PARIS - Fear is threatening to affect Olympique Marseille's bid for their first league title since 1992 when they entertain Stade Rennes on Wednesday.
Marseille, on 72 points with three games left in the Ligue 1 season will be crowned champions if they beat Rennes at home and second-placed Auxerre, five points off the pace, do not win at Olympique Lyon.
Nobody has bridged a five-point gap at the top of Ligue 1 with three games remaining but that did not seem to calm OM's sports director Jose Anigo.
"There is so much fear (at Marseille), you cannot imagine," Anigo told the club's website.
"There are so much expectations. We have been waiting for this for 17 years. And for a club like ours, every year without a title counts for 10."
Marseille won the league in 1993 but they were stripped of the title following a match-fixing scandal.
"For many, we are already champions," said midfielder Edouard Cisse. "But we would like to be mathematically champions."
Against Rennes, Marseille are expected to rely on their sturdy defence, perfectly marshalled by Cameroon's Stephane Mbia.
They have conceded only two goals in their last seven games.
"We are more efficient in defence than we used to be," coach Didier Deschamps, the last OM captain to lift the champions' trophy, said last week.
If the title is almost a done deal, the battle for third place, that gives access to the Champions League playoff, is by no means decided.
Third-placed Lille, who have scored the most goals (66) in the league this season, travel to Toulouse as they lead fourth-placed Lyon by two points.
The seven-times champions, who still have a game in hand, host Auxerre, whom they trail by five points.
"We have our fate in our hands (for third place). If we win all our remaining matches, we will be in the Champions League (play-off)," midfielder Jeremy Toulalan told Lyon's website.
It is not the case for champions Girondins Bordeaux, who travel to Nice with 60 points, four less than Lille.
They could be without France playmaker Yoan Gourcuff, who missed their two previous games with a thigh injury.
Second from bottom Boulogne must beat St Etienne if they want to keep alive their hopes of staying in the top flight, with third from bottom Le Mans, travelling to Nancy, also hoping Les Verts will lose.comments