Two of France's biggest and most successful teams face off in Sunday night's big game in Ligue 1 with three points crucial for both.
Between them they have won 19 French league titles, they are without doubt the most successful team in the country, and on Sunday night they face up with the prospect of European football in sights for the potential winner. Saint-Etienne welcome Marseille to the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard and the temperature is set to be red-hot in Le Chaudron come kick-off.
Saint-Etienne’s home form has been superb this season, they have only lost twice in 12 games, and they have won all of their last five. Their last defeat came at the hands of rivals Lyon, a 94th minute header from Jimmy Briand causing the home fans heart-ache. Now Marseille arrive with the fourth best away record in the league and the hottest striker in the country. Andre-Pierre Gignac has scored 11 goals in his last 11 games, he is knocking on the door of an international call-up and he will be determined to fire Marseille above their opponents in the table and make their claim for third place more than just a fleeting hope.
Lille take on Evian in the afternoon kick-off, anything but a win for the northern club and both sides will be able to close the gap to at least two points, piling the pressure on René Girard’s stuttering side. Sunday night’s game will be a huge decider in where these two finish at the end of the season. They may not be challenging for their 20th league crown, but a place amongst Europe’s elite would be an amazing success for both. Home boss Christophe Galtier knows how important this time of the season will be.
“To finish the season in a good position we need to advance at an average of about two points per match. So we need to beat Marseille, who are a direct rival of ours. February-March is always a key period."
Marseille’s impressive 3-0 win over Bastia last week has seen them pick up seven points from the last nine available. Interim coach Jose Anigo is pleased with the way his side is playing and knows that they are in the running for third if their good play continues.
"If we keep playing like that, we will cause problems to a lot of teams," he said. "I'm not getting carried away. We have had a run of three straight games at home where I said it would be difficult to take maximum points.
"We started well against Valenciennes. Then we had the result against Toulouse when everyone said we had dropped points, but I said they were tricky opponents. That was proven by the result between Toulouse and Saint-Etienne. That turned out to be a good point because we then went on to beat Bastia. To take seven points from nine is not bad."
With both sides in form, and the prospect of catching Lille in third, this game will have a huge bearing on the rest of the season. Marseille’s good form combined with Sainté’s great home record. Something has to break. It’s all set up to be an absolute classic.
Saint-Etienne: Ruffier - Brison, Zouma, Perrin, Trémoulinas - Lemoine, Cohade - Hamouma, Corgnet, Tabanou - Brandao
Marseille: Mandanda - Dja Djédjé, N’Koulou, Mendes, Mendy - Payet, Romao, Imbula – Valbuena - Thauvin, Gignac