Pastore 'deserved criticism' for poor displays

Brief news from Ligue 1 ahead of this weekend's matches:

Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Javier Pastore says he deserved the criticism he has faced in recent months after some below-par performances.

"I had ups and downs; it was normal to be criticised," Pastore, who joined from Palermo last year for a French record fee of 42 million euros, told a news conference on Friday.

"It's very hard to be at your highest level throughout the season. Even Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo sometimes faced criticism. But now I feel good both physically and mentally, and I'm ready to fight for the title."

Second-placed PSG travel to third-ranked Lille on Sunday and will need Pastore to be at his best as they enter the final five games trailing leaders Montpellier by two points.

Lille forward Eden Hazard is recovering from a calf injury but is still doubtful for their clash with PSG.

The in-form Belgian, who has scored seven goals and set up six more in his last seven league games, is attending a special training programme, the club said on their website.

Defending champions Lille, who are five points behind Paris, will be without suspended defender Franck Beria and midfielder Idrissa Gueye.

Stade Rennes striker Mevlut Erding will be out for the rest of the season after tearing a ligament in his right knee during practice on Wednesday, the club said on their website.

Fifth-placed Rennes, who have won their last three games, host Ajaccio on Sunday.

They are on 54 points, two behind Olympique Lyon who occupy the Europa League qualifying berth and face third-tier Quevilly in the French Cup final on Saturday.

Relegation-threatened Stade Brest chairman Michel Guyot has defended his decision to sack coach Alex Dupont with five games to go.

"It may have been surprising but I took my time to assess the decision... every week, we were losing a drop of blood and we would have run out of blood completely in the end," Guyot told a news conference.

Relegation-threatened Brest, who are on 33 points, one point from safety, travel to bottom side Auxerre, who have 28, on Sunday.

Auxerre's players were taken to a poultry factory in search of inspiration on Thursday, two weeks after they visited inmates at the local prison.

Chairman Gerard Bourgoin said the club wanted people who struggled to make a living to inspire a fighting spirit in the players.

"The idea behind this is to have them be in touch with workers, to confront the local reality and make them discover all this together," Bourgoin told daily L'Equipe.