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France's top-of-the-table showdown tops bill

Published: Friday 17 February 2012, 11.27CET
Derbies in Vienna and Salonika loom large along with meetings between the top two in Northern Ireland and France, where Paris Saint-Germain FC take on unheralded Montpellier Hérault SC.

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Published: Friday 17 February 2012, 11.27CET

France's top-of-the-table showdown tops bill

Derbies in Vienna and Salonika loom large along with meetings between the top two in Northern Ireland and France, where Paris Saint-Germain FC take on unheralded Montpellier Hérault SC.

Northern Ireland: Portadown FC v Linfield FC (Saturday, 16.00)
Linfield boss David Jeffrey is preparing for a "ginormous" top-of-the-table clash with Portadown. The reigning champions lead the Ports by four points at the summit ahead of their trip to Shamrock Park and with only ten league fixtures remaining, Jeffrey accepts the meeting represents a "six-pointer" for both clubs. "We know we will have to be at the top of our game to secure a positive result," he said. Linfield have won the title five times in the past six seasons; Portadown last celebrated championship success in 2002.

England: Sunderland AFC v Arsenal FC (Saturday, 18.15)
Arsenal, wounded by Wednesday's loss at AC Milan, will attempt to get back on track in the FA Cup. A late Thierry Henry goal in the Frenchman's final domestic game before returning to New York earned the Gunners a 2-1 win at Sunderland in the league last weekend, ending the Black Cats' six-game unbeaten run at home since Martin O'Neill took charge. "We didn't deserve to lose," said the former Nottingham Forest FC midfielder. "That game will stand us in good stead because we had to experience playing without the ball for long periods, and we can learn from that."

Austria: SK Rapid Wien v FK Austria Wien (Saturday, 18.30)
Ivica Vastić's arrival at the helm has brought Austria renewed hope for the title race, and the former international enjoyed a fine start with last weekend's 2-0 victory over second-placed SV Ried. That moved them up to third; the 42-year-old's new charges could go top with a victory over league leaders Rapid in what will be the 300th Viennese derby. Vastić is urging caution, however, saying: "We've found the balance between defence and attack, but we still have a long way to go."

Greece: PAOK FC v Aris Thessaloniki FC (Sunday, 18.30)
After their 0-0 draw at Udinese Calcio, third-placed PAOK can now focus on the Salonika derby. Midfielder Pablo García said: "It's a must-win encounter, as always. Victory over Aris makes our fans especially proud and happy and will also secure our place in the play-offs." It is the 102nd league meeting of these neighbours, and of their 50 home encounters POAK have won 28 and lost just nine. Aris' fourth coach of the season, Manuel Machado starts his tenure at a side sitting seventh who have scored only 21 goals in as many games, facing a defence that has let in 17.

France: Paris Saint-Germain FC v Montpellier Hérault SC (Sunday, 21.00)
To the amazement of many, Montpellier trail PSG by just one point at the top of Ligue 1. The southern club's president, Louis Nicollin, describes their lofty standing as "more than we could have hoped for", but striker Olivier Giroud wants his side to push their luck at the Parc des Princes. "We are going there to win as we do for any other game," said the division's 16-goal top scorer. "We have nothing to lose; we'll be relaxed." PSG played in midweek, beating Dijon FCO in the French Cup quarter-finals; their legs may be tired, but their spirits are high.

Spain: FC Barcelona v Valencia CF (Sunday, 21.30)
Buoyed by Tuesday's UEFA Champions League victory at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Josep Guardiola's side welcome third-placed Valencia. Defeat at CA Osasuna last weekend left the Catalan giants ten points behind Real Madrid CF, but goalkeeper Víctor Valdés said his side are not giving up. "We are not dropping our heads; we must keep chasing," the 30-year-old said. "We know we can improve and we are constantly analysing the situation and taking things game by game. We will keep on believing."

All times CET.

Last updated: 05/12/13 19.09CET

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