Ligue 1 preview: Lyon bid to dent PSG’s title charge

Next up for all conquering PSG in Ligue 1 this weekend are old foes Lyon, who will have the tough task of trying to dent the league leader's title charge. Unbeaten PSG are on a high after qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League this week.

Ligue 1 preview: Lyon bid to dent PSG's title charge
Can Lyon stop unbeaten PSG? Photo: Frank Perry/AFP

Lyon face the mammoth task of halting the progress of French highfliers Paris Saint-Germain in Parc des Princes on Sunday as the focus turns back from Europe to Ligue 1 action.

The Parisians are riding a wave of confidence on all fronts after advancing to the Champions League knock-out round at home on Wednesday.

The big-spending Ligue 1 leaders are now unbeaten in 35 games in all competitions, and host former French giants Lyon, sitting seventh, who ply their trade in the less lucrative Europa League these days, qualifying for the knockout stages with a 1-0 win over Spanish side valencia on Thursday.

Any slip-up by PSG would help their rivals Lille and Monaco, both still in touching distance of the leaders at four and five points respectively.

Lille travel to struggling Valenciennes bidding to notch up a tenth straight game without conceding a goal.

But Rene Girard's Lille have some injury worries despite the return of striker Nolan Roux with midfielder Marvin Martin (knee), winger Ryan Mendes (ankle) and striker John Ruiz (hamstring) sidelined against Valenciennes.

Monaco, in third a point adrift of Lille, host midtable Rennes on Saturday afternoon.

"The atmosphere is good. We have to build on the momentum from Nantes (last weekend) against a very good Rennes," said Monaco's Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho.

Colombian striker Radamel Falcao will not be fit for the Rennes game after pulling a right thigh muscle, said coach Claudio Ranieri.

"I don't want to take any risks. He's not going to play against Rennes," said Ranieri, who blamed the player's two international games with Colombia.

Ranieri estimated that without "our goalscorer" the task against Rennes would be "more difficult".

Meanwhile Marseille, who suffered their fifth straight Champions League loss midweek, will be desperate to bounce back at home against Montpellier on Friday.

Marseille, sitting fourth, five points off Monaco, can count on the return of attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet, who was ruled out of the Champions League defeat to Arsenal with a swollen right knee.

Montpellier coach Jean Fernandez, meanwhile, said he was both worried and excited by meeting his former team.

"I always feel a bit nostalgic when I play against Marseille. I spent five seasons there as a player, but I have lived great moments as a coach too," said Fernandez who took over at Montpellier, who are struggling in 16th place,
this season.

Nantes, in fifth, need to win at Guingamp to keep pace with the leading trio. Guingamp are in eighth position, level on 19 points with Lyon, Reims and Bastia.

Saint-Etienne can benefit from the presence of their fans this week and the return of Brazilian Brandao against visiting Reims.

Brandao was suspended for their previous game against Nice. 'Les Verts' were also hit by their supporters not being allowed to travel to watch the team between now and the end of the calendar year following crowd trouble last weekend.

The measures mean that Saint-Etienne will have no backing during matches at Rennes and Montpellier in Ligue 1 and at PSG in the last 16 of the League Cup next month.

Elsewhere Nice, sitting 13th, travel to Lorient, four points above the first relegation spot, looking to end a spiral of four straight defeats.

Tailenders Ajaccio and Sochaux are on the move travelling to Bordeaux and Toulouse respectively.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday: Marseille v Montpellier (1930)

Saturday (1900 unless stated): Monaco v Rennes (1600), Guingamp v Nantes, Lorient v Nice, Saint-Etienne v
Reims, Toulouse v Sochaux, Valenciennes v Lille

Sunday: Bordeaux v Ajaccio (1300), Bastia v Evian/Thonon (1600), PSG v Lyon (2000)

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‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”