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Top 14 Round 24: Preview
Clermont and Toulouse chasing top spot
Clermont will look to claim pole position in the Top 14 standings when they entertain Montpellier on Friday night.
Clermont moved level on points at the top following their 25-9 win over Stade Francais and Toulouse's shock defeat to Perpignan.
Montpellier will be no walkovers, though, for the Auvergne with Fabien Galthie's men having put together a useful run as they look to repeat last season's feat of reaching the final.
Montpellier toppled Clermont 29-23 in the reverse fixture, however the Heineken Cup semi-finalists are unbeaten at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin this season.
Clermont will be without David Skrela (thigh) and Anthony Floch (stomach) for the clash, while Gonzalo Canale (thigh), Gerhard Vosloo (groin), Nathan Hines (shoulder) and Jamie Cudmore (knee) are doubtful. New Zealander Regan King has recovered from concussion and should be return.
Montpellier's hopes will not be helped by the absence of Georgian Mamuka Gorgodze, who scored a hat-trick last time out against Lyon, although Masi Matadigo is available.
Toulouse will be bolster by the return of a number of big names as they look to bounce back to winning ways against struggling Brive.
Vincent Clerc (shoulder), Luke McAlister (calf) and Louis Picamoles (back) all returned to training this week and are looking to play some part in the encounter.
Having seemingly climbed clear of the danger zone at the wrong end of the table, Brive's hefty loss to Racing Metro means they are back in trouble.
They do have a four-point cushion from the final relegation place - and while they held Toulouse to a 9-9 draw at home, they have managed just two away wins in the league.
Second row Thibault Dubarry and prop Pablo Henn are both available for Brive, however Ronnie Cooke, Retief Uys and Alexandre Barozzi are set to miss out.
Bayonne will look to keep alive their survival hopes when they tackle bottom club Lyon.
Two wins - over Brive and Biarritz - in their last three games has improved Bayonne's chances of avoiding the drop.
They are now just three points from safety and they will fancy their chances against a Lyon side that is all but relegated.
Marc Baget, Sam Gerber and Benjamin Boyet are all set to play some part in the game.
Stung by their Basque derby defeat, Biarritz know they will have no margin for error when they tackle play-off chasing Racing Metro.
Just five points now separates them from the drop zone, although the 24-19 loss to Bayonne ending their four-game winning run.
Biarritz will be buoyed by news that US Eagles winger Takudza Ngwenya has been passed fit to return, while they will take some hope from Racing's patchy away form - they have registered just three wins and a draw on the road.
Bordeaux-Begles, in 12th spot, will hope to take advantage of the fact the Agen have little to play for when they meet on Saturday.
Agen are clear of the relegation dogfight, while an 11-point gap to the play-offs with three gaps left is just too much for them to bridge.
Former Northampton full-back Bruce Reihana (calf) and prop Silviu Florea (chest) are both major doubts for Bordeaux.
Perpignan look to have pulled clear of the relegation battle following their timely win over Toulouse - however they face a tough trip Stade Francais.
Perpignan have opened up a six-point gap over Bayonne as they climbed to ninth with last Friday's victory - and they have a favourable finish to the season with games against Lyon and Bordeaux to follow.
One away victory all season is a real worry for USAP, though, especially with Stade still hoping to snatch a play-off place.
Ovidiu Tonita, Henry Tuilagi, Dannie Thiart and Marius Tincu are set to return to action for Perpignan, although Charles Geli, Nicolas Mas, Farid Sid, Romain Taofifenue, Gerrie Britz and Gegory Le Corvec all missed training.
Stade are just six points off the play-offs with three games left - and they will be buoyed by the return of France prop David Attoub for the clash.
There is an intriguing game as play-off contenders Toulon and Castres meet at Stade Mayol.
Just four point separate the two teams in the standings - and a possible quarter-final tie remains on the cards.
Toulon welcome back Jonny Wilkinson, while Fabien Cibray has recovered from a foot injury.
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