Fallen French league giants Lyon will face a potential backlash this Saturday when their title-winning credentials face the acid test against derby rivals Saint Etienne.
The last time the sides met, in September, a dominant Lyon succumbed 1-0 to Les Verts. Since then, Claude Puel's men have crashed out of the French Cup, are seven points behind league leaders Lille and finding the goals hard to come by.
Lyon's star striker, Argentinian Lisandro Lopez, helped steer his side to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last season, but this campaign is a different story. Lisandro's last offering came in a 1-1 draw with Marseille last December, while Lyon's last win, a 3-0 home drubbing of Lorient, was nearly a month ago.
For Lisandro's fellow strike partner Bafetimbi Gomis, the turnaround can't come soon enough. "Lyon shouldn't be in the position where we haven't won for a month," said Gomis, who scored a brace in the 3-0 win over Lorient.
For Gomis, Saturday's match arguably has extra importance. The France striker honed his impressive top flight skills with Les Verts before signing for the seven-times consecutive league winners.
Yet the urgency being felt around Stade Gerland means he'll be putting nostalgia to one side at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. "This match is really important because of the massive rivalry between the two clubs, but it's because of our position in the table," added Gomis. "We have to show them respect, especially as they beat us at home in our last meeting. After a mediocre start to the season they're been going well recently."
As well as Saint-Etienne, Marseille, Rennes and Paris St Germain all sit a point or two above Puel's men and all will be looking to capitalise if Lyon slip up.
Marseille face test of resolve
Defending champions Marseille face a Sochaux side still reeling from a shock 2-1 Cup defeat to third division Chambery. But after their own poor display at home against rock bottom Arles last week (1-0), Didier Deschamps' men will be wary, especially as Sochaux boast a solid home record having beaten Rennes 5-1 two weeks ago.
On Sunday Rennes host 14th-placed Nice in a fixture which should, on paper, see the hosts gather all three points while PSG will host struggling Lens looking to emulate their 5-1 Cup victory of early January. The only concern for PSG coach Antoine Kombouare is the absence of influential forward Ludovic Giuly through suspension, while Peguy Luyindula remains doubtful as he recovers from a hip injury.
Whatever happens elsewhere this weekend, Lille will hold on to top spot courtesy of their five-point gap over PSG and Rennes and their six-point cushion over Marseille. The northerners have been beaten only twice this season, their last reverse against visitors Marseille (3-1) last October.
Lille 'keeper Mickael Landreau will reach a milestone Sunday when he plays his 500th match in the French top flight, an achievement he has celebrated by signing a two-year contract extension that will see him at the club till 2014.