France's UEFA Champions League representatives may have all won in midweek, but their fortunes differ vastly in Ligue 1, where AS Monaco FC take on AJ Auxerre this Sunday needing to gain lost ground on leaders Olympique Lyonnais, and Paris Saint-Germain FC face fellow strugglers AC Ajaccio.
Lyon travel to FC Istres on Saturday and the contrast between the two clubs could hardly be greater. Paul Le Guen's French champions remain unbeaten and took over at the top last weekend ahead of LOSC Lille Métropole on goal difference. Meanwhile, it is the latter differential that is keeping Istres above RC Strasbourg at the bottom, as Farouk Bazdarevic's side search for their first-ever win in the top flight.
Moreover, Istres have managed just one point at 'home' so far - home being nearby Nimes while a new stadium is under construction. With former team-mate Florian Maurice poised to line up against him in attack, though, Lyon goalkeeper Grégory Coupet is taking nothing for granted. "On paper there's no contest, but on the pitch they are capable of beating us," he said.
Monaco lead their Champions League group, yet a domestic run of three games without victory has seen them slip to fourth place, a point behind Sunday's visitors Auxerre. Midfield player Akis Zikos admitted there was room for improvement at the principality club. "We have to find a solution quickly because we keep getting ourselves into trouble," he said.
The goal for Guy Roux's Auxerre is to close the three-point gap on the front two, with Lille making the trip to Toulouse FC after suffering their first defeat since August yesterday, a UEFA Cup loss to TSV Alemannia Aachen in which defender Grégory Tafforeau was carried off. FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, who beat FC Dinamo Tbilisi in the same competition, are away to SC Bastia, three spots below them in 12th.
For PSG, who lie down in 16th place, the switch from the high of overcoming FC Porto to scrapping for a crucial home win against lowly Ajaccio will be extreme, but the capital club ought to be buoyed by Wednesday's excellent result. That fixture is on Saturday, together with AS Saint-Etienne-Girondins de Bordeaux, SM Caen-FC Nantes Atlantique, Stade Rennais FC-FC Metz and RC Strasbourg-OGC Nice. In Sunday's late game, RC Lens entertain Olympique de Marseille and September's player of the month, Fabien Barthez.
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