Paris (AFP) – Fresh from becoming the first French side to reach a European final since 2004 with their Europa League victory over Salzburg, Marseille turn their attentions back to the fight for a top-three spot in Ligue 1 this weekend.
Rudi Garcia’s men are locked in a fight with Lyon and Monaco for the two Champions League spots behind champions Paris Saint-Germain, with just two points separating the three clubs.
Here are five things to watch out for in Ligue 1 this weekend:
Stumbling Monaco’s threadbare forward line
Monaco will have to make do without injured captain Radamel Falcao as they bid to end a three-match winless streak which has dragged them into the battle for the top three. Falcao will sit out Sunday’s visit to Caen with a thigh injury, while Leonardo Jardim is also missing Keita Balde, Stevan Jovetic and Adama Diakhaby. Those injury woes could mean a full debut for 18-year-old Moussa Sylla in one of Monaco’s biggest games of the season after a dreadful run which was kicked off by the calamitous 7-1 thrashing by PSG.
The player to watch in Ligue 1 at the moment is undoubtedly Lyon’s Memphis Depay. The Dutch forward had an up-and-down start to the season but has exploded into life since scoring a dramatic late winner against Marseille in March. The 24-year-old, who struggled after a big-money move to Manchester United three years ago, has now scored seven goals and assisted six in his last six league matches. A goal against relegation-threatened Troyes on Sunday would take him to 20 in all competitions for the season for the first time since his last campaign at PSV Eindhoven in 2014/15.
Marseille closing on return to big time
Garcia’s revolution is well underway at Marseille, with the former European champions on the brink of a return to the continent’s premier competition. Victory in the Europa League final over Atletico Madrid in Lyon on May 16 would secure a Champions League spot for next season, but Monaco’s recent slump has also boosted their chances of qualifying through Ligue 1. Marseille have not played in the Champions League since losing all six of their group-stage matches in 2013, but Rolando’s extra-time strike in Salzburg on Thursday kept them fighting on two fronts, and they host Nice in the pick of the weekend’s matches on Sunday.
Lille facing embarrassing relegation
Like Marseille, Lille went into this season expecting a revival after an influx of new players under Marcelo Bielsa, but instead face the ingnominy of dropping out of the top flight for the first time since being promoted in 2000. Argentinian Bielsa has been locked in a bitter legal battle with the club since being sacked last December, while the team has never managed to get out of trouble. Christophe Galtier’s side head to fellow strugglers Toulouse knowing that defeat would leave their fate out of their own hands. Lille sit second-bottom in the table, two points adrift of 17th-placed Toulouse and behind Troyes, who occupy the relegation play-off place, on goal difference.
Les Verts’ recovery
In February Saint-Etienne were fighting to avoid the drop, but head into their clash with Bordeaux in fifth place and leading Nice and Rennes by one point in the race for the Europa League. They are unbeaten in 13 league matches, having won just once in their previous 13 outings.
Ligue 1 fixtures on Sunday (all times GMT)
Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux (1300), Lyon v Troyes (1430), Caen v Monaco, Dijon v Guingamp, Metz v Angers, Nantes v Montpellier, Rennes v Strasbourg, Toulouse v Lille (all 1500), Marseille v Nice (1905)