Lille in wake of PSG hangover
Paris Saint-Germain coach Antoine Kombouare expects a "huge reaction and a win against Lille" on Sunday night following his team's UEFA Europa League exit last night.
The big-spending capital club crashed out of Europe's second-tier competition despite ending their Group F campaign with a 4-2 triumph over group winners Athletic Bilbao, and Kombouare anticipates a positive response against the Ligue 1 champions.
"It's a huge disappointment because we were good enough to get through," Kombouare said on PSG's website. "Now we have to keep moving forward and draw on this victory. It's a third consecutive victory and that's the best possible way to prepare for the Lille match on Sunday.
"It was a fiercely contested match that Bilbao wanted to win at all costs. I congratulated the players for the win. Now we have to get over the disappointment of being eliminated and focus on Sunday's game. I'm expecting a huge reaction and a win against Lille."
Lille head to the Parc des Princes in third spot in the league standings, two points behind leaders Montpellier and PSG.
Rene Girard's Montpellier, meanwhile, who sit top of the pile on goal difference, can re-establish a three-point cushion over Kombouare's side by beating sixth-placed Toulouse on Saturday. Montpellier's 1-0 defeat at Valenciennes last weekend, and PSG's 1-0 win at Sochaux, allowed the Parisians to move level on points at the summit, prompting Girard to play down his team's title hopes.
"I always said that PSG were the favourites this season and that has not changed," Girard said. "We cannot worry about PSG. They have other means than us - both financial and sporting."
Indeed, Girard believes there will be a five-way title race in the second half of the campaign. "There is also Lyon, Lille and Marseille, although Marseille are a little behind at the moment," he added.
Fourth-placed Lyon can climb provisionally above Lille by overcoming midtable Evian to the Stade Gerland on Saturday. Midfielder Maxime Gonalons will find himself up against a couple of familiar faces this weekend and is wary of the threat posed by the promoted visitors.
"I'm already familiar with [Evian midfielder Eric] Tie Bi from his time at Lyon. And then there is Sidney Govou. He is revered at OL. He is very humble. As for the team, we know they have done well and made great strides. The club has recruited well and is ambitious."
Marseille eye year-end high
Marseille defender Djimi Traore has called on his side to round off a disappointing first half of the season with two victories, starting against Lorient at the Stade Velodrome on Saturday. Didier Deschamps' side ground out a 0-0 draw against Bordeaux last weekend to climb to eighth in the standings.
Traore told the club's website: "The next two games are very important to us. We want to end the year on a high. There are six points to play for and we will try to get the maximum points before the break. We will give everything. It is good to be heading in the right direction in the standings. We must win on Saturday against Lorient and then we have one last match in Nancy."
Also on Saturday, two of the bottom four go head to head when Nice take on Valenciennes, while Caen take on third-bottom Nancy, seventh-placed Saint-Etienne visit Dijon and Brest face Auxerre.
In other games on Sunday, Bordeaux will host Sochaux and bottom-placed Ajaccio are set to take on Rennes.