Lyon will hope to enact swift revenge when they take on Lille in a league match at the Stade de France here on Saturday, after the northern side knocked the holders out of the French Cup with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday.
The defeat put paid to Lyon’s hopes of a second consecutive domestic double, while their bid for an eighth successive league crown faltered last weekend when a last-minute Jimmy Briand goal saw them held 1-1 at home to Rennes.
“It’s cruel,” Lyon coach Claude Puel said after the last-minute defeat at Lille.
“Three days ago we had the same thing (against Rennes) – a goal conceded in injury time and no time to respond to it. But Saturday will be a different match.”
Saturday’s meeting between the sides is being played at France’s footballing home in a bid to maximise Lille’s profits from gate receipts, but captain Rio Mavuba admits his side’s chances of victory might be better if they played at home.
“Of course we’d prefer to play at home. We have a good record there,” he said, before expressing concern about a Stade de France pitch badly churned up during France’s recent match against Wales in rugby union’s Six Nations tournament.
“I hope it will be in a good state. Our game is based on short passes along the ground, and we feel better on a good pitch.”
Lyon’s draw against Rennes allowed second-placed Paris Saint Germain to close the gap to four points, but the Parisians – French Cup finalists last season – succumbed to a shock 3-1 defeat at third-division Rodez in the cup on Wednesday.
“We have been playing match after match for quite some time now and sometimes a good attitude, desire and effort are not enough,” said PSG coach Paul Le Guen, whose side take on Portuguese outfit Braga in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup on Thursday.
“You have to congratulate the winners but there is also the disturbing aspect because we used up a lot of energy and we have to play again on Saturday night. I’m a bit worried about future games but we will just have to get on with it.”
PSG have mounted their title charge with five wins in their last six matches and will move to within one point of Lyon if they prevail at Lorient on Saturday.
Marseille and Bordeaux, third and fourth respectively, kept in the title hunt with 1-0 wins last weekend – Marseille winning at Caen and Bordeaux securing all three points at home to Lorient.
On Saturday, Marseille host an improving Valenciennes side, who have scrambled off the foot of the table and out of the relegation zone thanks to a nine-game unbeaten streak, while Bordeaux face a challenging trip to fifth-placed Toulouse.
Ligue 1 looks set for a tight relegation battle, with just five points currently separating Lorient in ninth and St Etienne in 19th.
Saturday (1800GMT unless otherwise stated)
Nancy v Le Mans
Grenoble v Caen
Lorient v Paris St-Germain
Marseille v Valenciennes
Nice v Monaco
Toulouse v Bordeaux
Lille v Lyon (2000GMT)
Sunday (1600GMT unless otherwise stated)
Le Havre v Sochaux
Rennes v Auxerre
St Etienne v Nantes (2000GMT)
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