Lyon president plays down Marseille meeting

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PARIS - Olympique Lyon president Jean-Aulas is playing down the importance of Sunday's trip to Olympique Marseille as the tight Ligue 1 title race resumes at the weekend.

Lyon, fifth with 51 points from 28 games, could even move to the top of the table if they beat sixth-placed Marseille, who have 50 points from 27 games, on Sunday and other results go their way.

Even with the top six teams divided by just three points, however, Aulas said victory at the Stade Velodrome was not paramount and tried instead to ramp up the pressure on Marseille.

"Marseille are the huge favourites because they will be playing at home and because they have been playing very well," he told Lyon's website.

"I do not think the league title will be decided on this game. A draw would be a good performance for Lyon and would set us up well for the final sprint."

Marseille have not lost in their last eight games in all competitions, with forward Hatem Ben Arfa finally playing at his best, while Lyon are on a high after knocking Real Madrid out of the Champions League last 16.

Provence side Marseille play a Europa League last 16, return leg against Benfica on Thursday, Lyon in Ligue 1 on Sunday and Girondins Bordeaux next Saturday in the League Cup final.

"These will be 10 decisive days," Marseille midfielder Benoit Cheryou told his club's website.

Bordeaux, who top the table, will also be boosted by their qualification for the Champions League last eight on Wednesday.

The champions, who have 53 points from 27 games, host fourth-placed Lille on Sunday, hoping for a win after losing one and drawing two of their last three league outings.

"We must recuperate and quickly focus on the Lille game," coach Laurent Blanc told reporters after their 2-1 win against Olympiakos on Wednesday.

Lille travel to Liverpool for their Europa League last-16 return leg on Thursday and will therefore have one day fewer to prepare for Sunday's game.

Struggling Paris Saint-Germain play at Nice on Saturday, but the game is likely to be overshadowed by the death of one of their fans on Thursday from injuries he sustained after being beaten up by a rival group of PSG supporters last month.

Surprise package Montpellier, second level on points with Bordeaux, will be looking to cement their position in the upper echelons of the standings when they take on Valenciennes on Sunday.

Third-placed AJ Auxerre, who have won four and drawn one of their last five games, host struggling Le Mans on Saturday.

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