Modest Auxerre dismiss title talk

PARIS - Second-placed Auxerre dismissed title discussions as they prepared to host leaders Olympique Marseille in Friday's Ligue 1 showdown.

Auxerre, led by Guy Roux from 1961 to 2005, have not changed since their colourful former manager retired and Jean Fernandez, who took charge in 2006, has the same modest philosophy.

While Roux only talked about staying in the top flight when his team were en route to their only league title in 1996, Fernandez barely concedes Auxerre might secure a top-three finish that would guarantee at least a Champions League play-off spot.

With 66 points they lead fourth-placed Montpellier by six points and trail leaders Marseille by five, though victory on Friday would cut their deficit.

"If we only win one of our four remaining games we will be in the top five," Fernandez told Reuters on Wednesday.

"If we win two of them, then yes we might finish in the top three. But it is still too soon to talk about a Champions League spot."

Auxerre, who have the top-flight's best defence, have lost only one of their last 19 league games while Marseille are on a seven-match winning streak.

Marseille coach Didier Deschamps also tried to play down the significance of Friday's game.

"It's not a final. At the end of a final there is a trophy. There will be nothing (after this game)," he told reporters.

"There are only three possible results. Two are good for us, one is not."


However, Marseille midfielder Mathieu Valbuena said victory could decide the destiny of the Ligue 1 crown.

"Mathematically we will not be champions if we win at Auxerre. But that would be a huge step towards the title," said Valbuena.

Elsewhere, the race for the Champions League playoff spot will hot up on Sunday as fourth-placed Montpellier host Olympique Lyon who are fifth.

Promoted Montpellier trail third-placed Lille by one point but lead Lyon by a single point.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas was confident his team would bounce back from Tuesday's Champions League semi-final elimination by Bayern Munich.

"It will be tough but Lyon are a great team and great teams never die," he said.

Also on Sunday, Lille entertain Nancy and sixth-placed Girondins Bordeaux host Toulouse.

No games will be played on Saturday as Paris St Germain and Monaco meet in the French Cup final at the Stade de France.

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