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Football | France

PSG to protect top spot without Ibra



Paris Saint Germain will attempt to shelter their narrow advantage at the top of Ligue One on Sunday without suspended top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic as they travel to defending champions Montpellier.

The Sweden captain leads the domestic charts with ten goals and inspired PSG to a 4-0 Champions League victory over Dynamo Zagreb in midweek, but the 31-year-old will be sorely missed for the trip to the Stade de la Mosson after picking up a straight red card during last weekend's surprise 2-1 reverse at home to Saint Etienne.

However, Montpellier have shown few reminders of the form that made them champions for the first time last season and come into the match sixth from bottom with just three wins from 15 matches including their elimination from the Champions League last Tuesday when they slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Athens club Olympiakos.

Marseille who trail their arch rivals only on goal difference and have a game in hand can pile the pressure on Carlo Ancelotti's men when they play on Sunday afternoon against a Nice side who have won only four times in 44 trips to the Velodrome and just the once since 1976.

Coach Elie Baup fielded a weakened line-up for Thursday's Europa League test against Borussia Monchengladbach as their fixture list becomes congested.

"It will be our 19th match since the beginning of the season and sixth in 20 days," explained Baup who welcomed back Senegal defender Souleymane Diawara this week from a six-month knee-injury ironically picked up against Nice.

"I am super excited and feel like a ten-year-old before Christmas," enthused Diawara who won back to back French titles in 2009 and 2010 with Bordeaux and Marseille respectively.

"People would have said we were crazy if we expected to have 22 points after ten matches but this team can go a long, long way if we can keep the team spirit we have at the moment, continued the 33-year-old who also had a brief spell with Charlton Athletic.

Lyon are slated to play Marseille on November 28 in the game in hand that was initially postponed due to stormy weather on the south coast and have quietly slotted into third place and just one point behind the two leaders as they travel to Sochaux on Sunday.

The seven-time champions travel back from their Europa League encounter against Athletic Bilbao where Eric Hely's side await, following their 2-1 victory over Evian-TG in a replayed match that lifted them out of the relegation zone.

Elsewhere, fourth-placed Toulouse will attempt to bounce back from their defeat against Bordeaux last weekend and a home tie against Corsican side Ajaccio while Valenciennes look to remain in touch with the leaders and can even break into the top three with victory in Bastia.

Bordeaux the 2009 champions under Laurent Blanc are in Britanny to tackle Lorient, Lille must somehow overcome their 6-1 Champions League humiliation against Bayern Munich as they host Brest, Saint Etienne entertain Troyes, Reims are at home to Evian-TG while basement dwellers Nancy take on Rennes in the only match on Friday.

Fixtures:

Friday
Nancy v Rennes

Saturday
Lille v Brest
Saint Etienne v Troyes
Bastia v Valenciennes
Reims v Evian-TG
Toulouse v Ajaccio

Sunday
Marseille v Nice
Lorient v Bordeaux
Sochaux v Lyon
Montpellier v Paris Saint Germain

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