In-form PSG out to maintain momentum
Paris Saint-Germain have no intention of letting the international break derail their Ligue 1 title quest when Bastia travel north to the French capital on Friday.
Wednesday's full slate of international friendlies hardly came at an ideal time for in-form PSG, leaving them with just 48 hours to prepare for the visit of the Corsicans, but Brazilian defender Maxwell elected to portray things in a positive light.
"It's a bit of a strange situation because the changing room is a bit empty. But these are the weeks that allow us to work on the physical side of things to be at an optimum level on Friday," he said.
PSG have collected 22 points from a possible 24, a sequence that has also seen them record eight successive clean sheets to open up a three-point lead over challengers Lyon at the summit.
"We feel very at ease on the pitch and more confident because we have established a more solid style, a true identity, and we work every day to improve it," Maxwell said of the team's upturn in fortunes.
The Parisians demolished Bastia 4-0 in the reverse fixture in September, but the Brazilian stressed the importance of not allowing complacency to settle in at Parc des Princes.
"From experience I know very well that there's no such thing as an easy match. We must be fully concentrated on Friday because Bastia will come here with the hope of getting a result.
"It won't be easy, it will be a test of our motivation, concentration. But we must, above all, take the points. It's essential."
Second-placed Lyon suffered a crippling 3-1 loss at Ajaccio last time out but will seek solace at Stade Gerland, where Remi Garde's side own the league's best home record this term, on Sunday when they host Lille.
Michel Bastos departed for Schalke during the January transfer window, but Lyon were however able to retain the services of Lisandro Lopez despite reported interest from Juventus.
Garde conceded he was glad to draw a line under last month's unsettling rumours and transfer speculation.
"The market doesn't create good working conditions. The players are inevitably a bit distracted. We lost Michel, a player who helped us. Admittedly we didn't strengthen the team by losing a player but the page is turned."
Meanwhile Marseille, who dropped six points off the pace as they crashed to an embarrassing 1-0 home defeat to struggling Nancy last weekend, face another team fighting to preserve their top-flight status in Evian.
Saint-Etienne will vie for a fourth straight win as they entertain title-holders Montpellier, while fourth-placed Bordeaux continue their push for a Champions League spot away to Ajaccio.
Nice and Lorient meet on the Cote d'Azur with both sides looking to bolster their European aspirations with Rennes aiming to do likewise against Toulouse and Brest travelling to Valenciennes.
Nancy, who won just once before the winter break, will eye a third consecutive victory at fellow relegation candidates Reims, as Troyes take on Sochaux in another bottom-half of the table clash.
Fixtures (kick-off times 1900GMT unless otherwise stated):
PSG v Bastia (1930)
Saint-Etienne v Montpellier (1600), Ajaccio v Bordeaux, Nancy v Reims, Troyes v Sochaux, Nice v Lorient, Valenciennes v Brest
Evian v Marseille (1300), Rennes v Toulouse (1600), Lyon v Lille (2000)
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