Lille's title push faces plastic poser

Faltering league leaders Lille will be bidding to get their French title challenge back into gear on Sunday when they tackle Lorient on the Brittany side's controversial plastic pitch.

Updated: April 23, 2011 08:52 IST
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Paris: Faltering league leaders Lille will be bidding to get their French title challenge back into gear on Sunday when they tackle Lorient on the Brittany side's controversial plastic pitch.

A 1-1 draw at home to Bordeaux last week saw their advantage cut to just one point by defending champions Marseille who beat Montpellier 2-1.

And the northerners will be keen to regain a comfortable advantage at Lorient as Marseille, who take on Montpellier again in the French League Cup final on Saturday, won't play their next league game against Nice until next Wednesday.

Lille have 59 points from 31 games, one point ahead of Marseille with Lyon, who are six points behind the leaders in third, hosting Montpellier on Wednesday.

Midfielder Florent Balmont, who tore a thigh muscle in Lille's midweek French Cup semi-final win over Nice, will be out for three weeks, but goalkeeper Mickael Landreau admitted their biggest worry was Lorient's artifical pitch.

"It's not something I like. I prefer things to be natural," said Landreau, complaining about the way the ball bounces on the surface.

Coach Rudi Garcia lamented the "lack of harmony" between pitches, adding: "I hope I'll be able to change my mind after these matches (Lorient and Nancy later this season)."

PSG will be looking to continue their fine form at Brest after beating Lyon 1-0 last Sunday for their second consecutive league win to overtake Rennes and go fourth to within a single point of the Champions League places.

A win in Brittany would ensure that the Parisians, who are also through to the French Cup final after beating Angers 3-1 on Wednesday, will go provisionally third before Lyon play Montpellier.

"It's simple, we've never had three consecutive wins in the league and we'd really like to do it," said PSG midfielder Clement Chantome.

"To grab a place in the top three we have to notch up wins particularly against teams with less points."

Midtable Bordeaux host St Etienne, in sixth, with coach Jean Tigana warning they owed it to the fans to perform well after being mocked for their goalless draw at their Chaban-Delmas stadium against now relegated Arles-Avignon.

"The last performance (at home) was really mediocre and I hope that we can show something else," said Tigana.

St Etienne captain Loic Perrin will make his return after six weeks out with a left thigh injury, although coach Christophe Galtier fears he may not play the full 90 minutes.

Rennes face a potentially tricky clash at relegation-threatened Monaco who are just above the relegation places on goal difference.

Monaco's Swedish international defender Petter Hansson warned his side were determined to get back to the form that saw them beat Lille before falling 3-2 in last week's Riveria derby against Nice.

"We have to play this match as if it were a final and do everything we can to win," said Hansson.

Monaco coach Laurent Banide has worries however with defender Adriano and midfielder Thomas Mangani both suspended.

And his injury list is also growing with Romanian striker Daniel Niculae out with a sore hip, joining defenders Djimi Traore (knee), Layvin Kurzawa (thigh), midfielder Papy Mendy (leg) and striker Moussa Maazou (knee).


Sunday (all times 15:00 GMT unless stated)

Auxerre v RC Lens, Bordeaux v St Etienne, Brest v Paris St Germain, Caen v Toulouse, Monaco v Rennes, Nancy v Arles-Avignon, Valenciennes v Sochaux, Lorient v Lille (19:00)

Wednesday (17:00GMT)

Lyon v Montpellier, Marseille v Nice

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