Ligue 1 Preview: Strugglers Valenciennes, Ajaccio meet in relegation clash
A resurgent Valenciennes host bottom side Ajaccio on Saturday in what could prove to be a pivotal weekend at the foot of Ligue 1.
After their 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Evian last week, Valenciennes remain in the bottom three but could climb out of the drop zone with victory over an Ajaccio side who seem all but destined for second-tier football next season.
With Christian Bracconi's side having amassed just 15 points all campaign, Valenciennes will be confident of success - on a weekend when their relegation rivals face much tougher fixtures.
Sochaux, a place behind Valenciennes in 19th, travel to UEFA Europa League hopefuls Saint-Etienne while Evian face a Toulouse side who have taken 12 points from a possible last 15.
After their narrow win over Evian boosted hopes of beating the drop, Valenciennes coach Ariel Jacobs feels that a great escape is an achievable dream.
"Everybody had written us off," said Jacobs, who has stated previously his intention for Valenciennes to be the last job of his career.
"All week Evian had given the impression that the pressure was on us and not on them. This was a lucky break for us and we believed in our chances. Now our mission to stay up is no longer impossible."
Rennes have tough ask on their hands as they aim to put further daylight between themselves and the league's strugglers, even against an out-of-form Marseille side, while Monaco can all but wrap up the final automatic UEFA Champions League spot against third-placed Lille on Sunday.
Nine points separate the two in the table and, with Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri having seemingly given up on catching leaders Paris Saint-Germain, the Italian could take a major stride towards securing second spot in their first season back in the top flight.
By the time Monaco and Lille meet at the Stade Louis II, PSG could be 11 points clear at the top as they travel to Lorient on Friday, while Lyon are able to keep their Europa League hopes alive with victory at Guingamp two days later.
Their seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions came to an end against Monaco last weekend and Remi Garde will be keen to bounce back and complete a league double at the Stade du Roudourou - following a 2-0 victory in the first meeting of the season in November.
Nantes can leapfrog Saturday's opponents Montpellier with a win while Bastia and Bordeaux host Reims and Nice respectively.