With 16 matches remaining, the Ligue 1 title race has effectively become a three-way tussle between current leaders Lyon with Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain hot on their heels.
Defending champions PSG have yet to hit their stride during a mediocre campaign but maximum points at home to Rennes on Friday will close the gap to one point on Lyon who travel to Monaco on Sunday.
Marseille lead their arch rivals from the capital on goal difference and will expect to bank a home win on Saturday when they host relegation-threatened Evian.
Saint-Etienne’s narrow 1-0 defeat at home to PSG last Sunday severely dented their chances of a first crown since 1981 but they can still claim a Champions League spot with Marseille and PSG four points ahead.
The Greens are on the road at third-from-bottom Caen in Normandy on Sunday.
The top two teams from France automatically qualify for Europe’s biggest competition while the third-placed team must negotiate qualifying, a hurdle Lille failed to clear this season.
The match at the Louis II stadium on the Cote d’Azur promises fireworks with Lyon and Monaco, the two in-form teams in the top flight.
Lyon are riding a seven-match winning streak while Monaco haven’t tasted defeat in seven games with both teams’ defences proving especially frugal.
Monaco haven’t conceded a goal in some 700 minutes while Lyon have yet to leak a goal in 476, a run of over five matches.
Lyon defender Christophe Jallet warned this week that it is far to early to start thinking about what would be an eighth French title and first since 2008.
“As we say where I come from, it’s at the end of the ball that you pay the musicians,” said the international stalwart who moved from the Parc des Princes for the Stade Gerland in the summer.
“Paris are a very big team and have the ability to have a very good end to the season.
“For the moment, what is happening to us is exceptional. We just have to keep our feet on the ground so as to not get carried away, and try to keep our little cushion of a lead for as long as possible.”
The most significant problem for the leaders however will be the absence of the league’s top scorer Alexandre Lacazette who has a thigh injury.
The 23-year-old has played in the last 35 league matches, scoring 27 goals, but will be sorely missed by Hubert Fournier’s side.
“We’ve got two important matches against title rivals and there’s never a good time for these things to happen, but even less so now,” said Fournier.
Fixtures (all times 1900GMT unless stated)
Paris Saint-Germain v Rennes (1930)
Marseille v Evian (!530), Lorient v Montpellier, Nantes v Lille, Metz v Nice, Toulouse v Reims, Lens v Bastia
Caen v Saint-Etienne (1300), Bordeaux v Guingamp (1600), Monaco v Lyon (2000)