Sports

PSG Closing On Ligue 1 Title, Relegation Battle Hots Up

As Paris Saint-Germain close in on a record 11th French title, most of the remaining interest in Ligue 1 surrounds the fight for Champions League qualification and the battle to avoid finishing in the four relegation places.

Despite all their recent problems, reigning champions PSG are eight points clear of nearest challengers Marseille with six games left.

A win for the capital club this weekend at home to struggling Lorient combined with slip-ups by Marseille at home to Auxerre on Sunday and third-placed Lens at Toulouse next Wednesday would put the finish line within sight.

Christophe Galtier’s team could then seal the title, a ninth in 12 years under Qatari ownership, at Troyes on May 7.

The main focus for Marseille and Lens is a top-three finish and a crack at next season’s Champions League, with the latter five points better off than fourth-placed Monaco after beating the principality side 3-0 last time out.

Monaco, who have finished third in the last two campaigns, appear to have too much to do, but will still hope to take advantage of the fact Lens and Marseille face each other next weekend.

At the other end of the table, while the bottom three appear doomed, just a single point separates the four teams above them, all scrapping to avoid sinking to Ligue 2.

Four teams will be relegated this year, with only two coming up, as Ligue 1 is reduced from 20 clubs to 18 next season.

Brest sit fourth from bottom but trail Nantes and Strasbourg only on goal difference, with Auxerre a point better off.

Auxerre are the form team among that quartet with just one defeat in 11.

In contrast, Nantes have not won in nine, clearly distracted by Saturday’s French Cup final, when they face Toulouse and will be looking to retain the trophy.

“There has been a lot of focus on the French Cup final,” admitted Nantes coach Antoine Kombouare last weekend.

“We are going to play it, give everything and then work hard to stay up. We will need to quickly move on after it.”

Player to watch: Habib Diallo
The Senegal international frontman is comfortably the most prolific striker playing for any of the sides battling to avoid relegation from Ligue 1 and Strasbourg are hoping his goals can keep them up. The 27-year-old has scored 17 times this season, 40 percent of his club’s total tally. That includes a brace in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Reims and one in a 2-1 victory at Lyon in January. Strasbourg host Lyon on Friday.

Key stats
496 – Lionel Messi’s next Ligue 1 goal will be his 496th in Europe’s major leagues. He is currently level with Cristiano Ronaldo’s tally of 495 which the Portuguese racked up across the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A

14 – The meagre points tally accrued by bottom side Angers, whose relegation will be confirmed this weekend if they fail to win, or if Strasbourg avoid defeat

15 – Troyes are winless in their last 15 Ligue 1 games, the worst current run of any side in Europe’s so-called “Big Five” leagues

Fixtures (times GMT)

Friday

Strasbourg v Lyon (1900)

Saturday

Lille v Ajaccio (1500)

Sunday

Monaco v Montpellier (1100), Clermont v Reims, Rennes v Angers, Troyes v Nice (all 1300), Paris Saint-Germain v Lorient (1505), Marseille v Auxerre (1845)

Tuesday, May 2

Toulouse v Lens (1900)

Wednesday, May 3

Brest v Nantes (1900)

AFP

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