'Marseille must use home advantage'
Olympique Marseille could be top of Ligue 1 if they had not collapsed in their last two home games, striker Andre-Pierre Gignac said, warning his teammates that they could not afford any more home losses.
Third-placed Marseille, tied on 35 points with leaders Paris St Germain, host eighth-ranked St Etienne on Sunday (2000 GMT) having won one of their last five home league games.
While they have the French league's best away record with seven victories from 10 games, including the last three, they were thrashed 4-1 by Olympique Lyon and 3-0 by Lorient in their last two home encounters.
"We should have more points. We collapsed in some games. I can't explain that," Gignac, who scored a superb goal to earn his side a 1-0 win at Toulouse last weekend, told the club website (www.om.net).
Even if we lose, we have to fight...we can't afford to collapse like that."
Marseille have one of the worst defensive records at home with 12 goals conceded in eight games but in-form playmaker Mathieu Valbuena said they could improve.
"We can produce great performances at home. There's is no 'Velodrome' syndrome," he told reporters. "We just have to be more consistent."
Sunday's game could be the ideal occasion for a home recovery as St Etienne have endured a 500-minutes goal drought and have lost two of their last three league matches.
Their poor run started against neighbours Olympique Lyon who will rekindle bad memories on Saturday (1900) when former coach Claude Puel arrives with his current side Nice, who are fifth in the standings, six points behind their hosts.
Puel was fired after a three-year spell during which he failed to win a single trophy despite taking charge of a club who were seven-times defending champions when he was appointed in 2008.
Olympique Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, whose club won the French Cup last season under new coach Remi Garde, had harsh words about Puel ahead of the game.
"Puel was our coach for three years, and they were not good times for Lyon and our fans. He left on bad terms, with the whole soccer community having a bad opinion of him," Aulas said.
Nice will again bet on Argentine front man Dario Cvitanich, who has scored seven goals in as many games and has already been dubbed "best catch of the close season" after he was signed for 400 000 euros ($530 400).
Leaders Paris St Germain, ahead of Lyon and Marseille on goal difference, could consolidate their first place before the winter break if they win at mid-table Stade Brest on Friday (1945 GMT).
Champions Montpellier will aim to extend their winning run to a fourth game when they visit Lille on Saturday (1600).
Fourth-placed Lorient, who are on 30 points - the club's best tally from 18 games - host promoted Stade Reims on the same day.