Diawara: Three points vital against Lyon
Marseille centre-back Souleymane Diawara has stressed the importance of winning Sunday night's match against Lyon as the Ligue 1 champions look to get their title defence back on track.
Didier Deschamps' side head into the weekend in fifth spot - two points and two places behind their guests - and Diawara acknowledges his team do not want OL to open up a five-point cushion.
The 31-year-old, who as things stand will be suspended on Sunday as he awaits the verdict on his appeal tomorrow, told www.lequipe.fr: "Although there are still many games ahead, there is no question of being left behind. We will do everything to win so that Lyon do not open up a gap over us."
On his own predicament, he said: "I am a competitor and competitors like to play - especially games like this. "Facing a direct competitor, it's exciting. If I do not play, I will be mad. I train normally, without thinking. In your head, you think you're going to play. You never know, so you must be ready. Since the beginning of the week, I have trained hard - like every day."
OM beat Chelsea in their final UEFA Champions League group game last week but have stuttered domestically of late, picking up only two Ligue 1 points from the last nine on offer. Les Gones, on the other hand, have turned their season around after finding themselves 18th after seven games.
"This does not surprise me," added Diawara. "Lyon are Lyon and will always be among the top three. They had some problems early in the season, but in the last ten games they have come back fine - it is anything but a surprise."
Also in the fixture, former Porto team-mates and fellow Argentines Lucho Gonzalez and Lisandro Lopez will face off against each other, but anyone expecting an emotion reuniting of the pair is likely to be disappointed. The Argentina internationals spent four years together at Porto after arriving from their homeland in 2005, winning four straight league titles and two Portuguese cups.
Their fruitful on-pitch relationship came to an end when both left in the summer of 2009, Lisandro joining Lyon and Lucho going to Marseille. Despite having pitched up in the same country, Lisandro says they have not made much effort to stay in touch.
"We never call each other on the telephone. We've got nothing to say to each other anyway," he said. The burly striker did utter a few plaudits about his compatriot, however. "He's a very intelligent player, who is good technically," he added. "He reads the game well."
Leaders Lille kick off four hours earlier against Nancy on Sunday afternoon, but could have been overtaken at the summit by the point by Paris St Germain. The capital club host Monaco - who are only outside of the bottom three on goal difference - on Saturday night only a point off first place and buoyed by having secured top spot in UEFA Europa League Group J with a 1-1 draw at Karpaty Lviv last night.
"We have gone undefeated in this group, which proves we have a very high standard," coach Antoine Kombouare told club website www.psg.fr. "We can compete with the best teams. We will repeat this kind of performance in the last 32. Throughout our European campaign, this squad has realised its potential. What is certain is that today we have tremendous confidence in ourselves."
Fourth-placed Rennes, who this morning completed the sale of defender Rod Fanni to Marseille, will also look to remain firmly in title contention by overcoming 16th-spotted Valenciennes. If Monaco do not cause an upset, they will slip into the drop zone if there is a winner in the relegation scrap between Lens and Caen.
Also on Saturday, sixth-placed Brest travel to Nice, bottom side Arles visit seventh-spotted St Etienne, ninth-placed Montpellier take on Auxerre and mid-table Toulouse and Lorient go head to head. In Sunday's other match, 2009 champions Bordeaux visit Sochaux.