Lyon ready to pounce on faltering Lille

PARIS, Feb 25, 2011 (AFP) - Lyon will bid to give their title challenge a massive boost by pouncing on French league leaders Lille on Sunday.

After holding Real Madrid 1-1 in Champions League action mid-week to keep their hopes of a quarter-final spot alive, the former multiple French champions head for northern France hoping to capitalise on recent signs of weakness from the leaders.

Lyon are sitting fourth, four points behind Lille, ahead of a match that could prove crucial to both teams' title challenges.

After months of domination, Lille have been showing signs of weakness, suffering two defeats in a row in the past week.

A 1-0 loss at Montpellier last weekend ended Lille's 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions and was followed by a 3-1 defeat by PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League on Thursday, which saw the Dutch advance 5-3 on aggregate.

Lyon defender Anthony Reveillere believes his side have the form to succeed although he warned they face as big a challenge from Lille as the star-studded Real Madrid.

"Sunday will be like a Champions League match because we're playing the league leaders at home," said Reveillere, whose side have not won in Lille in three years.

"We have five days to recover following the Champions League match. Following on with the Lille game is positive because we're in good shape competitively.

"We know that it's a big match for us, we have the necessary psychological training."

Reveillere added: "It's a key game for Lille because if they win, they know that they have eliminated a title rival.

"Lille must also be saying this about Marseille (who they meet on March 6). These are make-or-break games."

Second-placed Rennes, who are two points behind Lille, could provisionally move to the top of the league when they host second-from-bottom Lens on Saturday.

The Brittany outfit have some injury worries, though, and are still without striker Jires Kembo Ekoko, who is yet to recover from a torn thigh muscle, but central defender Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik is available again following a thigh injury of his own.

Champions Marseille, sitting third, a further point back, have been boosted after they held Manchester United 0-0 in the home leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday.

OM travel to struggling Nancy on Sunday, when fifth-placed Paris Saint-Germain welcome mid-table Toulouse to the capital.

Bordeaux, meanwhile, host fellow under-achievers Auxerre, with coach Jean Tigana admitting for the first time that the 2009 champions are "in crisis" as they languish in 12th position with little hope of European football next season.

Auxerre have not fared much better this season and are just two points above the drop zone with only four victories this season.

But they can count on Congolese midfielder Delvin Ndinga, who has returned after three months sidelined with a thigh injury.

"I can't imagine for an instant that we're going down," said Ndinga.

"I know that we're going to have a good run. We're going to try and get it going against Bordeaux. It will be a complicated game for the two teams."

Elsewhere, tail-enders Arles-Avignon play Brest on Saturday and relegation-threatened Monaco host Caen, while Montpellier travel to Sochaux and Saint-Etienne host free-falling Nice.


Saturday (1800GMT unless otherwise stated):

Rennes v Lens, Saint-Etienne v Nice, Sochaux v Montpellier, Valenciennes v Lorient, Monaco v Caen, Arles-Avignon v Brest, Bordeaux v Auxerre (2000GMT)

Sunday (1600GMT unless otherwise stated):

Nancy v Marseille, Paris Saint-Germain v Toulouse, Lille v Lyon (2000GMT)

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