PARIS (AP) — David Beckham could finally make his French league debut on Sunday when Paris Saint-Germain hosts Marseille in the country's biggest rivalry.
PSG has been training in Clairefontaine, where the France squad practices before its international matches, instead of using the usual Camp des Loges. Marseille is in third place, five points behind PSG, but would get back in the title race with a victory at Parc des Princes.
PSG conceded three goals for the first time in the league this season by losing at Sochaux 3-2 last weekend. That defeat ended a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions. "After the loss at Sochaux, we are of course going to be more motivated than ever," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti told PSG TV. "This is a 'clasico.' It is a different game. Everyone is focused on this. Every time it's difficult, this kind of game."
PSG may have the more famous players, like Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Marseille plans to compensate with its grit and physical game. "We look forward to that match with some aggression," Marseille midfielder Andre Ayew said. "We must rely on the quality of our game and our commitment. The danger would be to put some pressure on us. We must stay relaxed. We will have to be physically ready for duels. There will be a lot of commitment."
Marseille will miss striker Jordan Ayew through suspension and midfielder Benoit Cheyrou through injury. Up front, it will rely on Andre-Pierre Gignac, Andre Ayew and Foued Kadir. "It's a team that can be defeated as we saw against Sochaux," Andre Ayew said. "It's not impossible to beat them since other teams did it. If we put up a great performance and have a bit of luck, anything can happen."
Despite the fierce rivalry between the two teams, Andre Ayew said that PSG was not just a collection of stars. "They play more as a unit than before," Ayew said. "Little by little, their team has started to gel. I think it's a team that can do a lot damage both in France and Europe."
PSG drew 2-2 with Marseille at Stade Velodrome in October. Ibrahimovic and Gignac scored two goals each. If PSG loses at home, second-place Lyon could go level on points at the top of the league with a victory over Lorient on Sunday.
"We can hope to finish on the podium and tease PSG," Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said. "The season is not over yet." Lyon restored some pride with a 4-0 win at Bordeaux last weekend. It still remains a serious title contender despite loaning four players, including Brazilian winger Michel Bastos, during the transfer window.
Meanwhile, Nice hosts Reims on Friday. The fourth-place team has been the sensation of the league this season with its mix of youngsters, outcasts and underrated players. Renato Civelli and Fabrice Abriel struggled to earn a starting spot at Marseille in 2009. Likewise, Didier Digard did not make a great impression at PSG in 2007-08. But these castaways have contributed to the blossoming of such youngsters as midfielder Valentin Eysseric and forward Neal Maupay.
At the age of 16, Maupay is deputizing for the injured Dario Cvitanich. He scored the lone goal in the 1-0 win at Bastia last weekend. "Nothing surprises me anymore," Nice coach Claude Puel said of Maupay's emergence. "I've already started 16-year-old players. Some have become great players. I hope he'll walk in their footsteps. He's very mature at such a young age. But we also have to be careful and not ask too much from him."
Nice finished 13th last season. The last time Nice made a top-five finish in the top division was in 1976 when it was a runner-up. Also Saturday, it's: Rennes vs. Sochaux; Ajaccio vs. Lille; Evian vs. Montpellier; Nancy vs. Saint-Etienne; Troyes vs. Bastia; and Valenciennes vs. Toulouse.
On Sunday, Bordeaux hosts Brest.