Lyon takes on Lille in French league

Having reached the Champions League semifinals for the first time,

Lyon can now turn its attention to trying to reclaim the French

league after losing it last season following seven straight titles.

Lyon hosts Lille on Sunday, four days after losing 1-0 at

Bordeaux but advancing to the final four in Europe as 3-2 winners

on aggregate.

Marseille tops the standings with 59 points, two clear of

Lyon, Montpellier and Auxerre. Bordeaux is fifth with 56 points but

has two games in hand.

The top two French clubs qualify directly for the group

stage, while the third team enters the preliminary round.

“The top priority is the French league because Lyon must play

in the Champions League,” Lyon midfielder Jeremy Toulalan told

French daily L’Equipe.

As well as winning seven league titles from 2002-08, Lyon has

reached the Champions League group stage for 10 seasons in a row

after losing in the preliminary round in 1999.

Many Lyon players were tired at the end of the Bordeaux match

and Lille may take advantage of their fatigue to make up ground in

the race for a European spot. Lille is in sixth place with 54

points and has scored 56 goals, the most in the league.

Meanwhile, Bordeaux hopes to bounce back when it visits Paris

Saint-Germain on Saturday.

Bordeaux, the defending champions, had a significant lead at

the winter break but lost ground when the season resumed.

“During the winter break, we switched off instead of just

unwinding,” coach Laurent Blanc told Canal Plus television. “We

didn’t resume in the same conditions (as in 2009).

“You need a significant squad to play in the Champions

League. Our run was not expected and made us lose more points than

what we had forecast at the start of the season.”

Bordeaux recently went through a three-game losing streak

when Marc Planus, its most experienced defender and the cornerstone

of the back four, was nursing a knee injury.

“We want to climb a few spots up,” PSG coach Antoine

Kombouare said. “We have the ambition to finish in the first half

(of the standings). That’s very important.”

PSG is 12th with 41 points. Winning the French Cup is PSG’s

only chance to earn a European spot and win a trophy this season.

“If we get a good result, that will allow us to prepare well

for the French Cup semifinal against Quevilly,” Kombouare said of

the April 14 match.

Bordeaux captain Alou Diarra is in doubt after picking up a

thigh injury against Lyon.

Marseille plays Nice on Sunday. Marseille has won four

straight matches in all competitions, routing Sochaux 3-0 on

Wednesday to take the top spot.

However, Nice is also riding some momentum following a change

of coach. After Eric Roy replaced Didier Olle-Nicolle last month,

Nice has not conceded a goal in four games, winning three and

drawing one.

“We’re having a good run and we are in first place, that’s

good for our confidence,” Marseille winger Hatem Ben Arfa said. “We

have eight matches left to play and we’ll have to take the maximum

number of points to retain that spot. The good thing is that we

have our fate in our hands.”

Also on Saturday, it’s: Le Mans vs. Montpellier; Lens vs.

Boulogne; Lorient vs. Rennes; Monaco vs. Valenciennes; Sochaux vs.

Saint-Etienne and Toulouse vs. Grenoble.

On Sunday, Nancy faces Auxerre.