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PSG host Lille in crunch clash, Falcao returns for Monaco

Updated 20 Dec 2013 01:31:52

PSG host Lille in crunch clash, Falcao returns for Monaco

Two points clear going into the final round of games of 2013, Paris Saint-Germain can clinch the symbolic title of autumn champions when they entertain challengers Lille on Sunday.

PSG come into the weekend two points clear of Monaco at the top of Ligue 1, with Lille a further two points adrift in third, so a win for Laurent Blanc's side would open a significant gap to their opponents.

Champions in 2011, Lille have surprisingly emerged as a threat to the current title holders thanks largely to a miserly defence which has conceded just six goals in 18 matches.

Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has been outstanding, but he faces a huge test against a PSG side led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, who together have been one of the most prolific strike pairings in Europe this season.

The duo have scored a collective total of 26 Ligue 1 goals, and 40 in all competitions, with Uruguayan star Cavani netting both in Wednesday's 2-1 win at home to Saint-Etienne in the League Cup.

However, the decisive goal in that game came late in extra time and Blanc's biggest concern will be the fitness of his players against a Lille side who did not play in midweek.

"Of course we would have preferred not to go to extra time but at least we won," Blanc said. "Hopefully the fact that we won will help us recover quicker, even if we used up a lot of energy.

"The League Cup is one of our objectives, even if it is perhaps not the most important one. We are PSG and we want to win every match."

That may sound ominous for Lille, who have not won at the Parc des Princes since April 1996. Meanwhile, PSG are unbeaten in 30 home games since November last year.

"PSG get better as the years go by," admitted Lille's Ronny Rodelin. "They are an impressive side but we must not be afraid. We are capable of competing with them."

While the two sides either side of them prepare to play each other, Monaco could go provisionally top with a win at home to struggling Valenciennes at the Stade Louis II on Friday.

Claudio Ranieri's squad is boosted by the return of nine-goal top scorer Radamel Falcao, who has not played in almost a month due to what his club have described as a minor hamstring injury.

However, Monaco have won all four games in the Colombian's absence and he may have to settle for a place on the bench at kick-off against opponents who lie in the relegation zone, five points from safety.

"He was able to train normally with the squad this week. I'll have to decide. I'm going to see if he'll start or whether he'll begin the game on the bench alongside me," said Ranieri, who has seen Emmanuel Riviere and Anthony Martial perform well together in Falcao's absence.

Marseille will have the chance to leapfrog fourth-placed Bordeaux in the table when they entertain Les Girondins at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday.

There has been a slight improvement in OM's performances since coach Elie Baup was sacked and replaced on an interim basis by sporting director Jose Anigo a fortnight ago, and the latter has now announced that he is likely to remain in the dugout until the end of the season.

"The president is going to take his time to pick a new coach, it could take five months. I'm here until Christmas and I'll be here when we start again," said Anigo after the 2-1 midweek win against Toulouse in the League Cup.

Also on Sunday, Lorient, who have won their last five matches, entertain Lyon in Brittany, with OL on a run of one defeat in 11 in all competitions. The pick of the Saturday games sees Saint-Etienne host Nantes.

Fixtures (kick-offs 1900 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Monaco v Valenciennes (1930 GMT)

Saturday

Saint-Etienne v Nantes (1600 GMT), Bastia v Montpellier, Nice v Evian TG, Reims v Ajaccio, Sochaux v Rennes, Toulouse v Guingamp

Sunday

Marseille v Bordeaux (1300 GMT), Lorient v Lyon (1600 GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Lille (2000 GMT)


AFP

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