Ligue 1 Previews: Niang missing for Marseille

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

Olympique Marseille will sorely miss injured Senegal striker Mamadou Niang when they visit leaders Olympique Lyon on Sunday, forward Hatem Ben Arfa said.

"Mamadou's absence will be harmful," Ben Arfa, who joined Marseille from Lyon during the close season, told the club's website on Friday.

"When I was at Lyon, he always hurt us in the games between the two teams," the France forward added.

Last season, Marseille, who trail leaders Lyon by three points, snatched a 3-1 win away to the seven-times champions with a Niang double.

Niang is out of action for six weeks with a foot injury.

Lyon midfielder Juninho tipped Marseille as favourites for Sunday's game.

"Right now, Marseille have more confidence," the Brazilian told his club's website.

"It will be a very tough match and although we are in front, we think Marseille are a direct threat in the title race."

Paris St Germain's Claude Makelele skipped training on Wednesday due to illness, the club said, but the former France midfielder should be fit for Saturday's trip to AJ Auxerre.

PSG are fifth in the standings, five points adrift of Lyon.

Lille midfielder Yohann Cabaye said he was staying fully focused on his club's objectives this season despite reported interest from PSG, Girondins Bordeaux and Arsenal.

"It's flattering but I'm 100 percent focused on Lille and it will be the case until the last round of matches this season," he told French sports daily L'Equipe's website.

Lille are away to sixth-placed Nice on Sunday.

Stade Rennes coach Guy Lacombe is not fully satisfied with his team's results despite a 15-match unbeaten run that took them to third place.

"This 15-match unbeaten streak is a good performance but I regret there are too many draws in this series," Lacombe told his club's website ahead of Saturday's home game against lowly Nantes.

St Etienne welcome back Senegal defender Moustapha Bayal Sall, whose four-month suspension for signing two contracts in 2006 ended on Tuesday, for Saturday's match at Toulouse.

Sall will now be called Moustaha Bayal after the French League granted him the right to change his name.