Ligue 1 Preview: Marseille face Monaco test as PSG look to pick up steam
Reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain will be strongly fancied to see off promoted Guingamp on Saturday but the game of the weekend in Ligue 1 comes 24 hours later when leaders Marseille take on second-placed Monaco.
Laurent Blanc's PSG have flattered to deceive during the early stages of the new season but the coach received the backing of his Qatari paymasters this week after the capital club followed up two draws by recording their first win of the campaign at Nantes last Sunday.
"In any case, it's better than last season when we only had three points after three matches," said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, before veiled criticism of Blanc's predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, who has since departed for Real Madrid.
"Of course, Carlo did a great job here but today even if there are many things to improve, we are playing better football than last season. And that is very important in my eyes," he continued before confirming his confidence in 1998 World Cup winner Blanc.
"To recruit him was an excellent decision. His work is even better than what we expected of him."
Blanc has a near full-strength squad at his disposal for the visit of the Bretons, with Jeremy Menez the only absentee as he works his way back to fitness after a back operation.
While most pundits expected PSG's principle challenge to emerge from Claudio Ranieri's expensively-assembled Monaco side, it has been the mild-mannered Elie Baup who has fashioned three straight wins to lead 2010 champions Marseille to the summit.
The club are embroiled in an unsavoury dispute with Lille over the potential transfer of talented 20-year-old winger Florian Thauvin, who has caused uproar at the northern club after boycotting training in midweek in an attempt to force a move to the Stade Velodrome.
Lille have rejected a 10 million-euro ($13.2m) offer for the under-20 world champion - who only arrived from Bastia in the close season - and threatened to relegate Thauvin to the reserves if he continues to hold out for a transfer.
"It is a gesture that is unacceptable, even deplorable with regard to Lille and French football," fumed Lille general director Frederic Paquet.
Monaco got off to a flying start with six goals and two wins in their opening matches against Bordeaux and Montpellier before a tame 0-0 draw at home to Toulouse, played behind closed doors as punishment for crowd trouble after they won promotion last season.
A win at their southern rivals would see them go a point clear at the top regardless of other results.
Lyon, champions seven years in a row in the last decade, have seen their season badly compromised already after crashing out of the Champions League at the play-off stage in midweek, outclassed 4-0 on aggregate by Spanish side Real Sociedad.
That will cost the club at least 20 million euros in lost revenue while their only consolation is a place in the less lucrative Europa League. This weekend, OL make the short trip to bottom-of-the-table Evian.
It was a bad week all round for French clubs in Europe, with Saint-Etienne and Nice both exiting the Europa League at the play-off stage.
Les Verts will look to put their disappointment behind them when they face Bordeaux on Sunday, before Nice entertain 2012 champions Montpellier in what will be the last game to be played at their old Stade du Ray before they move to their new 35,000-seat Allianz Riviera ground.
Among the other games, Italian coach Fabrizio Ravanelli goes in search of his first victory in charge of Ajaccio away to Sochaux, while Rennes play host to Lille.
Fixtures (all times 18h00 GMT unless stated)
Evian v Lyon (1200), Paris Saint-Germain v Guingamp (1500), Bastia v Toulouse, Lorient v Valenciennes, Reims v Nantes, Rennes v Lille, Sochaux v Ajaccio
Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux (1200), Nice v Montpellier (1500), Marseille v Monaco (1900)
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