PSG looks to take over 1st from rival Marseille
(AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)
By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer
PARIS (AP) French league leader Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain both have a point to prove when they meet Sunday night, with PSG looking to take over first place for the first time this season.
Both teams lost their unbeaten records recently, Marseille slipping to a 4-1 loss to Valenciennes last weekend and PSG's European ambitions getting a wake-up call after a dispiriting 1-0 loss at FC Porto on Wednesday.
"We're all aware that we messed up. You can lose matches, but it's the way we lost that disappointed us," Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said, reflecting on a defeat which ended Marseille's six-game winning run. "We will have to re-set our sights and get back to how we were playing before. We didn't have the right attitude against Valenciennes."
For the first time in nearly three years, visiting fans will be allowed at the game - which is traditionally hostile.
Opposing fans waged running battles in the streets of Marseille in October 2009, leading to a reciprocal ban on away fans. Tensions will be high and a strong security presence will be in place at Stade Velodrome.
Antoine Boutonnet, the head of the police's anti-hooligan division, said the number of travelling fans is limited to 400 as a preventative measure and to stop known troublemakers from traveling to Marseille.
Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has played in high-profile matches throughout his career with Inter Milan, Juventus, AC Milan and Sweden, is eager to sample the atmosphere inside Marseille's notoriously raucous stadium.
"Everyone speaks about it. They say it's the derby of France when you play against Marseille," he said in an interview with French television. "It will be a big game."
Ibrahimovic scored eight goals in his first six games for PSG after joining from AC Milan, but he has been kept quiet in his last two outings. Against Porto, he went close with one extravagant backheel volley, but otherwise struggled to find his best form.
Marseille will hope he has another off-day and highly-rated central defender Nicolas N'Koulou will have the job of marking him.
The 22-year-old Cameroon defender is considered one of the best prospects in France - although that does not impress Ibrahimovic.
"I don't know him. Sorry," Ibrahimovic replied when asked what he thought of N'Koulou.
Marseille must hope Mandanda has got his confidence back after his horrendous error against Valenciennes, when he went to throw the ball to a teammate, but instead it dropped out of his hand and landed at the feet of Foued Kadir, giving him an easy goal.
"If I keep thinking about that, then I should stop playing," Mandanda said. "It happened. It shouldn't have, but you have to get on with it and move onto other things."
Mandanda may have another busy night against Ibrahimovic, last season's top scorer in Serie A with a career-high 28 league goals.
"He's a great player, the star of the championship," Mandanda said. "But it's just football, there's no reason to be scared."
Also, third-place Lyon looks to bounce back from last weekend's surprise 2-0 loss to Bordeaux when it travels to Lorient on Sunday. Lorient is still unbeaten and is in fourth place, one point behind Lyon.
"We weren't good enough in front of goal (against Bordeaux) and that includes me," Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis said. "We will fix that."
Former champion Lille, meanwhile, is in need of a major confidence boost after losing to Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday. Lille has not won a league game since the opening day of the season and has not won any of its last six in all competitions, losing four and drawing two.
Lille, which won the championship two seasons ago, has dropped down to 15th and desperately needs to beat Ajaccio at home on Saturday.
Also Saturday, it's: Montpellier vs. Evian; Bastia vs. Troyes; Reims vs. Nice; Sochaux vs. Rennes; and Toulouse vs. Valenciennes.
Bordeaux is at Brest in Sunday's other game.
Updated October 4, 2012