Marseille v Sedan: Preview
MARSEILLE, May 19 (Ligue 1) - With just two rounds of matches remaining this season, the fixture list has thrown up an intriguing game between Marseille and Sedan at the Velodrome with one team seeking the championship and the other desperate for a win to remain in with a chance of staving off relegation.
Marseille have seen their championship hopes dwindle over recent weeks but could set up some final-day drama with a victory over relegation-haunted Sedan.
After topping the league going into March, Marseille have suffered two heavy home defeats to PSG and Guingamp that has seen both in-form Lyon and Monaco overhaul them.
Last week's 3-0 defeat at Sochaux has almost ended Marseille's realistic championship dreams as they now trail leaders Lyon by five points.
It is now out of Marseille's hands if they are to take the crown they last won 10 years ago, but they still need two victories to stand any chance.
Coach Alain Perrin will be forced to put the emphasis on attack with three regular defenders all unavailable. Manuel Dos Santos is injured and Frank Leboeuf and Daniel Van Buyten are both suspended.
Sedan are level on points with Rennes but are in the drop zone thanks to a poorer goal difference. But two of the teams within three points of them, Lille and Ajaccio, go face-to-face in a relegation tussle that adds further importance to Sedan's game on the south coast.
With the knowledge that they face Europe-chasing Sochaux on the final day of the season, it is not going to be easy, but two victories should see them safe and nothing less will be expected from a side unbeaten in four games.
They will be buoyed by the return of top-scorer Henri Camara, who has netted 13 goals to date, and midfielder Modeste M'Bami for this vital game.
Bastia v Sochaux: Preview
BASTIA, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Bastia host beaten League Cup finalists Sochaux at the Furiani on Tuesday hoping to capitalise on the dejection within the visitors camp following their 4-1 humiliation in Paris at the weekend.
Bastia, who went on a nine-game unbeaten run between December and March, want to finish the season on a high note following the disappointment of last month but they will find an adversary desperate not to fail in their bid to clinch a place in the UEFA Cup at the second time of asking.
The League Cup defeat to Monaco may have been a demoralising blow but they cannot afford to lick their wounds as the ultimate prize of a Champions' League berth is still within reach and victory over Bastia could set them up for an intriguing finale against relegation-threatened Sedan on Saturday.
They trail Monaco by four points and Bordeaux by two and should either drop points on Tuesday night, Sochaux could take advantage with a win over Bastia, who just have pride to play for as they sit in mid-table.
Their young French international midfielder Benoit Pedretti will be eager to make up for what he felt was a personal catastrophe on Saturday.
``I was pitiful. I feel like I let down my team-mates, I even find it hard to look them in the eyes,'' he said.
Tuesday night could be the chance for him and Sochaux to put the disappointment behind them and end the season on a good note.
Troyes v Nantes: Preview
TROYES, May 19 (Ligue 1) - This match with Nantes will be the last chance in the foreseeable future for the people of Troyes to witness Ligue 1 football.
Troyes are already condemned to relegation to Ligue 2 and this will be their last home fixture although, unlike many coaches still fighting for Ligue 1 survival, Faruk Hadzibegic has been told he will still have a job at the Stade de l`Aube next season.
The Bosnian was only partially to blame for his club`s plight after taking the helm from the sacked Jacky Bonnevay only in January.
However, he has been told that there will be outgoings in the summer and that he will be expected to work with the club`s young players to plan for what is hoped will be a quick Ligue 1 return.
Nantes have also had a disappointing season and the future of their coach Angel Marcos is under some discussion. The 2001 champions are in a disappointing 10th place in the division.
Marcos has three suspended players for this match with Nicolas Savinaud, Mario Cetto and Pascal Delhommeau all set to miss the trip to the Champagne region.
Furthermore, Jean-Hugues Ateba is ruled out through injury for Les Canaris.
Also undergoing treatment have been Stephane Ziani, Willy Grondin and Frederic Da Rocha although that trio and goalkeeper Mickael Landreau should all be fit.
Strasbourg v Auxerre: Preview
STRASBOURG, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Strasbourg coach Ivan Hasek will bid a fond farewell to the Stade de la Meinau with a home match with an Auxerre team that still has European ambitions to pursue.
Hasek, who has done well with the Alsatians but is returning to Prague because he is homesick, signs off at the Meinau with a match with Auxerre whose coach Guy Roux has certainly found life easier to bear at the Stade Abbe Deschamps - he has been in charge for 42 years.
While Strasbourg have relatively little to play for Auxerre are still looking to finish as high up the division as possible.
