PARIS — Having put its campaign back on track with a first away win that took some pressure off coach Laurent Blanc, defending champion Paris Saint-Germain will be putting its unbeaten record to the test at Toulouse on Saturday.
PSG, the only unbeaten team in the French league after Lille was dealt a first defeat by Nice midweek, can pull level with leader Marseille with a win. Marcelo Bielsa's team looks unstoppable, though, and is aiming for a sixth consecutive win against in-form Saint-Etienne.
Here are some things to know about the French league before this weekend's matches:
THE REAL DERBY
Known as "Le Classique", the match between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille became popular during the 1990's when the arrival of prominent stars such as Rudi Voeller and George Weah in France ignited a strong rivalry between the sides.
But the real French derby pits together Saint-Etienne and Marseille, the two most decorated clubs in French football.
Saint-Etienne — which has 10 league titles to its name, one more than Marseille — dominated French football during the 1960s and the '70s, with the Mediterranean club becoming one of its strongest rivals after regaining a spot in the topflight in 1966.
Marseille finished runner-up behind "Les Verts" in 1970 and won its first title in 23 years ahead of Saint-Etienne in 1971.
Although their rivalry softened eventually with Saint-Etienne's sporting decline, both clubs still enjoy the support of a national fan base and their matchups are always intense. With Saint-Etienne back in form — the club was trailing just three points behind Marseille before hosting Bordeaux on Thursday — expect this one to be a classic.
How quickly things can change in football, especially at Paris Saint-Germain. Just last week, following three consecutive draws in which the club failed to hold on to the lead, coach Laurent Blanc's job was reportedly on the line despite his unbeaten record this season.
After PSG's first away win at modest club Caen on Wednesday, the talks of crisis have gone as pundits now marvel at the quality of the defending champions' passing game.
Blanc, who coached Bordeaux and was France manager before taking over at PSG in 2013, is used to the media speculation. Still, he did not hide his relief after the 2-0 win.
"I'll let you judge if it is reassuring or not," Blanc said. "What makes me happy is that we got to take three points away from home finally. After trips where we had failed to take these points, we had to put in the urgency to take three. There is not yet the bright character in our game that we had last year, but I think we are gradually coming back."
PSG's win at Caen was marred by Ezequiel Lavezzi's injury, with the Argentina forward forced off the pitch early on with a thigh injury that could sideline him up to six weeks.
Lavezzi's absence is a new setback for PSG after striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic picked up a heel injury that ruled him out against Caen while defender Thiago Silva is not expected to recover from his hamstring injury ahead of Barcelona's visit in the Champions League next week.
Ibrahimovic should be rested at Toulouse but Blanc is counting on him against the Spanish club.
Lyon might have found its new Karim Benzema in Clinton N'Jie.
The 21-year-old Cameroon striker, who scored on his international debut earlier this summer, is playing a key role in the seven-time champions' return to form. N'Jie, who set up a goal and scored another in Lyon's 4-0 win against Lorient on Wednesday, has not gone under the radar of big European clubs, with Arsenal reportedly interested in securing his services.
Tipped as the successor of Samuel Eto'o by his admirers for his speed and technical skills, N'Jie will however stay at Lyon after extending his contract until 2019.
"I'm happy. Now we have to continue working. I want to score, to play and I hope we can qualify for Europe next season," N'Jie said.
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