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Liverpool and Man City renew hostilities

50-50 Challenge
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By ESPN Staff

Ligue 1: Lyon start 2007 with eyes fixed on record

PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon visit mid-table Toulouse on Saturday ready to assert their superiority and close in on a continental record sixth consecutive title as Ligue 1 action resumes.

The leaders have opened a 15-point gap at the top after reaching the halfway point with just one defeat from 19 league outings.

'We play really well and we have a very strong side,' said Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas. 'But this has nothing to do with luck. You should see how the players prepare for every match.

'Our results are the fruits of 20 years of hard work. 'We have watched what other great clubs did and we have implemented it here.

'The players enter every match with the will to push their limits, with the will to show they are stronger than their opponents. This is true whether they prepare for a league match, for a cup match or for a Champions League outing,' he added.

Lyon welcome the return of strikers Fred and Karim Benzema from injury but coach Gerard Houllier is still targeting a centre forward for the second half of the season.

The champions have expressed an interest in St Etienne striker Frederic Piquionne but the fourth-placed side are reluctant to lose their best asset.

Lyon face Toulouse without international goalkeeper Gregory Coupet who has strained a muscle in his left thigh.

Coupet could be sidelined for two weeks but Remy Vercoutre proved a reliable replacement last year.

Second-placed Racing Lens face a tough challenge when they host fifth-placed Lille in the northern derby while improving Paris St Germain entertain Valenciennes at home.