PARIS - St Etienne, France's most successful club, find themselves on a slippery slope towards Ligue 2 as they travel to Stade Rennes on Saturday. Les Verts, who have won 10 league titles and reached the European Cup final in 1976, are third from bottom in Ligue 1, one point from safety with eight matches remaining. They have lost their last three league matches and will have to cope with the absence of injured captain Loic Perrin, who has been ruled out until the end of the season with a thigh injury. Midfielder Dimitri Payet will also be missing against Rennes because of a knee injury. "Whichever players are on the pitch, the goal is to save the club," said midfielder Christophe Landrin, who returned from a long layoff in a 3-0 thrashing by Olympique Marseille last Sunday. St Etienne's best position in the standings this season was 10th after two matches. Since then, their form has nosedived. They sacked coach Laurent Roussey in November and brought in Alain Perrin, the man who led arch-rivals Olympique Lyon to their seventh Ligue 1 title last season. St Etienne were then 18th in the standings and they lie in the same position five months later. Keeper Jeremie Janot, who has spent his entire, 13-year career at the club and has already had two three-year spells in Ligue 2 from 1996 and 2001, urged his team mates to fight. "Our mini-league (with other strugglers) continues and it is time for us to win a game otherwise we are going straight to Ligue 2," he said after Sunday's defeat to Marseille. Although they will take on bottom club Le Havre and strugglers Nancy, St Etienne will also have to play title contenders Lille and Toulouse before the end of the season. At the other end of the standings, leaders Olympique Lyon could have dropped to third by the time they kick off Sunday's final game against Monaco. Third-placed Girondins Bordeaux are away to AJ Auxerre on Saturday and second-placed Olympique Marseille, who are one point off the pace, host Grenoble earlier on Sunday. Fourth-placed Lille take on fifth-placed Paris St Germain on Sunday in a make-or-break match for both teams' title hopes.
9 April 2009
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