Ligue 1 2012, Week 28 Preview And Fixtures: St. Etienne Hosts Lyon With The Champions League In Sight

HANNOVER, GERMANY - JULY 24: John Mensah of Lyon goes for a header with Jan Schlaudraff of Hannover 96 during the pre season friendly match between Hannover 96 and Olympique Lyon at the AWD Arena on July 24, 2011 in Hannover, Germany. (Photo by Lars Kaletta/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Lyon, St. Etienne, Toulouse and Rennes can put themselves at the head of the European Tour line. Sochaux and Auxerre both have a big opportunity to break free of the muck, but no matter what, the odds of there being any meaningful separation are slim-to-none. Just the way we like it.

Two games with huge implications on the Champions and Europa League places, and two games with even bigger implications on the still messy relegation battle. It's a big, big weekend in France.

Auxerre vs. Evian

Saturday 3/17; 19:00 CET/2:00 PM ET

This is a six-pointer for a desperate Auxerre side. Does anyone on earth expect them to capitalize? I'm including the players, coaches and supporters in that question. Good heavens what a mess.

Pick: Evian, 3-2

Marseille vs. Dijon

Saturday 3/17; 19:00 CET/2:00 PM ET

Marseille are pulling a reverse-United this season, attempting to make all of their fans forget about the league season by taking a run at the Champions League. Dijon are also pulling a reverse-United by being godawful.

Pick: Marseille, 3-0

Lorient vs. Brest

Saturday 3/17; 19:00 CET/2:00 PM ET

Quietly, after a promising start, Lorient find themselves far too close to the relegation zone for any real comfort. Luckily for the gentlemen in orange, they welcome a team that has yet to win away from home all season.

This is going to be a draw, isn't it?

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Caen vs. PSG

Saturday 3/17; 19:00 CET/2:00 PM ET

PSG will be missing Maxwell, Clement Chantome, Mohamed Sissoko and Nene for this game. That means the gulf in talent between these two sides is now more Tonkin than Mexico. Still, seeing as how PSG are incapable of doing anything easily, this one will probably be worth watching for the last 20 minutes or so.

Pick: PSG, 2-0

Nancy vs. Montpellier

Saturday 3/17; 19:00 CET/2:00 PM ET

Speaking of title contenders not doing things easily, Montpellier is playing a really bad team! This has gone well for them so far this season.

Pick: Montpellier, 2-1

Bordeaux vs. Ajaccio

Saturday 3/17; 19:00 CET/2:00 PM ET

Two months ago, this game would have been very different in terms of the implications, but Bordeaux went all cuckoo bananas and decided to be respectable again. A little run at the European places is not entirely out of the question at this point. For Ajaccio, keeping their heads above the incomprehensibly beautiful crystal-clear blue water is the primary goal at this point, and given their woeful form away from home, things could begin getting pretty awkward after the weekend.

Pick: Bordeaux, 3-1

St. Etienne vs. Lyon

Saturday 3/17; 21:00 CET/4:00 PM ET

The wheels really have come off for Lyon, no? A failure to pick up a win in this game will make even the Europa League a very difficult task to achieve, and with the way St. Etienne have been playing (not to mention the way Lyon play away from home) it's tough to see them getting three points or, quite frankly, any points at all.

Pick: St. Etienne, 3-2

Sochaux vs. Nice

Sunday 3/18; 17:00 CET/12:00 PM ET

Okay, I know this is a hugely important game and all, but gross. Ew, eww, ewwwwwwwww.

Pick: Sochaux, 2-1

Rennes vs. Toulouse

Sunday 3/18; 17:00 CET/12:00 PM ET

The other game with major implications in the race for Europe, and in general one of the more promising games anywhere this weekend. You'd think Rennes would be favorites thanks to playing at home, but in reality they've been pretty mediocre on their own pitch, while Toulouse have been formidable on the road. Neither of these sides got to where they are thanks to playing exhilarating attacking football, but there's enough at stake to all but guarantee a whole lot of tension.

Pick: Rennes, 1-0

Lille vs. Valenciennes

Sunday 3/18; 21:00 CET/4:00 PM ET

So how's that whole Joe Cole thing working out, guys? Guys?

Pick: Lille, 3-1

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