Soccer

5 things to know about the French league

PARIS (AP) — Here are five things to know about this weekend's games in the French league:

(TAX) BREAK

French President Francois Hollande faces a grilling next week from representatives of French clubs angry at proposals to implement a 75 percent tax law for those who earn more than 1 million euros ($1.35 million) per year — which is a lot of football players.

Hollande is scheduled to meet club directors at the Elysee Palace next Thursday.

Hollande has vowed to reign in what he said was excessive executive pay out of step with the struggling economy.

It has been met with a furious response from France's professional clubs, angered at this super-tax on player salaries.

"For the past 18 months, professional football has been fighting, without being listened to, against the 75 percent tax proposal, which is not only unjust and discriminatory but also puts in danger the competitiveness and the survival of clubs," the clubs' union said in a statement.

"The consequences of this measure are dramatic," the UCPF added. "This new tax follows on from the abolition of the collective image rights, which costs French clubs 50 million euros ($69 million) every year. Enough is enough: France can't be the only country that taxes loss-making businesses."

FINGER POINTING

Divisions have appeared in Lyon's dressing room following a terrible run of form and the finger of blame has been pointed at the young players.

Six homegrown players started last weekend's 1-1 draw against Bordeaux — and two more came off the bench. The lack of experience was glaring, with Mehdi Zeffane playing in only his second career match and fellow defender Naby Sarr making his debut.

There have been arguments in training between younger players and captain Maxime Gonalons.

"The blame is put on the youngsters, but for me everyone's to blame," 19-year-old forward Yacine Benzia told Canal Plus television. "There's a lack of communication between the senior players and the youngsters. Rather than dragging the team up, everyone is staying in their corner and I think that's why the dressing room is divided."

Lyon has won only once in its past 12 games. It won its first four games of the season but was then eliminated from Champions League qualifying 4-0 on aggregate by Real Sociedad.

"We put so much into these games that the two defeats really hurt our morale," Benzia said.

MIND THE GAP

All but eliminated from the Champions League, Marseille is already slipping behind Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco in the title race.

After 10 matches, Marseille is seven points behind league leader PSG and five behind second-place Monaco.

"In everybody's opinion, there is a gap between Paris and Marseille," Marseille captain Steve Mandanda told sports daily L'Equipe in a recent interview. "Of course it bothers me, I don't want to be far back from PSG."

Marseille won the title in the 2009-10 season but is going through a rebuilding process as it tries to balance the books financially.

"We have no other choice to live in the present," he said. "Even if Paris and Monaco are largely above (us), Marseille nevertheless has the quality and the ambition to get third place."

Marseille has lost all three matches so far in the Champions League.

CONTRACT TALKS

PSG is still trying to get midfielder Blaise Matuidi to sign a new contract through 2018.

The 26-year-old Matuidi has matured into one of PSG's key players and his contract runs out next June.

The matter has become more complicated because Matuidi broke ties with his former agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes — who is coach Laurent Blanc's longtime agent. Bernes is demanding 8.5 million euros ($ million) in damages and the matter is set to go before a tribunal next month.

Matuidi is reportedly eager to team up with the highly influential Mino Raiola — Zlatan Ibrahimovic's agent.

PSG risk losing Matuidi on a free transfer as the France international can sign a pre-contract agreement with a new club in January.

Matuidi's partnership in the middle with Thiago Motta is the bedrock of PSG's team, and Blanc will not want to see him go.

HOW'S ZLAT?

Spare a thought for Saint-Etienne's defenders: they have to face Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday.

Saint-Etienne proved somewhat of a thorn in PSG's side last season, winning 2-1 away, rallying to draw 2-2 at home and knocking the big-spenders out of the League Cup quarterfinals.

But Ibrahimovic is in such splendid form that past results will likely count for nothing.

The Sweden striker has scored 10 goals in his past five games — including four goals in the 5-0 win at Anderlecht on Wednesday.

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