Marseille and PSG in race for Christmas bragging rights
With three matches until the Ligue 1 winter break, the enthralling battle between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain promises more twists in the race to be top of the table at Christmas.
Paris: With three matches until the Ligue 1 winter break, the enthralling battle between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain promises more twists in the race to be top of the table at Christmas.
Marcelo Bielsa`s Marseille pacesetters cling to their one point lead over Laurent Blanc`s unbeaten PSG side after both sides were held to a draw on the road in midweek.
The two-time defending champions blew a chance to return to the summit on Wednesday when they were held 1-1 at struggling Lille while Marseille also wasted two points after settling for the same scoreline at Lorient.
PSG host Nantes at the Parc des Princes on Saturday with a chance to at least take temporary possession of top spot before Marseille entertain Metz at the Velodrome 24 hours later.
PSG then travel to Guingamp before hosting Montpellier in their final match before the break, while Marseille are in Monaco on the penultimate weekend and then finish with a home tie against Lille.
Blanc said there were few regrets about the stalemate at Lille during a match in which he gave last season`s Ligue 1 top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic the night off.
"I`m satisfied with the draw because I saw phases of play that I haven`t seen with PSG for a long time," said Blanc.
"In my opinion our play was much more fluid that in previous weeks but of course we`re disappointed not to go top.
"I rested Zlatan because of our schedule. You can`t just come back from this type of injury after seven weeks out," added the former France and Bordeaux coach on the Swede`s return from a heel problem.
"November was a tough month and I have to manage the squad. We wanted to rest Ibra (Ibrahimovic) because he just played three matches in a row and in December we have a series of five matches. We decided early on he would not make the trip to Lille." continued the former centre-half.
Marseille, who held a seven point lead over PSG after 10 of 16 matches this season, can look no further than their away form and a drop in goals from top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac for their stuttering results of late.
Gignac continues to lead the scoring charts on 11 alongside Lyon`s Alexandre Lacazette, but the French international has only found the target once in his last six matches.
"We`ve been creating chances and playing well but our problem has not been playing away from home, it has been a lack of efficiency in front of goal," explained Bielsa. Elsewhere, Saint-Etienne are six points off top after their first home win in 20 years over arch rivals Lyon last Sunday, and a no-nonsense 2-0 win at 2012 champions Montpellier in midweek.
Christophe Galtier`s exciting side can keep the pressure on the top three when they host basement dwellers Bastia on Saturday.
Brittany club and French Cup finalists Rennes, who host Montpellier the same evening, and Bordeaux, who await Lorient at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, are both in the mix just a point behind Saint-Etienne.
Lyon stayed third, a point above Saint-Etienne, after Lacazette`s injury-time winner over Reims on Thursday and they travel to Evian on Sunday.
Last season`s runners-up Monaco open the weekend slate on Friday when they make the short trip to Toulouse, Lens have a chance to escape the relegation zone at home to Lille while Reims entertain Guingamp and Caen meet Nice in Normandy.
Fixtures (all times 1900 GMT unless stated):
Toulouse v Monaco (1930)
Paris Saint-Germain v Nantes (1600), Bordeaux v Lorient, Saint-Etienne v Bastia, Rennes v Montpellier, Caen v Nice
Evian v Lyon (1300), Reims v Guingamp (1600), Lens v Lille (1600), Marseille v Metz (2000)