PSG back on Marseille's heels in French league
PARIS (AP) After two consecutive losses in the space of four days, the joy in Marseille has given way to uncertainty about whether the team is really up for a title push.
Marcelo Bielsa's team first saw its eight-match winning streak in the league come to an end with a 1-0 defeat in Lyon before Philipp Hosiner's late strike helped Rennes to a 2-1 victory in their League Cup match on Wednesday.
Although Bielsa rotated his squad for the match, the Argentine coach acknowledged that his team's disappointing results would lead him to rethink his strategy ahead of Sunday's home game against struggling Lens.
Another stumble from Marseille could benefit defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which has cut its deficit to four points and appears to cope well with the absence of injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. PSG travels to Lorient on Saturday.
Here are some things to know about this weekend's games:
IBRAHIMOVIC PLAYING DOWN BALLON D'OR CHANCES
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been included among the 23 nominees for the FIFA Ballon d'Or award but the PSG striker does not believe he has a chance to win it after missing the World Cup.
Ibrahimovic, who has been out for more than one month with a heel injury, did not play in Brazil after Sweden failed to qualify. Despite scoring 41 goals in 36 games for his club and leading PSG to the league title last season, the prolific striker is convinced he will be overlooked.
''I think I enjoyed the best season of my career,'' said Ibrahimovic, who has never won the award. ''Many fantastic players have distinguished themselves at the World Cup, that will give them an edge. But as long as I can get results and play at a high level, I can aim for this award.''
CISSE CONTEMPLATES RETIREMENT
Before retiring, veteran striker Djibril Cisse has one last objective: scoring four more goals.
The 33-year-old Cisse told TV channel L'Equipe 21 in an interview to be aired Thursday that his aching body won't allow him to play much longer.
''I'm in pain 24 hours a day, even when I'm watching television in the evening. And I will be suffering for the rest of my life unless I undergo hip replacement,'' said the Bastia striker.
The former France international, whose career was marred by serious injuries, has 96 goals in the French league and hopes he will hit the 100-goal milestone before retiring.
''I can grit my teeth during one season but it won't be possible to keep playing two or three more years,'' Cisse said. ''I think this is my last season.''
Once hailed as the natural heir to Zinedine Zidane, Yoann Gourcuff had lost the habit of being at the center of attention in recent years.
The 28-year-old playmaker, who joined Lyon from Bordeaux in 2010, went through four disappointing seasons, losing his spot in the France squad and regularly missing games with Lyon through injuries.
But Gourcuff is now again the talk of the town, having scored three goals in two games as Lyon moved to third place in the standings, just one point behind PSG ahead of Saturday's trip to Nice.
Gourcuff's superb strike against Marseille last Sunday ended the league leader's eight-game winning streak and highlighted the former AC Milan player's resurgence.
''It was a relief for Yoann. Big players make the difference in big matches,'' Lyon coach Hubert Fournier said.
BODMER EXTENDS NICE DEAL
Nice defender Mathieu Bodmer has signed a new two-year deal that will see him stay at the southern club through the 2016-17 season.
The experienced Bodmer, a former PSG midfielder who now plays in the heart of Nice defense, is a regular starter in Claude Puel's side.
Bodmer, who also had stints at Lille, Lyon and Saint-Etienne, has played 315 matches in the first division.