| PARIS, March 10
PARIS, March 10 Surprise package Lille have a
chance to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 this weekend
having broken down a key psychological barrier to keep their bid
for a first league crown since 1954 on course.
Lille, who had picked up only two points in four games
against Paris St Germain, Olympique Marseille and Olympique Lyon
this season, snatched a 2-1 win at the Stade Velodrome last
weekend to finally prove they were made of steel.
"Winning (against Marseille) at the Velodrome, against one
of our rivals, is a huge morale-booster," Lille captain Rio
Mavuba told the club's website (www.losc.fr).
Lille, who have 49 points from 26 games, should be too
strong for 13th-placed Valenciennes who they host on Sunday,
although the leaders have a doubt over Moussa Sow's fitness.
The Ligue 1 top scorer picked up a knee strain against
Marseille last weekend but Pierre-Alain Frau, who netted the
winner at the Velodrome, has already shown he can deputise.
Second-placed Stade Rennes, level on points with Lille,
could lose ground in the title race as they face a test of their
credentials at home to fourth-placed Marseille on Friday.
Once again, Rennes will rely on their sturdy defence, the
best in the league with only 18 goals conceded.
"We are a solid team who try to get the ball high up the
pitch although we are not Barca," coach Frederic Antonetti told
France Football magazine.
"We try and get the ball 40 metres from our goal and we do
it pretty well. Our attacks can be very swift."
Rennes could be without France holding midfielder Yann
Mvila, who is doubtful with a knee injury, Antonetti told a news
conference on Wednesday.
Marseille, who are four points off the pace, may have to
make do without striker Brandao after the Brazilian was held by
police for questioning over an alleged rape.
"Obviously, I could do without that kind of problem but the
squad is going to focus on Friday's game. It's the most
important thing," said coach Didier Deschamps.
Marseille will hope Argentine playmaker Lucho Gonzalez, who
has been nursing a muscle injury, can play the 90 minutes.
Fifth-placed Paris St Germain, whose title hopes took a
knock last weekend when they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at lowly AJ
Auxerre, host Montpellier on Sunday.
Coach Antoine Kombouare has therefore decided to rest
midfielders Ludovic Giuly and Claude Makelele plus France
striker Guillaume Hoarau for the first leg of their last 16
Europa League tie against Benfica on Thursday.
Third-placed Olympique Lyon visit Sochaux on Saturday.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris
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