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Football | France

St Etienne attempt to break Lyon hoodoo



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.

"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.

"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.

His players showed the guile to beat a top European team and the visit of fourth from bottom Evian must surely give the capital club an ideal opportunity to further relieve the pressure on their 53-year-old coach.

Elsewhere, Valenciennes, Bordeaux and Rennes are locked in a tie for fifth spot and six points behind Lyon as they get set to play bottom placed Nancy, sixth from bottom Reims and promoted Brest respectively, and keep pace with the leading pack.

Toulouse can join this trio by Friday evening if they win their advanced match at home to Corsican club Bastia while defending champions Montpellier host the second Corsican side in the division, Ajaccio.

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