Lille watch backs as Ligue 1 sprint starts

Lille will be watching their backs when they entertain Toulouse in Ligue One as the race for a place in next season's Champions League enters the home straight on Sunday.

Lille, who have a slim chance of retaining their league title, are third with 53 points and nine games to play, seven behind leaders Montpellier, but only three ahead of fourth-placed Toulouse.

"The sprint is about to start between the four or five teams still in a position to clinch third place," Lille forward Gianni Bruno was quoted as saying on the team's website.

"No need to say that to that regard the Toulouse game is important because they are our closest rivals," said Bruno.

The top two teams in Ligue 1 directly qualify for the Champions League group stage while the third-placed side has to go through a playoff tie.

Olympique Lyon, in fifth on 49 points, travel to Stade Rennes on Sunday having snatched away wins at Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup quarter-finals and arch-rivals Saint-Etienne.

"We've been more rigorous. We all want to qualify for the Champions League so everybody needs to pull together. Even if we struggle in the end of our matches, we do not let go," defender Samuel Umtiti told the club's website.

"Anything is now possible. Let's just stick together and we'll see where it takes us. But I think we have what it takes to finish third."

Among the Champions League contenders, sixth-placed Saint-Etienne appear to have the easiest game on paper as they host lowly Nice.

However, striker Bakary Sako pointed out the Azurean side may not be easy prey as they will be fighting relegation.

"All our opponents will have something to play for and [Nice] will be fighting for their place in Ligue 1," he said.

Second-placed Paris Saint-Germain, who trail Montpellier on goal difference after last weekend's disappointing 1-1 draw against Girondins Bordeaux, travel to Nancy on Saturday.

Montpellier's match at Olympique Marseille has been postponed until April 11 to help Marseille prepare for their Champions League return leg against Bayern Munich.


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