PARIS (AP) — Marseille will be looking to rekindle its slim title hopes when it plays at championship rival Lyon in the French league on Sunday.
Marseille, which is in third place, lost to second-place Lyon 4-1 at home in November. But it can move level on points by winning at Stade Gerland. Striker Andre-Pierre Gignac is desperate to make amends for the humiliating home loss and has also taken heart from French leader Paris Saint-Germain's unexpected loss at Reims last weekend.
Lyon missed the chance to capitalise on PSG's 1-0 defeat when it was held to 1-1 away to Brest, allowing Marseille to make up ground on both teams with a hard-fought win against Troyes. "We got the best result last weekend," Gignac said. "We are going over there to get a win and to make up for the first game. If we pick up three points we'll come back very strongly. PSG are still ahead of us but they lost to Reims, so anything's possible."
Marseille is five points behind PSG, which has qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals and hosts relegation battler Nancy on Saturday. "This is a crucial game for us. Both psychologically and mathematically we can strike a big blow," Marseille defender Rod Fanni said. "Lyon played very well in the first game and had a lot of luck, they hardly had any shots but they all went in. It won't be the same game at all this time."
Lyon could welcome back midfielder Yoann Gourcuff after several weeks out with a groin strain, while Marseille needs Gignac to find his best form. He showed he is getting back on track by grabbing the late winner against Troyes.
However, it was only Gignac's third goal in the past 10 games and the fact he is Marseille's top scorer in the league with only nine goals — 13 behind PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimovic — underlines the problems Marseille has been having in front of goal.
Twelve of Marseille's 15 league wins have been by a one-goal margin, reflecting both a lack of firepower and how threadbare coach Elie Baup's bench is compared to PSG's star-studded squad. Marseille had to sell striker Loic Remy to Queens Park Rangers in January to balance the books, while PSG added Brazil winger Lucas to its already formidable attacking armada.
Ibrahimovic will be confident of adding to his 26 goals in all competitions this season considering Nancy has the worst goal difference in the league. However, Nancy managed to win in Marseille last month and PSG has twice recently lost away from home to teams scrapping against relegation, so coach Carlo Ancelotti will doubtless caution his players against taking Nancy lightly.
Midfielder David Beckham could play for PSG after being kept on the bench throughout Wednesday's 1-1 draw against Valencia. Marseille can hardly afford to slip up, either, as Saint-Etienne, Nice and Montpellier are all pushing hard to close the gap on third place.
Fourth-place Saint-Etienne is two points behind Marseille and travels to play inconsistent Rennes on Friday, while fifth-place Nice hosts sixth-place Montpellier on Sunday. Nice midfielder Valentin Eysseric will miss the match after being sent off in last weekend's defeat away to Saint-Etienne.
Eysseric snapped Saint-Etienne midfielder Jeremy Clement's ankle clean in two with a violent late tackle and has been remorseful ever since, even saying that he could never have forgiven Clement if he had done that to him.
Nice coach Claude Puel told him to take a few days away from training while he collects his thoughts. "He's been deeply affected by Clement's terrible injury and they have been in touch," Puel said. "He's feeling very guilty about it."
In Saturday's other matches, it is: Ajaccio vs. Lorient; Brest vs. Toulouse; Evian vs. Sochaux; Troyes vs. Reims, and Valenciennes vs. Lille. Bordeaux hosts Bastia in Sunday's other game.