PSG out to avoid further bumps on title road
THIS WEEKEND BUT GIVEN RECENT TROUB, France, May 10, 2013 (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain could wrap up a first French title since 1994 this weekend, but given recent troubles they may be expecting further bumps in the road as they travel to Lyon on Sunday.
PSG could have sealed the deal a week ago, and given they were hosting mid-table Valenciennes, they could have been forgiven for putting the champagne on ice.
Yet that turned into an unexpected banana skin, and not just because the champions-elect dropped two points.
They lost centre-back Thiago Silva to a red card before half-time and saw five players booked as they needed a late leveller from Alex to snatch a share of the spoils.
What's more, sporting director Leonardo got himself into hot water with an apparent shove on referee Alexandre Castro in the tunnel after the game, leading to a temporary ban.
That came just a week after PSG had both Marco Veratti and David Beckham sent-off in an ill-tempered 1-0 victory at relegation-threatened Evian before goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu also saw red after the final whistle.
Although Beckham will be back to face Lyon, Sirigu and Veratti are still banned for another match, while Silva must sit out two games.
Leonardo, who has protested his innocence and claims to have been pushed into Castro, will also be absent as Champions League chasing Lyon look to stall the Parisians' title party for another week at least.
Taking on Remi Garde's team with several first choice players missing is far from ideal for PSG, particularly as their opponents have important objectives to play for.
Lyon currently hold third place, the final Champions League qualifying position, but travel to fourth-placed Nice in a week.
If they drop points to PSG, they could risk falling out of the top three altogether should they lose to former coach Claude Puel's side next week.
Lyon have been in inconsistent form recently, winning three of their last four, although having lost three on the bounce before that.
Should PSG win they will definitely secure a third league title but they might already be champions if Marseille lose at home to Toulouse on Saturday.
Carlo Ancelotti's side have a seven-point lead with only nine points still up for grabs. If the southern giants draw then a point would be enough for PSG too, while a defeat for Marseille would hand the title they last won 2010 to their bitter rivals.
It would take a remarkable collapse for PSG not to be crowned champions and Lyon are only four points behind Marseille in the race for direct qualification for the Champions League group stages next season.
Even so, Marseille coach Elie Baup refused to say who he would be cheering for on Sunday.
"Our worry is to keep concentrated on the (Toulouse) match. We have to be ready because the finishing line is not far," he said.
"First things first, we have to succeed in our match against Toulouse. They've just had a great performance (in beating Lille 4-2)."
Lille's defeat last week hurt their Champions League qualification chances, leaving them six points behind Lyon.
Nice, who trail Lyon by three points, and Saint-Etienne, a point further back, look to be the only two remaining threats to a top three finish. They travel to Evian and Lorient respectively.
Fixtures (times in GMT):
Lille v Reims (1830)
Marseille v Toulouse (1500), Ajaccio v Troyes, Bastia v Montpellier, Bordeaux v Nancy, Brest v Sochaux, Valenciennes v Rennes (all 1800)
Lorient v Saint-Etienne (1200), Evian v Nice (1500), Lyon v Paris Saint-Germain (1900)
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