A depleted Olympique Marseille face another stiff challenge to get back to the top of Ligue 1 when they host fellow Champions League hopefuls Olympique Lyon on Sunday.
After a poor start this season, a seven-game winning streak has put Marseille back on track and fifth on the table, while another victory would help them leapfrog fourth-ranked Lyon, who earlier this season sent the 2010 champions crashing to the bottom of Ligue 1.
Both clubs set up another major game this week when they qualified for the League Cup final, with Lyon hoping to clinch their first trophy since 2008 and holders Marseille to win the trophy for the third time in a row.
But Didier Deschamps' side suffered a big blow when Mathieu Valbuena was sent off during Marseille's semi-final against Nice, having already lost the Ayew brothers to the Africa Cup of Nations and sold playmaker Lucho Gonzalez to Porto in the last days of the transfer window.
Valbuena, who had made 11 assists in the Ligue 1 season, was shown a second yellow card for taking a free-kick too fast to be automatically suspended.
"I regret the referee's harshness. I know there are rules, but here the rules are stupidly and strictly applied," a fuming Deschamps told France Television.
Lyon could miss centre-back Dejan Lovren but captain Cris was back in action on Tuesday for a League Cup semi-final in Lorient.
Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain who acquired Inter Milan midfielder Thiago Motta in the last hours of the transfer window, host Evian Thonon Gaillard on Saturday.
Motta and Brazilian centre-back Alex, who joined from Chelsea, could make their debuts at Parc des Princes.
Montpellier, who are placed second three points behind PSG, will try to keep close with a home game against Stade Brest and champions Lille will visit struggling side Sochaux on Sunday.comments