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PSG out to extend Classique record against Marseille

PSG out to extend Classique record against Marseille

Sunday's Classique clash between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain headlines this weekend's Ligue 1 action in a fixture that could prove pivotal in the title race.

The famous rivals meet for a second time this season at the Stade Velodrome, with the third-placed hosts sitting just two points behind reigning champion and leaders PSG.

Marcelo Bielsa's men will be seeking to arrest a dismal recent record against their opponents from the capital.

Marseille have not beaten PSG in their last eight attempts and have scored just once in their last six Classique encounters, with departing full-back Rod Fanni eager to sign off his derby participation in style.

"It is no secret. My contract is expiring at the end of the season," the defender - who played in the 2-0 defeat to PSG in November - told.

"In my mind, this is my last Classique, I want to finish beautifully and leave a good mark here. I love Marseille, I have this club in my heart.

"I want to give the fans something beautiful at Marseille on Sunday night. If I can leave on that note, it would be marvellous.

"We have the means to hurt any team. However, we must be rigorous and find the perfect balance between our desire to attack and the need to ensure our defensive strength."

Hubert Fournier will have a keen eye on events at the Velodrome, with his Lyon side - one point behind PSG - in action at Guingamp on Saturday, while Leonardo Jardim's in-form Monaco outfit host fellow European hopefuls Saint-Etienne.

Monaco have not conceded a goal at home in the league since November, but will need to cope without Ricardo Carvalho on Friday after he sprained a knee on international duty.

At the other end of the table, victory for Toulouse over bottom side Metz would see Albert Cartier's men slip a step closer to the drop, while fellow strugglers Lens target their first away league win since October at Bordeaux.

Evian take the momentum from their 1-0 win over Montpellier into Saturday's trip to Nice - the hosts themselves going into the clash off the back of a morale-boosting win over Lyon.

Clarck N'Sikulu is likely to prove key if Evian can pick up maximum points, with three of his five Ligue 1 goals this season coming during March.

Elsewhere, 17th-placed Lorient welcome mid-table Rennes, Reims travel to Lille, Bastia head to Montpellier, and Nantes are in action against Caen.

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Jesus calls for fight

Juan Jesus

Inter defender Juan Jesus wants his side to fight for their lives when embattled Parma visit San Siro on Saturday.

Roberto Mancini's men are languishing in 10th after a winless run of four saw them enter the international break on a sour note.

A club of Inter's stature should be challenging for the title, not scrapping in mid-table, and their plight is underlined by the fact 16th-placed Verona are just five points behind them.

A home clash against rock-bottom Parma - who have collected just nine points this season amidst significant financial toil - should see Inter return to winning ways, though.

Inter can ill-afford another slip-up as they are 10 points behind Napoli, who occupy the final European spot in fifth.

And Jesus said his team-mates are still desperate to play continental football, with the knowledge that their holidays could be cut short if they fail.

"We have to deal with these remaining games as if our lives depended on it," he told.

"If we're not able to get into Europe for next season then we'll be at the club's disposal if they want to shorten the holidays.

"The break has done us good…we've been able to rest mentally and training with conviction.

"The club is doing everything it can to take Inter back up where it belongs next season.

"We need our fans support on Saturday and I know they'll help us out."

Inter have been linked with a big-money move for Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure this week.

Their last league win came in February, at Cagliari, also in the relegation zone.

You have to go back to mid-January to find Parma's last win in any competition - a Coppa Italia success, against Cagliari as well.

They shocked Fiorentina in January too, but with their relegation to be confirmed in the coming weeks, bar a minor miracle, another upset is unlikely.

Parma's defence is the equal-worst in the league, having conceded 53 times, and while Inter have battled this term, they are still the fourth-highest scorers in the league.

Argentinean forward Mauro Icardi has netted 15 Serie A strikes this term, with only Juventus marksman Carlos Tevez (16) having scored more.

Antonio Cassano, who left Inter to join Parma last year, is top scorer for the strugglers with five.

Parma did beat Inter earlier this season, 2-0, thanks to Paolo De Ceglie's double.

But they have a terrible record against Inter at San Siro, last winning in May 1999. In the 17 games since, Inter have won 11.

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Lewandowski keen to return

Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski is looking forward to returning to former club Borussia Dortmund in Saturday's Der Klassiker.

The Poland international traded Dortmund for the Bundesliga champions in the close-season in a controversial move that showcased Bayern's stranglehold on German football.

Bayern are set for a third successive title - they lead second-placed Wolfsburg by 10 points - but Dortmund finishing runner-up, as they have for the past two seasons, is almost impossible.