Although their forthcoming Coupe de France final with Paris St Germain looks the most likely route to Europe for Auxerre it is still possible that they could reach that objective by league position.
Roux must do without the services of his Zimbabwean striker Benjani who has a knee injury.
However, he will welcome back highly-rated defenders Philippe Mexes and Jean-Alain Boumsong.
Hasek will be sadly missed in Alsace after steering a team to safety with something to spare and he has no new injury worries for this match.
There is also expected to be major changes at the club in the summer with new owners poised to take over from the outgoing IMG goup.
All sorts of people have been suggested as replacements for Hasek with Sochaux boss Guy Lacombe one and - far more outlandishly - Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, a proud son of Alsace.
However, history is weighted strongly in favour of the Alsatians who have only lost three of 16 previous meetings with Auxerre on home soil.
However, Auxerre were victorious 3-1 when Hasek and his men visited Burgundy earlier in the season.
PSG v Rennes: Preview
PARIS, May 19 (Ligue 1) - All eyes will be on Vahid Halilhodzic on Tuesday when he leads his current charges Rennes into battle against the Paris St Germain side he will coach next season.
The Bosnian coach will doubtless be hoping his future club has an off day as he has vowed to help Rennes avoid relegation before moving on to the capital.
Halilhodzic insists that Rennes will be fully motivated and furthermore said he does not expect any favours from PSG boss Luis Fernandez even though the outgoing coach voluntarily quit long before Halilhodzic got the job and thus is unlikely to bear a grudge against his successor.
``I am not expecting PSG to give us any presents,'' said Halilhodzic to Le Parisien. ``We are not expecting any favours. We must not look for excuses.''
Certainly Rennes are in desperate trouble and they are currently one place above the relegation zone but level on points with third-bottom Sedan.
This game is of the utmost importance as their last match is what could be a relegation decider with Montpellier.
Cynics point out that with PSG coach Fernandez leaving and an imminent Coupe de France final match with Auxerre, the Parisian club might well not be fully motivated for the Rennes game.
There has been some mystery about the condition of PSG star Ronaldinho who has not trained with his team-mates for four days.
The Brazilian World Cup winner has had a turbulent relationship with Fernandez but the official line is that he has been rested with the forthcoming Coupe de France final with Auxerre in mind.
If he did not play against Rennes, it would likely irritate the Brittany club`s relegation rivals - six clubs are trying to avoid filling the two remaining relegation berths with Troyes already doomed.
PSG doctor Hakim Chalabi said: ``There is nothing bad. Ronnie has just looked a little tired and I decided to adapt his programme. The objective is to prepare for the final.
``If we want him to be at his best we must rest him now and not just before the final,'' the medic told Le Parisien newspaper.
However, it is likely that the Brazilian will feature at some stage against Rennes as it is probably his last home match at the Parc des Princes before what is likely to be a big-money move in the summer with Manchester United favourites to clinch his signature.
Guingamp v Monaco: Preview
GUINGAMP, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Life at Monaco has had more twists than the average Hitchcock thriller in recent months - it is not many clubs that can claim to be both championship and relegation contenders with just two weeks to go in the season.
Tuesday`s trip to Britanny to play Guingamp sees Monaco desperate for victory to keep the pressure on leaders Lyon who have a three-point advantage with two games still to play.
However, Monaco`s players would not be human if they were not somewhat distracted by events before and after Tuesday`s match.
On Saturday they thrashed Sochaux 4-1 to win the Coupe de la Ligue at the Stade de France.
However, on Wednesday Monaco could be relegated if they do not satisfy French football`s financial watchdog (DNCG) about the state of their budget deficit which is reported to be in the region of 50 million euros.
Even though Prince Albert of Monaco has vowed to support the club there is no sign of a white knight coming to the rescue of the principality club.
Monaco coach Didier Deschamps is focusing his players exclusively on the Guingamp game with any result other than victory giving Lyon the opportunity to win the title with a week to spare.
The Coupe de la Ligue is the first accolade for Deschamps as coach although his trophy cabinet as a player is the best for any French footballer - no mean feat for a country that has produced the likes of Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane.
``I have defined a career plan with short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives,'' said Deschamps in remarks to L`Equipe which indicate he is already planning ahead.
Guingamp, in contrast, are relishing their role as title deciders as they prepare for a glamorous end-of-season double header with the two teams most likely to win the championship.
On the final day they visit a Lyon team that looks set to successfully defend the title but first comes this home match with Monaco who must get a win.
Failure - with a Lyon win at Montpellier - would see the title lost with a week to spare.
Guingamp boss Bertrand Marchand has named a squad of 19 for this match.
