Football: PSG head to Rennes with thoughts elsewhere

PARIS (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) could be forgiven for having their minds elsewhere as they travel to Brittany to face Rennes in Ligue 1 this weekend.

The match falls in between the two legs of the capital club's Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona, with Tuesday's 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes keeping PSG's hopes alive ahead of the return next midweek.

Before that, however, Carlo Ancelotti's side will be aiming to take another step towards winning the domestic title as they head into the weekend with a healthy seven-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.

PSG have struggled in this fixture in recent years, failing to win in Rennes since a 2-1 victory in January 2002, when Ronaldinho was among the scorers.

Ancelotti will be tempted to rest key players in order to keep them fresh for Wednesday's match in Barcelona, but there is enough depth in his squad for PSG to end their poor record in Rennes, especially with the home side struggling just now.

The Bretons have taken their eye off the ball since winning through to the League Cup final, where they will face Saint-Etienne later this month.

Frederic Antonetti's side have won just once in nine matches, slipping from fourth in the table to 10th in the process.

"Whoever our opponents are, we have our own problems to solve," says Antonetti.

"We are happy to play Paris, but I would have preferred to be playing them with seven or eight points more."

Despite Rennes' troubles, the match will attract a sell-out crowd of around 30,000 to the Stade de la Route de Lorient, with fans queuing for up to five hours to buy a ticket.

They will be hoping for a repeat of the result when the clubs last met in November, when Rennes won 2-1 at the Parc des Princes despite playing almost half the game down to nine men.

"That game was one of the best moments of my career as a coach," added Antonetti.

That Paris boasts such a big lead is mainly down to the inability of closest challengers Marseille and Lyon to maintain any consistency since the winter break.

OM negotiated the month of March without losing, though, with a 1-0 win at south-coast rivals Nice last weekend lifting them back up to second place.

Elie Baup's side have now won by that scoreline on nine occasions this season, and have registered 13 victories by a single-goal margin.

"I'd be happy if we won our last eight games 1-0," said midfielder Benoit Cheyrou this week.

"Nobody expected us to be where we are. We have received a lot of criticism, but we are still up there."

Cheyrou was speaking ahead of Marseille's home clash with Bordeaux on Friday, a match which will mark the opening of the huge new East Stand at the Stade Velodrome, which is being renovated ahead of Euro 2016.

"We need to do better at home," he added.

"Sometimes we have struggled but against a team like Bordeaux everyone will be fully focused on the task in hand."

The home side will nevertheless miss playmaker Mathieu Valbuena, who has been ruled out of the game with an adductor injury.

Lyon's 2-1 home loss to Sochaux last week left them without a win in four games, and with just two wins in eight outings going into Sunday's clash at struggling Reims.

OL's bitter rivals Saint-Etienne are also in action on Sunday, and will be aiming to extend their unbeaten start to 2013 when they entertain Evian-Thonon-Gaillard.

Les Verts are unbeaten in 11 league games, and 15 matches in all competitions, since the winter break.

In-form Lille host Lorient, while troubled Brest go to Bastia in their first game since coach Landry Chauvin was sacked, with sporting director Corentin Martins taking his place.

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