Ligue 1 Preview: Lille look to secure Champions League place, Valenciennes poised for drop
By Football News
With Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco both out of action, attention in Ligue 1 turns to Lille's quest to secure a UEFA Champions League place.
Leaders PSG and second-placed Monaco will both sit out this weekend due to the participation of Rennes and Guingamp - who were scheduled to be their respective opponents - in Saturday's Coupe de France final.
That means the title race cannot be settled until next Wednesday, but Lille's place in the Champions League can be determined when they visit Bastia on Friday.
Lille need to win in Corsica to seal a return to Europe's premier club competition regardless of what fourth-placed Saint-Etienne do in their clash with Montpellier on Sunday.
However, any slip-up from Rene Girard's men will allow Saint-Etienne to keep the race for third place alive with victory over a Montpellier side who are all but sure of their place in the top flight for next season.
Saint-Etienne can seal qualification for the UEFA Europa League by beating Rolland Courbis' team, but will be wary of a surprise defeat themselves, knowing that Lyon could leapfrog them with three points at Marseille.
Lyon are already secure of a place in the Europa League after losing the Coupe de la Ligue final to league leaders PSG, yet the seven-time champions will be keen to overtake their local rivals in the table.
Meanwhile, hosts Marseille must hope for a Saint-Etienne setback and a positive result against Lyon if they are to have any chance of overhauling the seven-point deficit to Christophe Galtier's men and clinching the other Europa League place.
At the other end of the table, Valenciennes will be relegated to Ligue 2 should they fail to beat Bordeaux after last weekend's loss to Guingamp effectively ended any hopes of survival.
Sochaux, by contrast, remain very much in contention to escape the drop following a hard-fought 1-1 draw with PSG.
That result left Herve Renard's side four points adrift of safety with three games to play and Sochaux - who have secured survival on the final day in each of the last two seasons - can put further pressure on Evian and Guingamp with three points against Nice.
Evian will be out to avoid a third straight defeat and maintain their cushion with victory away at a Reims side whose only remaining goal is to ensure a top-half finish.
Two teams with the same aim meet as ninth-placed Toulouse host 10th-placed Nantes, and Lorient welcome already relegated Ajaccio to the Stade du Moustoir hoping to move out of the bottom half with a win.