MARSEILLE FRANCE - FEBRUARY 23: Gabriel Heinze of Marseille gestures during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Marseille and Manchester United at the Stade Velodrome on February 23 2011 in Marseille France. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Ligue 1 Preview, Week 32: Marseille Look To Retain Coupe De La Ligue Against Montpellier

The Coupe De La Ligue final on Saturday has the stage to itself, but Sunday is full of games with major relegation battle implications.

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Ligue 1 Preview, Week 32: Marseille Look To Retain Coupe De La Ligue Against Montpellier

With the Ligue 1 crown still well within reach, Marseille look to keep their hopes of a (lesser) domestic double alive in the Coupe De La Ligue final against Montpelier at the Stade de France. League leaders Lille will look to make their chief title opponent's break from league play count as they travel to face a tough challenge in Lorient, while all three fixtures involving teams currently in the bottom three will be contested against teams within three points of the drop.

Saturday

Marseille vs. Montpellier, Coupe De La Ligue Final

Time:  20:45 CEST/12:45 EDT

Current Coupe de la Ligue holders Marseille have had finals opponent Montpellier's number this season, winning 4-0 at home in November and netting an 82nd minute penalty to claim a 2-1 victory just last Sunday after an episode of handbags and a double sending-off. While Marseille are no strangers to hardware, Montpellier last won a major honor in 1994 when they lifted the Coupe de France. Given the salty ending to Sunday's match, this should be an interesting contest. A berth in the UEFA Europa League is on the line, and though Marseille look Champions League bound if Montpellier hopes to book a European tour next season they will need to hoist the cup to do so.

Pick: Marseille, 1-0

Sunday 

AJ Auxere vs. Lens

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

Lens is running out of time to climb above the drop, but they'll have a good opportunity to make some headway when they travel to face 15th placed AJ Auxerre. Lens' difficulty has come in terms of scoring goals, as well as preventing the other team from scoring goals. So, a more accurate way of putting things is that Lens' difficulty has been that they are not especially good at either thing that teams need to do in order to be good at the game of soccer. Auxerre aren't any great shakes in their own right but they've been solid at home and their current position in the table is likely a bit harsh on them.

Pick: Auxerre, 2-0

AS Monaco vs. Stades Rennes

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

It's tough to figure out how Monaco have ended up where they are in the table, in 17th and above the bottom three only on the strength of goal difference. They're not the most thrilling team in the world having scored only 31 goals on the year, but that doesn't make them bad, or at least not to the extent that they deserve to be fighting for their first division lives this late into the season. And yet, here they are. The lesson: existence is hopeless.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

AS Nancy Lorraine vs. Arles

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

-42!

Pick: Nancy, 2-0

Bordeaux vs. St Etienne

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

These teams are a scant three points apart in the table, have the same goal differential ( Bordeaux having allowed two fewer, St. Etienne having scored two more) and neither have anything to play for outside of table positioning. They should switch kits and see if anyone notices.

Pick: Bordeaux, 2-1

Brest vs. PSG

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

PSG scored a huge victory in their pursuit of Lyon and the last Champions League spot last week, but in all honestly a horrendous performance from the visitors was more responsible for the victory than any inspired play by the home side. Still, three points are three points and with Brest looking less than impressive against stragglers Lens in a 1-1 draw last weekend, PSG have to be the favorites. With Lyon and Marseille both having a weekend off from league play, it's a great opportunity for Paris Saint-Germain to pick up some ground.

Pick: PSG, 3-1

Caen vs. Toulouse

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

When the bottom half of the table is as tight as it is this season, a lot of games late on in the year will have major relegation battle implications. Here is another one! Caen are the least doomed of the teams currently in the bottom three, but they're not very good. Toulouse aren't very good either, but they're better than Caen. Better-than-Caen enough to overcome the home field advantage provided by 15,000 crazed Caen fans? You'll just have to watch to find out! Or check the score Monday morning when you're supposed to be working. You know, whichever.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Valenciennes vs. Sochaux

Time: 17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

Valenciennes draws like Late-In-Life Picasso paying a bar tab.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Lorient vs. Lille

Time: 21:00 CEST/3:00 PM EDT

Lorient are like the anti-Monaco. How are they this high in the table? They're mediocre in the attack and mediocre in defense. They lost to Caen at home and drew 3-3 with Arles. They let Arles score three goals! And yet, they seem headed for a respectable lower mid-table finish. Sports are weird. Lille are also the anti-Monaco, in that they are really good.

Pick: Lille, 3-1

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