MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Gabriel Heinze (L) of Marseille and teammate Jordan Ayew carry the ball to the centre circle after Wes Brown of Manchester United scores an own goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester United and Marseille at Old Trafford on March 15, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Ligue 1 Preview, Week 33: Relegation Battle Takes The Spotlight

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Ligue 1 Preview, Week 33: Relegation Battle Takes The Spotlight

We're back to a regular schedule in Ligue 1, a week after Marseille dispatched Montpellier to retain the Coupe de la Ligue. The more intriguing action is at the bottom of the table in this week; while the teams with Champions League aspirations all look forward to games in which they'll be playing as favorites, many clubs towards the bottom look to take a massive step towards safety.

Saturday

Lens vs. Lorient

Time: 19:00 CEST/1:00 PM EDT

Time is getting short for Lens; they're going to have to take a lot of points they probably shouldn't between now and the end of they year, and without three points in this one they could very well be as good as down by the end of the day. Lens has been terrible away from home, but fortunately for them they'll be playing at the Stade Felix-Bollaert. Unfortunately for Lens they aren't very good there either. My guess: they're just not very good, period.

Pick: Lorient, 2-0

Lille vs. Arles

Time: 19:00 CEST/1:00 PM EDT

Lille are hoping to bounce back after a somewhat disappointing draw to Lorient last weekend, falling behind Marseille after Les Phocéens picked up three against Nice. Well, good news Lille! You're playing Arles!

Pick: Lille, 3-0

Sochaux vs. AS Nancy Lorraine

Time: 19:00 CEST/1:00 PM EDT

AS Nancy Lorraine are far from comfort, two points above the drop and at a decided disadvantage should it come down to goal differential. Sochaux are playing for a spot in the top half. Nancy could go a long way towards putting some space between themselves and 18th place Caen with a victory, and they've been something of an all-or-nothing team at home, drawing only three times in 16 games. Sochaux has drawn the same number of the same number of games away from home, but they've also lost ten. Upset! Intrigue!

Pick: Nancy, 1-2

Stade Rennes vs. Bordeaux

Time: 19:00 CEST/1:00 PM EDT

One spot in the table separates these two teams, and it's the spot right on the periphery of Europe. Fifth-place Stades Rennes are just two points shy of the final European spot. Bordeaux are nine points shy of the final European spot. Just one spot in the table, but such different outlooks on the rest of the season. A chance at European glory (sort of) for Stade Rennes, but a fleeting, meaningless playing out of the string for Bordeaux.

Have you ever looked at your hand? I mean really, really looked at your hand?

Pick: Stade Rennes, 1-0

PSG vs. Valenciennes

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

PSG are still in contention for the Champions League, while Valenciennes-despite being in 12th-are just three points ahead of Caen and the drop. An away win over the mighty PSG would do wonders for Valenciennes' spirits; the kind of season-defining, safety-delivering upset that can define a season otherwise marked by mediocrity. Bummer it won't happen.

Pick: PSG, 2-0

Sunday

Marseille vs. AJ Auxerre

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

It's been a good week for Marseille, hoisting the Coupe de la Ligue for the second consecutive year on Saturday and putting four past Brest midweek to move into first in the table. With Lille still hot on their heels and likely to pick up three points against Arles, Marseille will be pleased to see Auxerre come into the Stade Vélodrome. Auxerre will not be pleased, as Marseille is good and Auxerre is not.

Pick: Marseille, 3-1

Montpellier vs. Brest

Time:  17:00 CEST/11:00 AM EDT

No offense to either of these teams, and  being a fan of several mediocre teams I don't begrudge the excitement of their fans in the least, but let's be honest; Montpellier's season stopped being relevant last Saturday and Brest's never really was. I'm sure neutrals care a little bit, but not a whole lot. Man, the end of the season can be exciting, but it can also be really, really boring and inconsequential.

Pick: Montpellier, 2-1

Nice vs. Caen

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

These teams both go about things in different ways, Nice relying on a solid if unspectacular defense to keep them in games while Caen can score but their back line is an abomination. I just realized I haven't picked any draws for this weekend's games which seems statistically improbable and when two teams this bad play each other who knows what's going to happen.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Toulouse vs. Lyon

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

Lyon's title hopes are slipping away, but they're still theoretically in things. Toulouse are probably safe and it seems likely the teams below them will be picking up a whole lot of points this weekend. Neither will they though, so they'll still be nervous next weekend.

Pick: Lyon, 1-2

St. Etienne vs. AS Monaco

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

This is kind of like the Nice-Caen game, with St. Etienne being the dangerous attacking team with a less than stellar goal prevention record and Monaco the stout defensive team with a fairly impotent attack. For whatever reason Monaco seem to be far, far better on the road but it won't be enough because they're kind of mediocre or even possibly a little bit bad.

Pick: St. Etienne, 2-0

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