Jurgen Klopp's men endured a horror start to the season and even sat bottom of the league for spells, but have found form since the mid-season break and are now unbeaten in seven - a run that has seen them rise to 10th. 

The international break has given Bayern a chance to reflect on their 2-0 home loss to Borussia Monchengladbach last time out - just their second league defeat of the season - and Lewandowski is excited ahead of the Bundesliga's marquee match.

"I had four good and successful years with Dortmund," Lewandowski told.

"I still keep in touch with my former team-mates. That doesn't mean we're not going there to give it everything and come away with all three points [though].

"Overall, I'm very happy at the club [Bayern] and with the city [Munich]."

Lewandowski, who has scored 13 goals in 24 league appearances this term, took the chance to reflect on his season so far and expanded on the differences between Dortmund's style and that of Bayern's.

"Obviously you can always play better and score more goals but I'm the kind of player who tends to think first of the team," he added.

"I had four years at Dortmund so you obviously need to grow into a new system, and players sometimes need a little time for that. 

"We try to play a short-passing game here because possession is the decisive criteria. With Dortmund, the defenders often knocked long balls up for me to chase - but we do that very rarely here."

Bayern will be without David Alaba for this clash, after he injured his knee on national duty with Austria, while Arjen Robben (stomach) and Javi Martinez (knee) will also miss. Franck Ribery (ankle) and Thiago Alcantara (knee) are in doubt too.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double helped Dortmund win 3-2 at Hannover last time out and with a European place just five points away, another victory could prove significant for the hosts.

The sides have already met twice this year, with Dortmund toppling the German champions in the Super Cup in August.

Bayern exacted revenge with a 2-1 league win in November, although they had to come from behind as Lewandowski and Robben scored in the last 20 minutes.

Dortmund have won just two of their last seven home games against Bayern in the league.

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Match Preview: Bulgaria vs Italy

Italy

Italy travel to Sofia on Saturday evening, taking on Bulgaria in their latest qualifying match, as the 2016 European Championships draw ever closer.

On the surface, it should be a straightforward encounter for Antonio Conte’s men, with almost every statistic tilting in their favour before the encounter at the Vasil Levski National Stadium gets underway.

Having taken 10 points from their opening four games, the Azzurri currently sit atop of Group H alongside Croatia and have yet to lose since the former Juventus coach took over from Cesare Prandelli. Yet the team has struggled to truly impress thus far, failing to click in the way they previously had, and the new boss will hope this current international break finally see things fall into place.

They will have to cope without the injured Andrea Pirlo, which should mean Marco Verratti is handed the keys to the midfield, and Italy will also hope to overcome the fact several of their players are in poor form. The likes of Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile and Graziano Pelle have endured barren spells of late, while Simone Zaza has admitted rumours of a move during the January transfer window affected his own play.

Ivaylo Petev has problems of his own however, with his team having recorded just a solitary win over Azerbaijan in their qualifying campaign thus far. They have taken just four points from the same number of matches and will be desperately hoping to steal all three points in front of their home fans if they are to have any chance of achieving qualification to next summer’s tournament.

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Collins ready for Wales action

James Collins

West Ham United defender James Collins is ready for a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier for his country this weekend.

Wales take on Israel in Haifa on Saturday looking for the victory that would take them top of Group B and a step closer to the finals in France.

The expansion of UEFA's flagship tournament for national teams to 24 finalists has given Wales a genuine shot of qualification for the first time since 1976 and Collins is determined to take the chance.

He said: "I’m looking forward to going away with Wales and getting another game under my belt. I can’t wait, it’s a big game, Israel away is going to be a tough, tough game. If we win we go top of the group. It looks like we have a fully fit squad so we have a great chance.

"The main aim is to get to France 2016. That started with Speedo's time as manager. We’ve started this campaign well, it’s a tough group but with the squad we’ve got, we know we have every chance."

Collins goes into the game on the back of a victory over Sunderland with the Hammers - one which he believes was crucial.

He added: "We knew that if we kept a clean sheet we had a chance of winning the game on Saturday. Diafra stuck it in the back of the net so it was a nice moment.

"We knew it was going to be tough with a new manager coming in, the players will want to impress him and they caught us a few times in the first half to be fair. With Jermain Defoe playing you know he’s going to be a threat.

"Kev and a few other lads said before the game it doesn’t matter how we win, just that we do. It was a bit scrappy but we’ve got the ball rolling again.

"We want to finish as high as we can and end the season on a good run of form. The international break gives us a bit of a break between league games. We want to finish higher than tenth, that was the aim at the start of the season."

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