Paris Saint-Germain host Marseille in France’s fiercest rivalry on Sunday night with the capital club hoping to have Edinson Cavani back to help them see off their resurgent opponents.
Laurent Blanc’s PSG side have had a superb last 10 days, crushing Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in the Champions League and then beating Toulouse 4-2 away last Sunday to maintain their five-point lead over Monaco at the top of the Ligue 1 table.
Since then they have been boosted by the news that France midfielder Blaise Matuidi has finally put pen to paper on a new contract tying him to the Parc des Princes until 2018.
Now there is real hope that Uruguay striker Cavani will be able to make his comeback after four weeks on the sidelines with a thigh injury.
“The objective is to have him at our disposal against Marseille,” revealed Blanc.
“We will have to see how the injury evolves, but when I see him in training I think he is close to being ready. In any case, we are not going to take any risks, but things are on the right track.”
Bitter rivals Marseille come into the ‘Classique’ boosted by their recent improved form under interim coach Jose Anigo, which has reignited their hopes of finishing in the top three and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Inspired by Andre-Pierre Gignac, who has scored 12 times in 13 games, OM have won three and drawn two of their last five league matches.
That run of results has allowed them to close to within three points of Lille, who remain on the podium despite a poor start to 2014.
Now, though, Marseille must try to end a sequence of four successive defeats in all competitions against their old foes.
“It is a really exciting match, but to get a result against Paris would be a massive achievement for us,” said midfielder Alaixys Romao.
“If we raise our game than why can’t we win? We have improved over the last few weeks and are defending better.
“It will be difficult but over one game who knows. Paris don’t intimidate me. They play good football so you just hope to show that you can compete at their level.”
Meanwhile, second-placed Monaco continue their chase of the leaders with a tough trip to Saint-Etienne, who are fourth.
Monaco are unbeaten in 2014 and their Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez says the race is still alive, especially if PSG slip up against Marseille.
“Personally I want to win the title but we know that Paris are very strong,” said the 22-year-old.
“To get in front of them, we have to show more intensity in our game and win every match because the margin of error is very small. We all know anything can happen in the championship, and Marseille can win at Paris for example.”
Elsewhere, Lyon have dragged themselves back into the race for European places but they face a tough test on Sunday at home against Montpellier, who are unbeaten in eight Ligue 1 matches under the leadership of Rolland Courbis.
Remi Garde’s team are five points behind Lille, who travel to bottom side Ajaccio.
While the Corsicans have been cut adrift, Herve Renard’s Sochaux have caught a glimmer of light in the their bid to stave off relegation as they sit five points from safety ahead of a home clash with Bordeaux.
Third-from-bottom Valenciennes are two points from safety and travel to Reims, while the pick of the other games is a Brittany derby between Rennes and Guingamp.
Saint-Etienne v Monaco
Lorient v Bastia
Nice v Toulouse
Reims v Valenciennes
Rennes v Guingamp
Sochaux v Bordeaux
Ajaccio v Lille
Lyon v Montpellier
Paris Saint-Germain v Marseille