PREVIEW-Soccer-Lille hope to relax with Marseille absent

Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:00am BST

* Faltering leaders visit Lorient and hotshot Gameiro

* Second-placed Marseille busy in League Cup final

PARIS, April 21 (Reuters) - Ligue 1 leaders Lille have suffered an attack of title nerves recently but second-placed Olympique Marseille's involvement in the League Cup final this weekend offers Rudi Garcia's side some breathing space.

Champions Marseille have cut Lille's advantage to a point with seven games left after the leaders drew 1-1 at home with Girondins Bordeaux last Saturday having surprisingly lost 1-0 at struggling Monaco the weekend before.

But Marseille are busy playing Montpellier on Saturday in their League Cup final before Lille, buoyed by Tuesday's semi-final success over Nice in the main French Cup competition, visit seventh-placed FC Lorient on Sunday (1900 GMT).

"We are aware that we are experiencing something historic," Garcia told reporters after the 2-0 win over top-flight Nice.

Lille, last champions in 1954 and one of the surprise packages of Europe this term, could be forgiven for showing some jitters given their lack of pedigree in title chases.

The semi-final win may have settled nerves slightly but now they are well and truly on for a domestic double, the stakes are even higher.

"After the three great seasons we have managed, we would love to leave a mark," Lille captain Rio Mavuba said.

Sunday should also pit Ligue 1's two top goalscorers against each other with Lille's Moussa Sow (21 goals) and Lorient's Kevin Gameiro (17) plotting their own personal shootout.

Lille midfielder Florent Balmont misses out, however, and could be out for a month after suffering a thigh injury against Nice.

Like Lille, Lorient will be keeping an eye on Saturday's League Cup final too given they currently lie just outside the Europa League places.

If Marseille win the final but finish in the league top three as expected, they will go into the Champions League rather than the Europa League.

The Europa League place granted to the League Cup winner will therefore transfer to the fifth or possibly sixth Ligue 1 club.

Third-placed Olympique Lyon, whose outside title hopes were rocked by last Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Paris St Germain in fourth, are not in action this weekend given the final while PSG travel to 11th-placed Stade Brest -- who are still not safe.

(Writing by Mark Meadows; Editing by Pritha Sarkar; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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