- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

With defending champion and Ligue 1 leader Paris Saint-Germain not playing until Wednesday, Monaco can cut the gap to seven points with a victory at home to Nice.

At the other end of the table, bottom club Ajaccio visits Bastia in the Corsican derby knowing it could be relegated if other results don’t go its way.

Here are five things to know about this weekend’s matches:



Paris Saint-Germain will have to recover swiftly from its surprise 1-0 defeat at Lyon as it heads into one of its most critical weeks of the season.

Last weekend’s defeat was only its second in the league and the first time PSG has lost back-to-back matches this campaign - following defeat at Chelsea the previous Tuesday.

Coach Laurent Blanc has come under fire as PSG prepares to face Lyon again in the League Cup final on Sunday before hosting relegation-threatened Evian on Wednesday.

“It’s normal that people question the coach’s position after these type of defeats,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “But if a goal had been scored at Chelsea in the 94th minute, we would have been phenomenons. That’s football.

“When you lose, it’s always the coach that’s targeted. But that’s not the case. Everyone is responsible.”



Monaco also has to recover from a surprise defeat as it looks to close the gap on leader Paris Saint-Germain to seven points when it hosts near-neighbors Nice on Sunday.

Coach Claudio Ranieri slammed his players after Monaco was eliminated from the French Cup on Wednesday, losing 3-1 at Guingamp.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Ranieri said. “We have 69 points, we’re fighting to get in the Champions League and Guingamp is fighting to stay in Ligue 1, but I thought Guingamp was Monaco in the match. They played very well, congratulations.

“I’m not embarrassed. The team is always an expression of its coach’s character. I can lose but I fight, I give everything. And only one team did that. Congratulations to Guingamp, who deserved to win 4-0.”

Nice is without a win in its past four matches.



Lille is looking more and more certain of securing third place and Champions League football.

Last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Valenciennes in the derby saw it extend its advantage over fourth-place Saint-Etienne to seven points.

Lille, which remained six points behind second-place Monaco, visits Marseille on Sunday.

“We needed to get three points against Valenciennes and we did it,” Lille striker Salomon Kalou said. “It’s never easy to play a derby but we did our job.

“There’s five matches left, nothing is decided yet. We are still third but we have huge matches ahead: at Marseille, against Bordeaux and Paris Saint-Germain. We’re on course for third place, second doesn’t depend on us. It can only be a bonus.”



Saint-Etienne’s slim hopes of snatching third spot off Lille took a blow last weekend.

Not only did it lose points in a 2-2 draw at Reims but it also likely lost midfielder Josuha Guilavogui for the rest of the season.

The France international was injured in the 14th minute but stayed on until halftime. Tests later revealed he has a 15 centimeter tear in a thigh muscle.

Guilavogui’s chances of recovering in time for the World Cup are slim.

It was Saint-Etienne’s second successive draw and saw it slip seven points behind Lille. It hosts Rennes on Friday.



Guingamp hopes the joy of reaching the French Cup final will help it stave off relegation.

Wednesday’s win over Monaco saw Guingamp book a spot against Rennes in the May 3 final.

It has more pressing matters in hand now as it is just five points above the bottom three and is looking to snap a four-match losing streak when it visits Bordeaux on Sunday.

“It hasn’t been easy lately with the defeats in the league, but we knew how to be solid,” Guingamp goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa said. “Our stadium is amazing and once again helped us until the end.

“We’re going to try to continue with the same spirit in the league to try and get the three points at Bordeaux.”



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