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Football | France

Euro battle comes down to wire in France



The French Ligue 1 season comes to an end on Sunday night with the final Champions League qualification spot and the last relegation place both still to be decided.

With Paris Saint-Germain wrapping up the title two games before the end of the campaign, and Marseille having already clinched the second automatic qualifying berth for next season's Champions League, the pressure is now on Lyon to join them by holding on to third place.

Remi Garde's side sit two points clear of Rhone rivals Saint-Etienne and three ahead of both Lille and Nice, so a win at home against Rennes will guarantee them a place on the podium.

OL's form in the final months of the season has not been entirely convincing, and they must do without captain Maxime Gonalons due to suspension, but they should still have enough to see off a Rennes side who have won just one of their last 13 matches.

"We have our destiny in our own hands and will have the supporters behind us," said Garde, who dismissed suggestions that Rennes will make for easy pickings in what will be their coach Frederic Antonetti's final game at the helm.

"I don't think so. It is his last game and he has marked the history of the club. I am not expecting any gifts from them."

If Lyon do slip up, then Saint-Etienne are in the best position to take advantage. They lie two points behind but do boast a better goal difference, although they face a tough trip to fellow European hopefuls Lille.

Both clubs are focusing solely on trying to secure fourth place, which brings with it a place in next season's Europa League.

"If we finish fourth we will be in our place," said Lille coach Rudi Garcia. "In front of us, it will be Paris, Marseille, Lyon, and they are clubs who should be ahead of us.

"We have a chance of finishing third. Anything can happen in football but, given that Rennes are playing like they have been on holiday for several months already, it is a very slim chance."

Saint-Etienne have already qualified for next season's Europa League thanks to their triumph in the League Cup final last month, but taking fourth would allow them to enter the competition at a later stage.

"It will be our second final of the year," said Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier. "I hope we finish above Lille. After that we will see how our opponents have got on."

Nice sit three points behind Lyon in sixth, but their far inferior goal difference effectively rules out any chance of them qualifying for the Champions League.

However, a win in Ajaccio will leave Claude Puel's side well placed to reach the Europa League.

At the bottom, the issue of who will be relegated along with Nancy and Brest has still to be decided.

Troyes currently occupy the last relegation place, and lie three points behind Evian, Ajaccio and Sochaux.

Evian and Ajaccio would appear to be safe already by virtue of their superior goal difference, but a Troyes win in Valenciennes will leave Sochaux needing to take something from their trip to Bastia if they are to stay up.

Troyes may still be up against it, but they have given themselves a chance by winning four of their last five games.

Elsewhere, PSG end their campaign with a trip to Lorient. It remains to be seen whether David Beckham will feature in the game, although the veteran Englishman previously indicated that last week's match against Brest would be the last appearance of his distinguished career.

Fixtures

Ajaccio v Nice
Bastia v Sochaux
Bordeaux v Evian
Brest v Nancy
Lille v Saint-Etienne
Lorient v Paris Saint-Germain
Lyon v Rennes
Marseille v Reims
Toulouse v Montpellier
Valenciennes v Troyes

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