Marseille's French title hopes hanging by a thread
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps refuses to give up hope of catching Lille to win the French league despite trailing by four points and having a considerably weaker goal difference with only three rounds remaining.
Marseille's chances of defending its title were dealt a blow last weekend when it lost to Lyon. Although Deschamps vows to keep pushing until the end, he accepts the odds are stacked against him.
"We can't stop ourselves from dreaming," Deschamps said. "But you have to be realistic, the hope is minimal and it got smaller after our defeat to Lyon."
With Lille playing Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup final on Saturday, Marseille can temporarily close the gap on Lille to one point with a win at Lorient on Sunday to apply some pressure.
But Marseille will need a big win, too, given that Lille's goal difference is seven better than Marseille's.
"We have to do things properly and win our last three matches, so there's no regrets," Marseille striker Loic Remy said. "There are a lot of things that can still happen."
Lorient plays its home games on an ultra-quick artificial playing surface, and boasts the league's second highest scorer in Kevin Gameiro - who has 20 goals and is only one behind Lille striker Moussa Sow.
In the battle for a spot in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League, third-place Lyon is one point ahead of PSG and plays at Brest on Monday.
Lille, meanwhile, resumes its title chase at home to Sochaux on Wednesday night.
First of all, Rudi Garcia's Lille team can take the first step toward a second domestic double at Stade de France.
"We don't want to think too much about that," Lille captain Rio Mavuba said. "But of course I have these images in my mind. Playing at Stade de France, celebrating with our fans, lifting the trophy."
Lille did the double in the 1945-46 season, and won its only other league title in the '53-54 campaign. The following season Lille won the French Cup again, but it hasn't won major honors since.
"We also have another ambition, being French champions," Mavuba said. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Mathematically, nothing is done yet."
In the race for third place, PSG dropped valuable points at home after drawing 2-2 at home to Nancy on Tuesday.
"I have the impression that this is a ?40-million mistake, because it concerns the Champion's League," a frustrated PSG president Robin Leproux lamented after the match. "I'm very sad because we are trying to fight toe-to-toe with Lyon."
PSG hit the woodwork three times in a late spell but could not force a winning goal at Parc des Princes.
Yet it would prove to be a point gained as Lyon was thumped 4-0 at Auxerre on Wednesday.
Lyon's defeat almost certainly means Claude Puel will not be in charge next season. Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas tried to gloss over the loss by saying "there is nothing shameful about third place."
But those words are not in keeping with a club that won seven straight league titles, and also reached the Champions League semifinals last season.
Aulas will be aware he is under pressure from fans - and some of the players - to replace Puel next season. Puel has tense relations with veteran Brazilian defender Cris and has had several spats with top scorer Lisandro Lopez this season.
Lyon is six points behind Marseille, and has little chance of qualifying automatically for the Champions League.
Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons says securing third place is the priority.
"It hurts, but we still have our destiny in on our own hands," Gonalons said. "We wanted to extend our lead over Paris Saint-Germain but we didn't play well. We must pull ourselves together quickly."
PSG travels to play struggling Bordeaux on Wednesday night.
Bordeaux is sliding down the table and looks increasingly in turmoil after coach Jean Tigana resigned last weekend. Bordeaux lost 1-0 to Lens on Wednesday, giving Lens slim hope of avoiding relegation.
Lens now has to make up a six-point gap on Monaco, which is one place above the relegation zone. They play each other on Sunday at Monaco's Stade Louis II. Nancy is in one point behind Monaco in 18th place and hosts Nice.
In Sunday's other matches, it is: Arles-Avignon vs. Toulouse; Caen vs. Montpellier; Saint-Etienne vs. Rennes, and Valenciennes vs. Auxerre.