 percent."
BROTHERS FACE OFF
Andre and younger brother Jordan Ayew used to combine regularly for goals when they both played for Marseille.
On Saturday they will face each other when Sochaux takes on Marseille.
The 22-year-old Jordan, who is on loan at Sochaux, returns from suspension to lead the attack for a team anchored in 19th place and battling to avoid relegation.
Marseille is also out of form — scoring once in the past four games — and needs Andre to find his form again. Andre, who is two years older than Jordan, has scored only two league goals in 17 games — way below his level from previous years.