Lyon put unbeaten run on line in derby
A resurgent Lyon will be looking to extend their impressive unbeaten run in Ligue 1 when they make the short trip to face great rivals Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Paris: A resurgent Lyon will be looking to extend their impressive unbeaten run in Ligue 1 when they make the short trip to face great rivals Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Hubert Fournier`s side have recovered from a poor start to the campaign by going 10 games unbeaten since the beginning of September to climb to third in the table, four points off top spot coming into the weekend.
And while the two local rivals are as closely-matched as they have been for many years, Lyon may be slight favourites as they make the 60-kilometre trip to take on Les Verts at the Stade Geoffory-Guichard, where they have won on each of their last seven visits.
Under former Lyon assistant coach Christophe Galtier, Saint-Etienne finished above OL last season for the first time since 1993 and are unbeaten in their last five league outings.
However, they have been struggling badly to score goals this season and will have just 72 hours to recover for the game after Thursday`s Europa League clash with Qarabag of Azerbaijan.
Indeed, an overdue return to continental competition has dominated the thoughts of Galtier this season, and before the clash with Qarabag he said: "We have not been used to playing in Europe and we dream of going further in the competition."
In contrast, Lyon`s early European exit has allowed them to prepare peacefully for the 109th derby, and they will welcome back talented youngster Nabil Fekir after a ban, although the injury-plagued Yoann Gourcuff is again set to miss out.
Leaders Marseille entertain Nantes at the Stade Velodrome on Friday evening as the best attack in Ligue 1 host the side with the best defence.
Nantes are fourth in the table after a fine run of nine games without defeat but OM coach Marcelo Bielsa will welcome back several key players, including Nicolas Nkoulou, Alaixys Romao and Jeremy Morel.
"They are a team who are difficult to break down and who defend very well with a sharp sense for hitting on the counter-attack," said Bielsa, who will again be without Andre Ayew, of the Canaries.
Marseille begin the weekend a point clear of champions Paris Saint-Germain, who are still unbeaten this season and will be searching for a ninth straight win in all competitions when they play host to Nice in the capital on Saturday.
PSG, who beat Ajax 3-1 in the Champions League in midweek with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring his first club goal since returning from almost two months on the sidelines with a heel injury, could welcome back Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta and captain Thiago Silva from injury.
Fifth-placed Bordeaux are at home to a Lille side who have gone nine games without a victory and are bound to be feeling the effects of a long trip to Russia to play FC Krasnodar in the Europa League on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Monaco will go into their match at in-form Rennes buoyant after a remarkable 1-0 success at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
Rennes, who are two points above Monaco in seventh place, have not lost in seven matches and will be fresher without the demands of European football to deal with but their coach Philippe Montanier has played down the Brittany side`s prospects.
"They have the squad to deal with playing so many games. They are a Champions League team and it will be extremely difficult for us," he said.
Among other games, Bastia travel to Reims after the Coriscans` interim coach Ghislain Printant was confirmed in the job until the end of the season on Thursday.
That news came on the same day that their Brazilian striker Brandao was sentenced to a month in prison by a Paris court for headbutting PSG`s Thiago Motta at the end of a game in August.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1900GMT unless stated)
Marseille v Nantes (1930GMT)
Paris Saint-Germain v Nice (1600GMT), Caen v Montpellier, Lens v Metz, Reims v SC Bastia, Rennes v Monaco, Toulouse v Lorient
Bordeaux v Lille (1300GMT), Evian v Guingamp (1600GMT), Saint-Etienne v Lyon (2000GMT)