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Football | France

PSG seek to prove superiority over rivals



Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain head to Toulouse on Friday in a position of strength that has been reinforced as many of their rivals have seen key players depart over the last month.

French clubs have long exported their leading players to major clubs across the continent, and the domestic game has not always suffered as a result, but the trend in this January's transfer window has been a worrying one.

Given their own huge resources, PSG hardly needed their rivals to lose players to establish their own superiority, even if their performances have not always convinced this season.

But while Carlo Ancelotti's side have welcomed €40 million Brazil starlet Lucas Moura, there has been an exodus of talent from many of the country's top sides.

Lyon's Michel Bastos, Marseille's Loic Remy, Yann M'Vila of Rennes, Montpellier's Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Mathieu Debuchy of Lille were among the stars to move abroad, with the latter two helping start a French revolution at Newcastle United.

Toulouse themselves saw France midfielder Moussa Sissoko head to Newcastle, although their coach Alain Casanova had to insist that another international star, Etienne Capoue, would be going nowhere.

As relieved as he will be to see the transfer window slam shut, Casanova must now prepare his team for the meeting with a PSG side who are unbeaten in ten games in all competitions.

"When PSG sign a player he tends to cost the same as our budget for the year," said Casanova.

"That makes you think, although at the same time I believe that we are incredibly lucky to have them in Ligue 1. PSG are a locomotive and we need them."

These clubs met just last midweek in the French Cup, with PSG winning 3-1, and Casanova admits that there was "a big difference" between the pair that night.

As if that were not enough, Paris goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu appears to be unbeatable in the league at the moment.

He has gone 775 minutes without conceding a goal, breaking Bernard Lama's club record dating back to 1996-97.

"I don't pay too much attention to that. I think the merit for that goes to the whole team and to our defence," insisted the Italian.

Against all the odds, Lyon and Marseille continue to push their far wealthier rivals in the title race.

Lyon, who have loaned Brazilian winger Bastos to Schalke as part of their attempts to drastically reduce their wage bill, travel to Corsica to face an Ajaccio side who have won just one of their last ten Ligue 1 games.

"We have lost a great player who was important in the dressing room and was always positive, but our strength is the collective," insists OL defender Milan Bisevac.

Marseille have lost a bit of ground since the winter break having collected just four points from a possible nine, but they will hope to register a victory when bottom club Nancy visit the Stade Velodrome on Sunday.

Reigning champions Montpellier entertain Reims, who have not won in 14 league games, a sequence that has called the position of coach Hubert Fournier into question.

Fixtures:

Friday

Toulouse v Paris Saint-Germain

Saturday

Lorient v Rennes

Bastia v Evian

Bordeaux v Valenciennes

Brest v Nice

Lille v Troyes

Sochaux v Saint-Etienne

Sunday

Ajaccio v Lyon

Montpellier v Reims

Marseille v Nancy

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