PSG look to keep distance from Lille, Monaco
After criticising his team for a flat performance in the Champions League in midweek, Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc will be expecting much better when Nice visit the Parc des Princes on Saturday.
PSG missed out on the chance to seal qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League after drawing 1-1 with Anderlecht on Tuesday, but the result did ensure that they remain unbeaten in all competitions this season and now they will look to maintain a gap down to Lille and Monaco at the top of the Ligue 1 standings.
It is nearly a year since the club from the capital lost a home game, and they should on paper have enough to beat mid-table Nice, who have lost three of their last four matches.
Blanc is expected to welcome back Edinson Cavani, who has scored nine league goals this season but missed the Anderlecht encounter due to a minor injury, while skipper Thiago Silva should also feature after returning from more than a month out in the midweek draw.
"I wanted him to participate but I had hoped he would do so in different circumstances," said Blanc.
"But if we wanted him to play against Nice, he needed to come on against Anderlecht."
Nice have problems in goal, with Colombian international David Ospina missing for six weeks with a knee injury and his regular back-up Mouez Hassen also missing.
As a result, the 22-year-old Luca Veronese will make his Ligue 1 debut between the posts.
Monaco will be looking to bounce back from last week's 2-0 loss at Lille -- their first defeat of the league campaign -- when they host Evian at the Stade Louis II on Friday.
Last week's result saw them fall three points behind PSG and down into third place, but they remain on course for their stated aim of Champions League qualification and coach Claudio Ranieri is confident they will get back on track against an Evian side on a run of three straight wins in all competitions.
"There are lots of ups and downs in a season, but I think we will put in a good performance," said the veteran Italian.
"The current criticism of us is fair. It is impossible for Monaco to perform as we did at the start of the season right through to the end of the campaign. Only PSG can think about winning everything."
Lille are in second place and on Saturday they go to Guingamp, who have not lost at home since the opening day of the campaign.
The northern club have been the surprise package of the season so far, having initially been tipped to endure a campaign of transition following the summer departure of coach Rudi Garcia.
Under Garcia's replacement Rene Girard -- the coach of Montpellier's title-winning team in 2012 -- Lille have emerged as one of the meanest sides in any of Europe's major leagues, letting in just four goals all season and none in their last seven outings.
However, this weekend could prove to be a test of their squad depth with Florent Balmont out injured and joining fellow midfielders Marvin Martin and Idrissa Gueye on the sidelines.
On Sunday, Marseille will attempt to put their Champions League exit behind them and claim a first win in eight games when they entertain Sochaux before Saint-Etienne host Lyon in the Rhone derby.
Remarkably, Lyon have not lost away to Les Verts since April 1994 but their recent form has been poor and they have goalkeeping problems, with Anthony Lopes out after breaking two bones in his back last weekend and Remy Vercoutre only just working his way back to fitness after being out since April with a knee injury.
Fixtures (kick-offs 1900 GMT unless stated)
Monaco v Evian-Thonon-Gaillard (1930 GMT)
Paris Saint-Germain v Nice (1600 GMT), Bastia v Rennes, Guingamp v Lille, Lorient v Reims, Toulouse v Ajaccio, Valenciennes v Montpellier
Bordeaux v Nantes (1300 GMT), Marseille v Sochaux (1600 GMT), Saint-Etienne v Lyon (2000 GMT)
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