Marseille, Lyon and Monaco fight for Champions League spot
LYON, France (AP) — Marseille no longer has its own destiny in hand.
After losing the Europa League final to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the southern French club faces the prospect of missing out on the Champions League for the second time in a matter of days.
Saturday’s final round of the French league will decide who finishes second and third to gain automatic entry in Europe’s elite competition. The side in fourth goes into the Europa League.
All of the matches are played simultaneously to add more drama.
Deposed champion Monaco holds second place with a two-point lead over Lyon. Marseille is one point behind Lyon in fourth.
Marseille would have got a direct Champions League spot by beating Atletico. Now it needs to win at home to Amiens — which has only pride to play for — and hope Monaco and Lyon slip up.
Although Monaco and Lyon are in the driving seat, it might not be so straightforward.
Monaco travels to 19th-place Troyes, which is fighting to avoid relegation. Troyes can yet finish in 18th place, which is the promotion-relegation playoff spot against the third-placed team in division two.
It’s not that easy for Lyon, either, seeing it is at home to bitter rival Nice.
Matches between the sides are always tense, hostile affairs and Nice is in contention for a Europa League place next season providing it wins.
It is also likely to be Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s last game for the club which revived his flagging career when he joined from Liverpool two years ago.
Balotelli was woefully short of fitness and form when he arrived, but after 33 goals in 50 league games for Nice, he is in contention for an Italy call-up and to join a more renowned club to match his talents.
Two more goals would be a perfect send-off for Balotelli as he seeks 20 league goals in a season for the first time.
Down at the bottom of the table, things are also tense.
Toulouse is in 18th place — one point ahead of Troyes — and is at home to mid-table Guingamp.
But attack-minded Guingamp is in good form and recently drew at French champion Paris Saint-Germain.
Caen is safe for now in 17th, but the Normandy side can still drop to 18th on goal difference if it loses at home to PSG and Toulouse wins.
Elsewhere, it will be Italian coach Claudio Ranieri’s last game in charge of mid-table Nantes, which hosts Strasbourg. Ranieri has fallen out with club president Waldemar Kita and the rift has grown in recent weeks.
Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire