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St. Etienne attempt to break Lyon Ligue 1 hoodoo

AFP
ANALYST
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611   //    09 Dec 2012, 10:11 IST

PARIS (AFP) –

Lyon's Rachid Ghezzal, seen here in action during their Ligue 1 match against Montpellier, on December 1

Lyon’s midfielder Rachid Ghezzal, seen here in action during their French Ligue 1 match against Montpellier, on December 1, at the Gerland stadium in Lyon, southeasthern France. League leaders Lyon put their two point advantage on the line at arch-rivals Saint Etienne on Sunday in one of the oldest derbies in the country.

Ligue 1 leaders Lyon put their two point advantage on the line at arch-rivals Saint Etienne on Sunday in one of the oldest derbies in the country.

The Geoffroy-Guichard stadium will be rocking as the ‘Green Devils’ faithful try to drive their team to a rare victory over their regional rivals.

Saint Etienne are placed third in the table, five points adrift of Lyon with Marseille in second, two points off the summit.

Lyon are showing glimpses of their glory days when they won seven straight titles between 2002 and 2008 and coach Remi Garde admits he is dreaming of returning the trophy to the Stade Gerland in only his second season in charge.

“I know how to play things down when I have to but the title gives everyone dreams and while I admit I am dreaming of winning the title, the word “dream” is the key word,” Garde admitted on Thursday.

Saint-Etienne's Max Alain Gradel (L) fights for the ball with Ajaccio's Yohan Poulard

Saint-Etienne’s Max Alain Gradel (L) fights for the ball with Ajaccio’s Yohan Poulard during their French Ligue 1 match in the Francois Coty stadium in Ajaccio, French mediterranean island of Corsica, on November 30. Saint-Etienne play Lyon next, at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, on Sunday.

“I hope my players feel the same but to dream of something is not being arrogant and saying we are going to achieve it easily.” he added.

While Saint Etienne come into the fixture on a four match winning streak at home, they have a horrendous record against Lyon and haven’t beaten them at home for 13 matches dating back to 1994.

A draw or defeat for Garde’s men will open the door for Marseille to regain top spot.

Elie Baup’s side will be heavy favourites to squash the challenge of Britanny outfit Lorient who have won just once in seven away matches and have slipped into the lower half of the table.

Marseille are already eliminated from Europa League action but the return from a domestic suspension of English midfielder Joey Barton inspired a 2-1 away win at Brest last week and the on-loan QPR player has been the talk of the town in recent days.

Marseille's Andre Ayew (C) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Brest, on December 2

Marseille’s Andre Ayew (C) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal during their French Ligue 1 match against Brest at the Francis Le Ble stadium in Brest, western France, on December 2. Marseille play Lorient next, at home, on Sunday.

“Joey can bring all his potential into the vision of the game and his passes. If he has restraint in his game, it’s also because only one thing awaits, his first red card,” said Baup.

There were a few more smiles around the Paris Saint Germain training ground this week after they defeated Porto 2-1 to win their Champions League group which followed a dismal run of domestic form that has seen them fall five points off the pace and put coach Carlo Ancelotti’s job in jeopardy.

Reports continue to swirl that the Italian’s days are numbered at Parc des Princes and club owner Nasser al-Khelaifi did little to take the heat off the Champions League winner when asked about Ancelotti’s current status.

“Today we have Carlo,” was his abrupt reply when asked about a potential change of coach.

On Saturdday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck his league-leading 14th goal of the season as PSG secured a much-needed 4-0 victory over Evian, easing some of the pressure on under-fire Ancelotti.

Elsewhere, defending champions Montpellier won for just the fifth time this season as strikes from John Utaka, Remy Cabella and Younes Belhanda propelled Rene Girard’s side to a 3-0 win at home to Ajaccio.

Meanwhile, Rennes conceded a two-goal lead as they drew 2-2 with Brest.

Fifth-placed Valenciennes were held to a 1-1 draw at bottom side Nancy, while Troyes and Nice finished 1-1 as did Sochaux against Lille.

Toulouse’s poor run of form continued as they drew 0-0 at home to Bastia on Friday.

Sunday Fixtures (all times GMT):

Reims v Bordeaux (1300), Marseille v Lorient (1600), Saint-Etienne v Lyon (2000)

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