Argentinian defender Nestor Fabbri, who will return to his homeland this summer, is denied a last home appearance at the Stade Roudourou because of suspension with Alledine Yahia also banned.
Didier Drogba, the star in what has been a fine season for Guingamp, is also a doubt with an ankle injury.
Le Havre v Lens: Preview
LE HAVRE, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Le Havre are in desperate straits as they fight for top-flight survival against a Lens side that has also had a disappointing season.
Just two months ago Jean-Francois Domergue`s side looked to be relatively safe from relegation but seven consecutive defeats have seen the Normans slide into the relegation zone and defeat against Lens could even lead to relegation with a match to spare if results elsewhere do not go to plan.
Midfielder Guillaume Beuzelin admits that although their fate is no longer in their own hands.
``Having seen the fixtures of the other two teams, I think two victories would be enough to keep us up,'' Beuzelin told the www.infoceane.fr
``Maybe even a draw and a win would be enough. You never know. Everything depends on the other results.''
That call was echoed by Domergue who said: ``Nothing is lost yet. We have two matches left and we must bury all our doubts and uncertainty.''
Lens have had a disappointing campaign although their plight cannot be compared to that of Le Havre whose 130 years of existence makes them the oldest in France.
This time last year ``Le Sang et Or'' were expecting to be crowned champions of France only to be pipped by Lyon on the last day.
However, this season - which began in the Champions League - has been one of mediocrity with the team now 11th in the division.
Coach Joel Muller has named his squad for the match with Le Havre with Seydou Keita still sidelined with a knee problem and Adama Coulibaly and Chabbert also unavailable.
``Le Havre are fighting to save their own skins,'' Muller told www.reclens.fr
. ``We will have to set our stall out and show we are aggressive in the tackle.''
Nice v Bordeaux: Preview
NICE, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Bordeaux aim to maintain their campaign for a passport to European football on Tuesday when they host a Nice team that also has aspirations of continental competition via the Intertoto Cup.
Bordeaux occupy fourth place, which would secure a UEFA Cup spot, but are still in contention for the Champions League and three points against Les Aiglons would keep that objective within range.
The Intertoto Cup may not be everyone`s cup of tea but for eighth-placed Nice to be still in contention is no mean feat for an outfit expected by many to be relegated straight back to Ligue 2 at the start of the season.
Bordeaux midfielder Nicolas Sahnoun told www.girondins.com
: ``The general feeling in the team is good. We want to finish as high up the table as possible and will do everything we can to win our forthcoming matches.''
Bordeaux coach Elie Baup has been deprived of the services of injured pair Savio and Ulrich Rame.
Frederic Roux continues to deputise for France international Rame, while Savio may have played his last game for the club as the Girondins have failed to reach agreement with Real Madrid to retain him for next season.
Baup must also do without suspended Russian forward Alexei Smertin and has named a party of 17 for this fixture.
Nice are deprived of the services of forward Christophe Meslin, who has torn adductor muscles and whose season has been blighted by injury and has only played nine times this season.
Nice coach Gernot Rohr has had a memorable season with a club that returned to the top flight last summer but has had no problem in acclimatising to that status, even topping the table earlier this season.
``I won`t forget this season,'' said Rohr. ``The atmosphere and the public at the stadium have always been present. I think we have taken the first step in creating a real club.''
Germany-born Rohr is a former player and coach at Bordeaux, where he played in the team that won three French championships in the 1980s under Aime Jacquet, who then went on to win the World Cup with France.
``It ended badly but I now have only fond memories of my time with Bordeaux,'' said Rohr.
Bordeaux striker Pauleta plays his first match since he was confirmed as France`s player of the year for the second consecutive season.
The striker looks to be in a two-horse race with Shabani Nonda of Monaco to capture the Ligue 1 top scorer`s award, an accolade he also won last year.
Montpellier v Lyon: Preview
MONTPELLIER, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Lyon coach Paul Le Guen knows that his team could be crowned champions on Tuesday night at Montpellier but admits that a draw against a team that is still battling against relegation would not be a disaster.
Le Guen knows that four points in their remaining two matches will be enough for OL to successfully defend the title they won for the first time last year, regardless of how title rivals Monaco and Marseille perform.
A draw with Montpellier would mean that Lyon need only beat Guingamp in their last match but Le Guen says that is not in his plans.
``For the moment we are not reasoning like that,'' he told www.olympiquelyonnais.com
. ``We are obliged to pick up points - one would be good, three would be wonderful. But it`s true that the most important thing is how many points we pick up in the two matches.''
