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Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

Hooliganism takes centre stage

There will be as much scrutiny on off-field events this weekend in Ligue 1 as those on it despite the title race heading towards a nail-biting climax.

PSG fan dies

It ought to be a week of celebration in French football with Bordeaux joining Lyon in advancing to the last eight of the Champions League following their defeat of Olympiacos last night.

But the ongoing battle against hooliganism has overshadowed those achievements with the situation reaching a new low this morning when it was announced a supporter who had been in a coma after being involved in violent clashes between rival Paris St Germain gangs had died.

The incident took place before PSG's match against arch-rivals Marseille on February 28.

It is not the first time this season that trouble has flared at Ligue 1 matches and PSG's trip to Nice this weekend will be played behind closed doors following trouble involving Nice fans in their game against Monaco on January 30.

It is a shame the issue of hooliganism is diverting attention away from a fascinating battle for the title.

The top six teams are separated by just three points with ten rounds to go.

This weekend's big game sees leaders Bordeaux, who are level on points with Montpellier at the summit, take on fourth-placed Lille.

It has been a big week for both clubs, Bordeaux beating Olympiacos while Lille go to Liverpool on Thursday night hoping to protect the 1-0 lead they established in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at the Stade Metropole.

Sixth meets fifth at the Stade Gerland when Lyon take on Marseille. Despite the obvious importance of the game, Lyon's Sweden midfielder Kim Kallstrom insists it won't be decisive for either side.

He told the club's official website: "I don't think so. Even if the stakes are high, I don't think everything will be over for us if we lose.

"It's going to be a big game on Sunday, an important match in the race for the title or Europe, as Marseille are one of our direct opponents.

"It's not going to be a decisive match, but important for our dynamic, for our confidence, but also on a points level because each time we win we put huge pressure on the other teams at the top.

"For the moment everyone is stagnating and we don't know how things are going to turn out. Not one side has pulled away. The team which manages to put in a run of victories will win.

"There is no way of saying who will be champions. Anybody can win it at the moment. Along with Bordeaux, we have, in my opinion, the advantage of already having been champions. But others haven't been for a long time and are hungry to win."

With five of the top six not playing until Sunday - Montpellier also host Valenciennes - Auxerre could move top with a win against Le Mans on Saturday.

The battle to avoid the drop appears more clear-cut with current bottom three Grenoble, Boulogne and Le Mans in deep trouble.

Third-bottom Le Mans are seven points adrift of St Etienne and the odds are against them closing that gap this weekend.

Grenoble, who have just three wins to their name, take on Monaco while Boulogne host Lorient.

Also this weekend, Toulouse go to Rennes, St Etienne meet Nancy while Sochaux visit Lens.


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