Deschamps urges players to focus on title race

BY foxsports • April 14, 2011

Defending champion Marseille will play at Montpellier on Sunday with coach Didier Deschamps urging his players to stay focused on the title race and not think about the League Cup final soon after.

Second-place Marseille is only three points behind French leader Lille with eight games remaining, and is still on course to match last season's league and League Cup double.

Marseille faces Montpellier twice in six days, with the teams meeting again in the cup final at Stade de France.

''There's a trophy at stake, both are important for us,'' Deschamps said. ''I won't favor one over the other.''

With Montpellier in sixth place and challenging for a Europa League place next season, midfielder Geoffrey Dernis said his teammates will not be letting up on Sunday, either.

''All of us can't wait to play in this final, but I think we would be very disappointed to finish in 13th or 14th place when we are currently in sixth,'' Dernis said. ''Of course we're thinking about it, but that's not all that's on our minds.''

Lille hosts a struggling Bordeaux side that was jeered by its fans after last weekend's 0-0 home draw against last-place Arles-Avignon. The president of Bordeaux's longtime sponsor, the French television channel M6, even threatened to pull out if results do not improve.

Deschamps was annoyed with his players after last weekend's 2-2 home draw with Toulouse. With Lille unexpectedly losing at struggling Monaco, Marseille missed the chance to close the gap at the top to one point.

''We have got closer,'' Deschamps said. ''But given Lille's result, anything other than a win was a bad result.''

Deschamps took some drastic action against Toulouse, taking center half Souleymane Diawara off at halftime. The Senegal defender did not join the rest of the team in the dressing room after the match, and has since apologized.

''I was gutted because I am a competitor and I want to play in all the games. I was rubbish and it was normal that he took me off,'' Diawara said. ''We spoke about it on Tuesday, he explained things to me. I told him that I didn't have a problem with it.''

Third-place Lyon and fifth-place Paris Saint-Germain both got back to winning ways last weekend, and face each other at Parc des Princes in Paris on Sunday.

Lyon coach Claude Puel must decide whether to keep veteran Brazilian defender Cris on the bench, after dropping him last week, and stick with his new partnership of Dejan Lovren and Jeremy Toulalan, who normally plays in midfield.

Cris is a firm favorite among fans, having won four league titles and with more than 250 games for the club, and Puel's decision to ditch him against Lens caused a stir - even among the players.

''I don't really know why Cris found himself on the bench last week. It's the coach's decision,'' Lovren said. ''Cris is a good captain, and has had a difficult season with a lot of injuries. But I think he's done pretty well.''

Lyon is five points behind Lille, Rennes is seven points behind in fourth place, and PSG is nine points back and has a more realistic target of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Also Saturday, it's: Lens vs. Brest; Nice vs. Monaco; Rennes vs. Lorient; Saint-Etienne vs. Nancy; Sochaux vs. Caen; and Toulouse vs. Auxerre.

In Sunday's other match, Arles-Avignon hosts Valenciennes.

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