Marseille look for Lille lapse to boost title bid

French league champions Marseille are refusing to give up hope of defending their title, but admit they could be at the mercy of Lille losing their grip in the run-in.

Updated: April 08, 2011 09:44 IST
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Paris: French league champions Marseille are refusing to give up hope of defending their title, but admit they could be at the mercy of Lille losing their grip in the run-in.

Lille hold a four-point advantage on Didier Deschamps' side and, with nine games remaining, continue to defy rivals and pundits alike during what has been a steady march towards a first league crown in 53 years.

To perhaps a lesser extent, Marseille know what it's like to get reacquainted with glory. Before their 2010 triumph the 1993 European Cup winners last won the league crown in 1993, being stripped of the honour afterwards due to a match-fixing scandal.

Deschamps's side are favourites to take all three points at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday when they host mid-table Toulouse. And the former France captain stressed they can't afford to make any slip-ups - unless Lille make blunders of their own.

"For the moment Lille are maintaining such a solid pace that it's hard for anyone to overtake them," Deschamps said after their 1-0 wins over Lens.

"We don't want to have any regrets (at the end of the season) and that means we must keep on winning games. Lille are masters of their own destiny. If they keep on winning, there's very little we can do about it."

After fellow title contenders Rennes, Lyon and Paris Saint Germain were all held last week Marseille and Lille were touted as the only remaining title-chasers. Third-placed Rennes are seven points off the pace on 51 points, with Lyon on 50 and PSG with 46.

Lille have a great chance to reinforce their title credentials when they travel to Monaco on Saturday looking to take advantage of the Principality side's poor form of late.

Struggling down in 18th place, Monaco lost their last home game, to 12th placed Nancy, two weeks ago. But that means they are unlikely to give anything away cheaply on Saturday.

"We have to keep winning," said Monaco coach Laurent Banide after last week's 2-0 away win at bottom side Arles-Avignon.

"We're going through hard times so taking three points has given us a huge boost as we prepare for the final sprint."

Banide will be wary of a Lille side which has shown few signs of weakness this season. Lille are also at full strength, having welcomed back defender Adil Rami after he suffered a collarbone knock in the France v Croatia friendly last month.

What's more, Rudi Garcia's side can look forward to a comparatively light run-in to the title. They don't face any of the top six teams until they travel to Paris Saint Germain for the 37th and penultimate game of the season.

PSG are also in action on Saturday, but despite Caen's modest pedigree the Parisians won't be taking their Norman opponents lightly - especially as they are searching for their first league win since a 2-1 victory over Toulouse at the end of February.

Uncertainty surrounds the availability of influential PSG striker Guillaume Hoarau, who did not play in the scoreless draw against Lorient last week due to a knee sprain.

Rennes meanwhile have dropped points in their last three league games and will be looking to make amends in the Breton derby at Brest, who sit 13th and 23 points behind Lille.

Lyon, who sit fourth eight points off the leading pace, will be looking to make amends of their own when they host second-from-bottom Lens.


Saturday (all 18 GMT unless stated)

Auxerre v Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux v Arles-Avignon, Caen v Paris SG, Lorient v Sochaux, Monaco v Lille, Valenciennes v Nancy, Brest v Rennes (2000 GMT)

Sunday (all 1600 GMT unless stated)

Marseille v Toulouse, Montpellier v Nice, Lyon v Lens (2000 GMT)

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