The wily campaigner knows that Montpellier are in real form after a run of seven wins in 12 matches lifted a team that looked already doomed in February to within sight of survival.
``They beat us last year although the circumstances were different,'' said Le Guen. ``They have showed a lot of quality this season to come back when they looked to be dead men walking.''
However, OL themselves are in excellent form and a run of eight wins and a draw in nine outings has seen them move into a position where they could emulate the feat of last season when they won their first ever title.
That was seen as a long overdue feat for a city that considers itself to be France`s second after Paris and which historically had been put in the footballing shade by its smaller neighbour, St Etienne.
Victory on Tuesday - combined with failure for Monaco - could even see them crowned champions with a game to spare.
Le Guen has no injury or suspension worries for this game and named an 18-man party for the match.
Mahamadou Diarra shrugged off a thigh injury to take his place in the squad alongside Brazilian World Cup winner Edmilson and Claudio Cacapa.
Montpellier boss Gerard Bernardet has named 18 players in his squad with Bruno Carotti and Habib Bamogo both set to undergo late fitness tests.
Carotti has been suffering all week with a knee injury while French under-21 striker Bamogo injured his ankle in training.
Bernardet will definitely be deprived of the services of the suspended Bertrand Robert and the injured Nenad Dzidic and Serge Blanc
Lille v AC Ajaccio: Preview
LILLE, May 19 (Ligue 1) - Both teams may have climbed out of the relegation zone in recent weeks but Lille and Ajaccio know that defeat on Tuesday night will mean their campaign for survival will go to the wire.
It is still too close to call who will fill the two remaining relegation berths and both sides are two of six possible candidates to go down with Troyes who are already doomed.
Lille have not been pretty to watch in recent weeks but they are picking up the points. Three goalless draws in four outings have only been broken by the 1-0 win over Rennes with Les Dogues struggling to score but boosted by a watertight defence.
Lille`s last match of the season is a potentially hazardous trip to a Bordeaux team that is still likely to be in contention for the Champions League, meaning they must get something out of what is a six-pointer with Ajaccio, just one point behind Lille and two points above the drop zone.
Lille midfielder Benoit Cheyrou said: ``It`s a massive match, the biggest of the year.
``We are in good form and we will remain focused on our goal right until the end.
``The danger is to get too cocky with the good results that we have pulled off but I am counting on the team not to get over-confident,'' he told club website, www.losc.fr
It has been a similar story for Ajaccio whose consecutive wins over Le Havre and Nice have seen the Corsicans climb out of the bottom three.
However, Yassin Bezzaz - who scored the winner against Nice - is out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury with midfielder David Terrier in the same situation.
Ajaccio coach Rolland Courbis will likely persist with the three-pronged strike force that has prospered in recent weeks.
Argentinian Juan Esnaider will partner Bruno Rodriguez - and with French 1998 World Cup winner Bernard Diomede also to call on Courbis has had plenty of options up front in recent weeks.
Ajaccio`s last match is easier than Lille`s - a home match with Strasbourg who have little to play for as they are safe from relegation.
Victory for either side on Tuesday may mean - depending on the outcome of other matches - that survival could be secured with a week to spare.
Porto quiet over Costinha injury
SEVILLE, Spain, May 19 (Reuters) - Portuguese champions Porto held a final training session behind closed doors on Monday before departing for Seville ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Cup final against Celtic.
The club declined to comment on the latest injury news surrounding key midfielder Francisco Costinha, who pulled a muscle in a league game last week, but was said to have 'practically recovered' on Sunday.
Asked if he was going to play, Costinha told reporters at Oporto airport: 'You have to ask (coach Jose) Mr. Mourinho.'
Injured defender Nuno Valente also made the trip with the squad but is not certain to start in the final.
Porto will train again at Seville's Olympic Stadium on Tuesday with Mourinho facing a selection poser.
With first-choice striker Helder Postiga suspended after being sent off in the semi-final second leg against Lazio, the coach must choose between Edgaras Jankauskas and Nuno Capucho to partner Derlei Silva up front.
Both scored in Saturday's league win over Varzim, a match in which Derlei was rested.
Porto fans geared up for the final by unfurling a huge banner on Saturday saying 'make our dream come true'.
Many Porto fans queued up for 48 hours to buy final tickets, which are now reportedly changing hands for over 1,000 euros apiece.
'I would ask them to remember that we were the ones who created that dream, it did not fall from the sky, and independently of winning or losing, the final led them to have that dream,' said Mourinho.
'That is the aim we have. A final is a final and anything can happen, but we believe something positive can happen to us.'