Ligue 1 preview: Monaco set to settle for second place
Monaco's focus has turned from challenging Paris Saint-Germain for the Ligue 1 title to making sure of second place.
Last Updated: 11/04/14 5:43pm
The championship is again bound for the Parc des Princes, and Monaco's inability to keep pace with PSG has led speculation to circle around the future of head coach Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri has brushed off the talk ahead of Saturday evening's match against Rennes.
Should Monaco lose away to their mid-table opponents, then PSG will be able to complete a defence of their title with five games to spare by beating Lyon on Sunday.
A defeat for Ranieri's side may also mean Lille, who have a home match against third-bottom Valenciennes earlier in the day on Saturday, narrow the gap from third to second place to three points.
Zinedine Zidane has been linked in the French media with Ranieri's job, but the Italian coach said: "The rumours don't affect me, I'm concentrating on our targets and I expect the same from my players.
"The only thing we should think about is that second place."
Ranieri has defender Ricardo Carvalho siding with him as he faces a possible battle to convince the club hierarchy he remains the best man for the job.
Carvalho said, according to Monaco's website: "The coach is doing very good work here. He is helping the team to progress and develop. I am very happy with him."
Lille coach Rene Girard believes his team's lofty position will stand for nothing when his high-flyers take on relegation-threatened Valenciennes in Saturday's northern derby clash at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
Valenciennes sit six points from safety in 18th place after tallying just one point from their last three league outings.
But Girard told his club's official website losc.fr: "I do not think Valenciennes will be the victim here.
"Derbies, whatever the region regardless of its ranking, always have something special and are never like the other games. We need to be vigilant."
Ajaccio, whose fate has been inevitable for many months, will be relegated on Saturday night unless they beat Bordeaux.
Sochaux are battling to avoid the drop but may become resigned to Ligue 2 football should they not make home advantage count against Toulouse.
Nice and Lorient probably already have sufficient points to stay up as they prepare to joust it out on the south coast, while Evian will be aiming to fortify their position outside the drop zone as they tackle mid-table Bastia.
Sunday sees Nantes tackle Guingamp, with both sides too close to the relegation zone for their liking and looking for a weekend favour from Lille.
Reims play St Etienne, who still have hopes of taking third place.
Should Monaco stumble to defeat on Saturday, all eyes will then turn to Lyon's Stade Gerland for the final match of the weekend programme.
Since pulling away from Monaco in mid-season, another Parisian league title triumph has looked assured and it could become a reality at the home of the team that won seven consecutive titles from 2002 to 2008.
Laurent Blanc's PSG may be hurting still from their Champions League exit at the hands of Chelsea, but the fizz of title celebrations would surely soothe some of that pain.