Paris Saint-Germain FC may be within sight of a place in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals ahead of Thursday's trip to SL Benfica in which they will attempt to defend a 2-1 first-leg lead, but in Ligue 1 the picture could not be more different as a seventh home defeat of the season on Sunday left the club staring relegation in the face.
PSG sank to 19th place with a 1-0 loss to AJ Auxerre at the Parc des Princes, their lowest league position since 7 May 1988. The two-time champions, who won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1996, have never been relegated since joining the French élite 34 years ago, but club president Alain Cayzac acknowledges the idea is no longer unthinkable. "Now we really have to accept the possibility of relegation," he said. "'Relegation': this word is no longer taboo, but we will fight like mad to avoid it."
With ten games to go, PSG are just two points above bottom side CS Sedan-Ardennes, who beat them at the Stade Louis Dugauguez on 5 March, while the Auxerre reverse allowed FC Nantes Atlantique to leapfrog their Parisian rivals. The side lost just once in six league matches after Paul Le Guen replaced Guy Lacombe in January, although the Auxerre reverse was a third successive Ligue 1 defeat. "I ask the players to remain focused and believe survival is possible," said Le Guen. "They must not surrender and we have a chance to finish the season having secured our top-flight spot. But we had no energy to come back after Auxerre took the lead."
Last summer, PSG were aiming for a UEFA Champions League qualifying berth and harboured hopes of challenging champions Olympique Lyonnais: instead, they are two points behind ES Troyes Aube-Champagne, who occupy 17th position just above the relegation zone. "It's like a nightmare which doesn't want to end," said striker Bonaventure Kalou, one of the few players to talk to the press after the latest setback. Although Benfica beckon, PSG could be forgiven for having one eye on Sunday's trip to Stade Rennais FC when they travel to Lisbon.
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