Lyon start busy year with Bayonne cup test
PARIS, January 4 (Coupe de France) - Lyon will be fresh from a two-week break and boosted by the return of four of their strikers when they take on Bayonne in the first round of the Coupe de France this weekend.
Les Gones are bidding for a unique quadruple this season, and their next port of call is an amateur team based in the Basque country.
Coach Gerard Houllier should not need any extra help for this particular fixture - Lyon are top of Ligue 1 by 14 points and Bayonne are in the equivalent of the fourth division.
But he will be able to call upon the services of attackers Fred, Karim Benzema, Sylvain Wiltord and John Carew, who are all back in training following injury.
Carew might not be risked as he has only just returned, but the other three are in contention for starting roles.
Fred and Benzema especially will see Sunday's game as an ideal opportunity to get some playing time under their belts before the resumption of Ligue 1 next weekend.
Holders Paris St Germain will once again be playing in front of a half-full Parc des Princes when they welcome Nimes on Sunday.
Two stands in the ground remain closed, six weeks after the violence that saw a fan killed in the aftermath of a UEFA Cup tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv.
On the pitch, under-pressure coach Guy Lacombe may hand a debut to playmaker Marcelo Gallardo, who has recently signed on a free transfer.
The other Ligue 1 teams play their first-round matches on Saturday, except for Nice, who are away at Creteil on Friday night.
Fabien Barthez could take the goalkeeping gloves for Nantes when they entertain Guingamp.
The World Cup winner, who penned a six-month contract with Les Canaris before the winter break, walked out of training on Wednesday but coach Georges Eo poured cold water on the incident.
'There are not any problems,' said Eo. 'There are just moments when he doesn't wish to do certain things.
'For me, the subject is closed and I am concentrating on the match.'
There are two all-Ligue 1 games - Nancy against Lens and St Etienne against Sochaux, while there are a number of potential banana skins for top-flight clubs.
Lille travel to Ligue 2 leaders Metz, and Valenciennes welcome second-tier high-flyers Caen.