5 things to know about the French leagueBy JEROME PUGMIRE , Associated Press
Feb. 13, 2014 9:32 AM ET
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain will be confident of a home win against Valenciennes on Friday night to keep the pressure on second-place Monaco ahead of its trip to play improving Bastia on Saturday. PSG leads Monaco by five points. Lille, in third place three points ahead of Saint-Etienne, travels to Evian while Saint-Etienne faces fifth-place Marseille in Sunday's games. Here are five things to know about this weekend's games.
A TIMELY REST
PSG coach Laurent Blanc may rest key players against Valenciennes to keep them fresh for next week's Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen.
PSG conceded a late goal against Monaco when the title rivals drew 1-1 last weekend and then almost lost the game.
"The team is not tired physically, but mentally. We need to get a bit of mental freshness back," Blanc said Thursday. "I don't think it will be the same team that played against Monaco."
Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been hampered by a sore back in recent weeks and Blanc hinted he would not start at Parc des Princes but rather "he should play some part in the game."
Blanc wants his players in tip-top shape to face the Germans away from home on Tuesday night.
"Physically speaking the Germans will be ready, that's for sure," Blanc said. "It's not a coincidence that there were two German clubs in the Champions League final last year."
Monaco's new signing Dimitar Berbatov is pushing for a starting place against Bastia after coming off the bench to get the winner against Nice in the French Cup.
The 33-year-old Berbatov came on midway through the second half and scored with a poacher's finish deep into extra time in a 1-0 win.
"It's good for him. Scoring goals is what he can bring to us," Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri said. "He played between the lines and that's very difficult to do."
Teammate Jeremy Toulalan is in no doubt that Berbatov can boost the team's title ambitions.
"He's an excellent player with outstanding technique," Toulalan said. "Of course he's not going to make long runs into space and defend, but he's a cut above the rest."
GIGNAC ON TRACK
Marseille is hopeful that top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac will be fit to face Saint-Etienne.
Gignac scored his 11th league goal of the season in last Saturday's 3-0 home win against Bastia but limped off early in the second half with a strained hamstring.
Encouragingly for Marseille, the 28-year-old Gignac returned to full training on Thursday morning and was "very active," the club said, adding that "he showed a lot of poise in front of goal when volleying in crosses."
That is bad news for Saint-Etienne, considering that Gignac has scored 11 goals in the past 11 games in all competitions.
WHO AM I PLAYING FOR?
Right back Sebastien Corchia is in form, fully fit and ... not playing for anyone.
The 23-year-old Corchia, a regular France under-21 international, left struggling Sochaux to join Lille midway through last month's transfer window.
But the DNCG — the French football league's financial watchdog — has yet to validate the four-and-a-half-year contract because it considers Lille's salary mass to be too high, and is still reviewing the case.
As the matter drags on, Lille has even consulted the French Olympic Committee, which sometimes acts as a mediator in such matters.
If the deal is not approved, Corchia may have to go back to Sochaux where — rather than fighting for a European place — he would be in a relegation battle once more.
Lyon may not be the force it was in French football, yet in terms of forming players it has a lot to be proud of.
The seven-time French champion is in sixth place and off the pace for a European place next season, but only Barcelona has more home-grown players currently playing in Europe's top five leagues: England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
A total of 31 players formed at Lyon play in those leagues (14 of them for Lyon), compared with 44 for Barcelona (16 of whom are still in the squad).
Lyon's total puts it level with Real Madrid, which counts seven home-grown players in its squad.