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Ligue 1 weekend preview

Lille coach Rene Girard insists his team have nothing to fear as they attempt to complete a double over Monaco and make a late charge for second place in Ligue 1.

A 2-0 home win over the big-spending southern side in November has given Lille an appetite for Sunday's tussle in the principality.

Should third-placed Lille prevail, then the gap to second-placed Monaco would come down to six points, with eight games to play.

And while Girard is respectful of the opposition, he is convinced his players have the wherewithal to snaffle maximum points at the Stade Louis II.

He said: "We're going to come up against a good team. But we have nothing to lose and everything to gain in this type of match.

"We shouldn't fear them. On the contrary, we go there with the desire to achieve something great. We eagerly look forward to these moments."

The evening fixture brings the weekend action to an end, and Lille may have one eye on fourth-placed St Etienne's home game against Sochaux earlier on Sunday, when Christophe Galtier's team will be aiming to close to two points behind the Champions League places and put two recent consecutive defeats behind them.

Second-bottom Sochaux, by contrast, will be aiming to follow up last weekend's win over Lorient and advance their survival prospects.

Lyon, who go to Guingamp on Sunday, and Marseille, who have a Saturday assignment against Rennes, are among the sides attempting to mount a challenge for third place.

Inconsistent form has been a barrier to breaking into the Champions League places for both teams though, and more underachievement this weekend could leave them with too much ground to make up over the remaining eight games, especially if Lille win at Monaco.

Leaders Paris St Germain, drawn on Friday to face Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals, begin the weekend programme with a Friday night game at Lorient.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Bastia aim to put three successive home defeats behind them as they tackle Reims in Corsica, while Bordeaux face Nice and Nantes take on Montpellier.

Third-bottom Valenciennes head into the weekend with high hopes of climbing out of the relegation zone.

They have home advantage on Saturday against bottom-of-the-pile Ajaccio, a side with just two league wins all season, while Evian, who occupy the last safe place, have a trip to Toulouse.