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Title and survival matters dominate weekend

Published: Friday 15 March 2013, 10.00CET
A relegation scrap takes centre stage in England while championship challengers face off in Georgia, France and Malta. previews the weekend's key fixtures.

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Published: Friday 15 March 2013, 10.00CET

Title and survival matters dominate weekend

A relegation scrap takes centre stage in England while championship challengers face off in Georgia, France and Malta. previews the weekend's key fixtures.

England: Aston Villa FC v Queens Park Rangers FC (Saturday 16.00)
With four points separating the bottom-of-the-table visitors and Villa in 17th, this result could have a huge bearing on the battle to avoid the drop. Two weeks ago, and winless in seven, Harry Redknapp's QPR appeared certainties for demotion, but back-to-back victories have made the west London side the bottom third's form team. However, Paul Lambert's men come into the game on the back of an away win at Reading FC and the Scot is backing his charges to build on that success. "We have a bit of momentum," Lambert said. "We don't look like a team fighting for its life. I see a lot of confidence in the players – they have been playing really well without the rewards."

Germany: Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Bayern München (Saturday 18.30)
Beaten 2-0 by Arsenal FC on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, Bayern will be seeking to respond against the side responsible for inflicting their only top-flight defeat of the campaign. Third-placed Leverkusen, now a massive 21 points behind Jupp Heynckes' frontrunners, ran out 2-1 winners that October day in Munich with goals from Stefan Kiessling and Sidney Sam. "We need to remember all the qualities from that away game, such as passion and drive," said Werkself captain Simon Rolfes. "A bit of luck goes with that too. Everything has to come together. We need a sensational performance and, regardless of the result in Munich, we are highly motivated."

Georgia: FC Dinamo Tbilisi v FC Dila Gori (Sunday 12.00)
Pacesetters Dinamo can increase the gap between themselves and second-placed Dila Gori to six points when they meet for the third time in the Umaglesi Liga this season. Both clubs began the Championship round with home victories but did not fare so well in midweek in the first leg of their respective Georgian Cup quarter-finals – Dinamo drew 0-0 at second-division leaders FC Guria Lanchkhuti while holders Dila lost 3-0 away to FC Chikhura Sachkhere. "We felt the absence of four or five first-team regulars, but 3-0 is still a tragedy for us," said Dila's Lithuanian coach Valdas Ivanauskas. "We can't let ourselves lose by such a big margin. When we play Dinamo our attitude has to be right."

Malta: Valletta FC v Birkirkara FC (Sunday 16.00)
Champions Valletta were displaced as Premier League leaders in midweek by Birkirkara. The former lost 3-2 at Tarxien Rainbows FC on Tuesday, a result which enabled their weekend opponents to establish a one-point advantage courtesy of a 7-1 home win 24 hours later against Mosta FC. Birkirkara coach Paul Zammit – a league champion in 2008 with Valletta and two years later in his current role as Stripes boss – told "These kinds of matches are always very important and in some circumstances have been decisive. Our aim at this point of the season is getting that extra advantage over Valletta in order to maintain our title bid."

France: AS Saint-Étienne v Paris Saint-Germain FC (Sunday 21.00)
A first home league victory over PSG since September 2008 would haul St-Étienne to within six points of the leaders with nine matches remaining. Unbeaten in nine Ligue 1 games in 2013, a run which has yielded 21 of their 48 points, Christophe Galtier's fourth-placed charges are France's form team and are relishing the visit of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists. "It's a great game to play in," said Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Les Verts' 16-goal top scorer. "We aim to rival them and to do that we must approach the game uninhibited. We're mentally strong at the moment, which should be a plus for us." PSG could be shorn of Lucas Moura, who has an ankle injury.

Last updated: 04/12/13 6.24CET

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