PSG looking to get over nerves in title raceBy TRUNG LATIEULE , Associated Press
May. 9, 2013 8:00 AM ET
PARIS (AP) — It seems the only thing that's been standing between Paris Saint-Germain and the French league title lately has been the team's own nerves and bad temper.
The Parisian club's first league title since 1994 has long looked inevitable as it holds a seven-point lead over Marseille with just three rounds left. But PSG has so far failed to close it out and had four players sent off in its last two matches. Sporting director Leonardo was then provisionally suspended for a shoulder barge into the referee in the tunnel after last Sunday's 1-1 draw with Valenciennes.
Still, PSG can clinch the title this Sunday when it visits third-place Lyon — and could even become champion on Saturday if Marseille loses to Toulouse.
"We have three chances left. We must win one match," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "Maybe the next match against Lyon will be the one that will help us win the title."
A draw between Marseille and Toulouse would virtually end the title race since PSG has a much greater goal difference than Marseille. Were Marseille to beat mid-table Toulouse, PSG would then need a victory at Stade Gerland to be crowned.
PSG has the most potent offense and the tightest defense in the league, but it is also the club that has received the most red cards (9) this season.
"Sometimes, maybe the players are a bit nervous," Ancelotti told a news conference. "Sometimes, maybe they don't have the lucidity at the end of the season to handle situations with the referee."
PSG will miss Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and midfielder Marco Verratti, who were sent off in the 1-0 win over Evian last month. PSG will also play without Brazil defender Thiago Silva, suspended for two matches after putting his hands on the referee's chest last weekend. However, David Beckham will be available after serving a one-match ban.
"We can never forget where we came from," Leonardo said. "It's been 19 years since we last won the league title. There's a weight on our shoulders, that's normal."
While PSG has its eyes set on the title, Lyon has not secured a Champions League spot yet. Lyon trails Marseille by four points but leads Nice by three.
The top two French teams qualify directly for the group stage of the Champions League whereas the third-place team enters in the preliminary round of the lucrative European competition.
Lyon dominated French football in the last decade by winning seven straight league titles but it missed out on a Champions League berth last season by finishing fourth.
Marseille has won its last three games to remain in the title race. It will face a Toulouse side keen on the counterattack and led by Wissam Ben Yedder, a young forward who's had a breakthrough season by scoring 13 league goals.
"We're on a nine-game unbeaten run and I hope we will stretch it until the end of the season," Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac said. "We want to retain that second place because we deserve it."
A victory over Toulouse combined with a loss for Lyon would guarantee Marseille a runner-up finish.
Nice, Saint-Etienne and Lille still have a shot at a Champions League spot. On Sunday, Nice will visit Evian, which is fighting relegation but has qualified for the French Cup final by routing Lorient 4-0 on Wednesday.
Spurred by Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich, who has netted 17 league goals this season, Nice sits in fourth place with one more point than Saint-Etienne and three more than Lille.
The last time Nice finished in the top five was in 1976 when it was a runner-up.
Meanwhile, Saint-Etienne will face Lorient on Sunday. It has already secured a Europa League spot by defeating Rennes 1-0 in the French League Cup final last month.
On Friday, Lille hosts Reims.
On Saturday, it's: Ajaccio vs. Troyes; Bastia vs. Montpellier; Bordeaux vs. Nancy; Brest vs. Sochaux; and Valenciennes vs. Rennes.