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PSG under pressure to win title after huge outlay

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PARIS (AP) -After buying two of the world's best players and one of the most promising, Paris Saint-Germain has no more excuses left if it fails to win the French league this season.

PSG signed striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Brazil defender Thiago Silva and 19-year-old midfielder Lucas, one of the most sought-after young players in Brazil, as part of ?150 million spent during the offseason.

PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti is now under huge pressure to deliver the first league title since 1994, starting at home against Lorient on Saturday.

"We want to finish first and be competitive in the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "I think we can do it."

Last season, PSG spent more than ?100 million but finished second to a Montpellier team comprised of talented homegrown players, a superb center forward and the odd veteran in one of French football's greatest upsets.

Montpellier faces Toulouse on Friday.

PSG boasted heavy firepower last season, with Brazilian winger Nene tying then-Montpellier forward Olivier Giroud as the league's top scorer with 21 goals.

But the club has moved into a new dimension by signing Ibrahimovic, the top scorer in Serie A last season with 28 goals for AC Milan, to a deal that makes him among the world's wealthiest players.

"Ibrahimovic is one of the best strikers in the world," Ancelotti said. "He is a fantastic finisher and also has immense experience, character and all those other qualities that can help the whole team."

Another impressive move was made in buying Lucas from Sao Paolo in January. Manchester United was keen on him, underlining PSG's massive strength in the transfer market as well as its newfound allure.

Brazilian media estimated Lucas' transfer at about ?43 million.

"The club has made some big transfer signings this summer. That's great news for the team because they will all add something," said midfielder Javier Pastore, who joined PSG from Palermo for ?42 million last year. "PSG can become one of the biggest clubs in the world."

Ibrahimovic, who scored one of the goals of the European Championship with a blistering shot against France, is confident the players will gel.

"This is only the beginning," he said. "The more we play together, the better we will be."

Since Qatari investors QSI took over 14 months ago, PSG has signed five players costing ?20 million or more. Even unheralded Italian midfielder Marco Verratti cost ?10 million - a big outlay for a 19-year-old joining from Pescara, which played in Italy's second division last season.

"I think the club has done a fantastic job this summer," Ancelotti said.

At Lorient, the contrast could not be more pronounced.

The big news has been the arrival of 36-year-old attacking midfielder Ludovic Giuly on a free transfer from Monaco.

Giuly, who played 17 times for France and formerly for Barcelona, Roma and PSG, is the first France international to join the club. Hardly the signing of the century compared to what's happening at PSG.

"If PSG does not win the league, it will be a calamity," Lorient coach Christian Gourcuff said.

In preseason friendlies, PSG drew 1-1 with European champion Chelsea and held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw at home last weekend before losing on penalty kicks.

"It was a very good test," Ancelotti said after the Barcelona game. "I was especially pleased with the movement of our defense."

Meanwhile, Montpellier coach Rene Girard's summer has been largely spent holding on to the club's remaining stars.

After selling Giroud to Arsenal, Montpellier has fended off bids for midfielder Younes Belhanda and highly rated central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who is wanted by AC Milan.

"A lot of things have been said in the press, but for the time being (Yanga-Mbiwa) is with us," Girard said.

Montpellier has used the money generated by Giroud's transfer wisely, bringing in winger Anthony Mounier from Nice, center back Daniel Congre from Toulouse and striker Emanuel Herrara from Chilean side Union Espanola.

Lille, which finished third last season, has also lost key players.

Eden Hazard left Lille to join Chelsea for ?33 million after scoring 20 league goals last season. The season before, Lille sold winger Gervinho to Arsenal, France midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Newcastle and France center half Adil Rami to Valencia.

"It's not easy to lose players every year," captain Rio Mavuba said. "Nobody can replace Eden. We've lost a great player."

Reims, a former six-time French champion and European Cup runner-up to Real Madrid in 1956 and `59, Corsican side Bastia and Troyes are the newly promoted teams.

In Saturday's games, it is: Evian vs. Bordeaux; Nancy vs. Brest; Nice vs. Ajaccio; Rennes vs. Lyon; Saint-Etienne vs. Lille; Sochaux vs. Bastia and Troyes vs. Valenciennes.

Reims hosts Marseille on Sunday.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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