Sides prepare for cup semi-finals

Stuttering French league leaders Lille will bid to put their worrying recent form behind them when they travel to Nice in the French Cup semi-finals tomorrow.

The success-starved northern club, who have not lifted any silverware since their mid-1950s heyday, have seen a four-point lead whittled down to an advantage of just a single point in recent weeks.

The most recent setback was a 1-1 draw at home to Bordeaux on Saturday, which enabled second-placed defending champions Marseille to close the gap by winning 2-1 at Montpellier.

The draw with Bordeaux followed on from a 1-0 defeat at relegation candidates Monaco and in Nice they face a team who have banished their own relegation fears with an eight-game unbeaten run.

We now have an almost historic encounter, with the objective of going to Stade de France. We'll need all our powers to go and win at Nice.
Rudi Garcia, Lille coach

"Why should we be worried?" asked Lille coach Rudi Garcia after the draw with Bordeaux. "Just as Monaco was a non-performance, Bordeaux are a good team with good players. We now have an almost historic encounter, with the objective of going to Stade de France. We'll need all our powers to go and win at Nice."

Nice's recent run, featuring a 2-0 win at Saint-Etienne and a 2-2 draw at home to Lyon in which they scored twice in injury time, has lifted them from just above the drop-zone to the relative security of 12th place.

A 3-2 victory over Mediterranean rivals Monaco on Saturday moved them four points clear of the relegation places, allowing them to focus on their bid to reach a first major final since the 2006 League Cup.

"Victory in the derby represents a great operation," said Nice midfielder Anthony Mounier. "We really enjoyed it. It was the best way to prepare for Lille's visit."

Angers host holders PSG
Wednesday's second last-four tie sees Ligue 2 Angers, who lost 6-3 to Toulouse in the final of the 1957 competition, host holders Paris Saint-Germain, 1-0 victors against Monaco in last season's final.

PSG produced a superb performance to beat Lyon 1-0 yesterday, moving them to within a point of their third-placed opponents in the battle for the third and final UEFA Champions League qualifying berth.

Antoine Kombouare's team are emerging from a six-game winless streak that saw them eliminated from the UEFA Europa League by Benfica and slip off the pace in the title race, and centre-back Mamadou Sakho says they must stay focused.

"We're not getting carried away," said the 21-year-old France defender. "We'll stay concentrated to try and string victories together. Starting on Wednesday at Angers in the French Cup, where we'll do everything to reach the final."

The winners of the two ties will meet in the final in Paris on 14 May.