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Football | France

Zlatan Ibrahimovic © Reuters Images

PSG, Lyon continue title tilt



Title-favourites Paris Saint-Germain head into their weekend fixture with Lille in confident mood as they continue their quest for an historic first league and French Cup double.

PSG, who lead Lyon on goal difference at the top, enter Sunday's encounter with 2011 champions Lille on a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions following Wednesday's 3-1 defeat of Toulouse in the French Cup.

"(The) victory was the best way to prepare for (Sunday's) match," said defender Sylvain Armand after goals from Kevin Gameiro, Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi earned Carlo Ancelotti's side a place in the last 16.

"We are in good shape, it's been a while since we lost (2-1 at Nice on December 1)," said Blaise Matuidi.

"We have to continue on Sunday against a team full of doubt and seeking revenge," the France midfielder added.

PSG will welcome back Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the league's 19-goal top scorer missed the win over Toulouse through suspension, while Thiago Motta is also available again although the rearguard pairing of Thiago Silva and Alex remain sidelined.

Meanwhile, Lyon goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre said ongoing transfer speculation surrounding the likes of Lisandro Lopez, Bafetimbi Gomis and Michel Bastos could scupper the club's aspirations of ending their five-year wait for a Ligue 1 crown.

"All that's being said in the media about certain players, who are key to us, can unsettle them. When they play they are a bit less relaxed and therefore perhaps not as influential," said Vercoutre, Lyon's longest-tenured player.

Remi Garde's side could seize a provisional three-point lead over PSG should they triumph away to mid-table Valenciennes on Friday but Vercoutre conceded the end of the January transfer window cannot come soon enough.

"Inevitably, we are effected by everything that's said. But like magic, at midnight on January 31, it will all disappear," said the 32-year-old shot-stopper.

Marseille travel to Rennes on Saturday vying for a fifth win in six outings as they attempt to maintain the pressure on both PSG and Lyon.

Elie Baup's side, who are one point off the pace, were inactive this week after their cup tie at third-tier Rouen was postponed following a gas leak at a chemical plant in the north of the country.

New recruit Modou Sougou could be handed his Marseille debut following the Senegalese winger's arrival from Romanian outfit CFR Cluj.

Fourth-placed Nice will seek to exorcise the demons of Wednesday's French Cup exit at the hands of basement side Nancy as Bordeaux travel to the Mediterranean coast on Sunday, while Saint-Etienne host Bastia.

Lorient continue their pursuit of European football next season at lowly Nancy, while their fellow relegation candidates Troyes are at home to Brest.

Montpellier's match against Sochaux is a rematch of their midweek cup duel, in which Sochaux twice came from behind to win 3-2 after extra time and end the defending Ligue 1 champions' chances of lifting any silverware this season.

Evian host Ajaccio in a match-up of struggling teams, while third-bottom Reims are in action against Toulouse.

Fixtures (1900GMT unless stated otherwise):

Friday

Valenciennes v Lyon (1930)

Saturday

Rennes v Marseille (1600), Nancy v Lorient, Troyes v Brest, Evian v Ajaccio, Montpellier v Sochaux, Reims v Toulouse

Sunday

Saint-Etienne v Bastia (1300), Nice v Bordeaux (1600), PSG v Lille (2000)

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