Updated: Friday, 29 August 2014 13:27 | By Agence France-Presse

St Etienne worry for PSG ahead of Euro challenge

Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain, poised for a tough Champions League campaign, turn their focus first to their stuttering Ligue 1 start when they host high-flying rivals St Etienne at the weekend.


St Etienne worry for PSG ahead of Euro challenge

Marseille's Andre Ayew during the Ligue 1 match against Guingamp on August 23, 2014 at the Roudourou stadium in Guingamp - by Miguel Medina

PSG were handed a tricky European group stage draw alongside four-time winners Barcelona and Ajax on Thursday, but far from the glamour of Europe eyes will be firmly fixed on the domestic grind on Sunday.

PSG host Saint Etienne after a goalless draw by the Parisians at Evian followed a 2-0 home win against Bastia and an opening 2-2 draw at Reims.

St Etienne, sitting second, have so far notched up two wins and a draw. They are also on a high after advancing to the Europa League group stages following a suspense-filled penalty shootout against Turkish side Karabukspor on Thursday.

Laurent Blanc's Parisians are fifth, four points adrift of leaders Bordeaux who have a maximum nine points after three games.

But the reigning two-time champions can be encouraged by the fact that with five points from three matches they are in the same position as last season and even have two more than in 2012-2013, when they started with three draws.

PSG have been hampered by injury woes with captain Thiago Silva out with a hamstring injury, Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffering a muscle tear, Gregory Van der Wiel a fractured vertebra and midfielder Thiago Motta a fractured nose.

Swedish international Ibrahimovic has however returned to training and believes he will be ready for Sunday's game at Parc des Princes.

Meanwhile, last season's runners-up Monaco, also need a lift despite being handed a less imposing elite European draw against Benfica, Zenit St Petersburg and Bayern Leverkusen.

The Principality side are struggling in 17th place with just three points, and face a stiff test at third-placed Lille.

Monaco's new coach Leonardo Jardim believes however that the team are "almost at their top level" after their first success against Nantes on Sunday.

Lille, with the future of Salomon Kalou still in doubt, are coming off their Champions League dumping by Porto this week which they played without the key Ivorian striker who is also uncertain to play against Monaco.

Bordeaux will be bidding to keep their winning momentum as the Ligue 1 leaders host Bastia.

Willy Sagnol's side have three wins from as many games in his first season at Bordeaux to sit two points ahead of Saint Etienne and Lille.

Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa will be bidding to carry the winning momentum from last week's trip to Brittany back home for a clash against Riviera rivals Nice at their Velodrome Stadium.

Marseille achieved their first win of the season over Guingamp last Saturday, thanks to an Andre-Pierre Gignac goal, before he limped off the pitch with an ankle injury.

But Argentinian Bielsa insisted that he was counting on Gignac against Nice, along with midfielder Mario Lemina, also recovering from an ankle injury.

They face a tough test against Nice who beat them three times last season including twice at the Velodrome, including a 5-4 win the French Cup last 16.

"The fact that it's a derby adds spice to the clash," said Bielsa.

Nice, equal on four points with Marseille, are coming off a 3-1 home loss to Bordeaux, but their opening 3-2 win against Toulouse and goalless draw against Lorient give them reason for optimism.

Fifth-placed Monpellier travel to Nantes three places below them with Tunisian international midfielder Jamel Saihi, who has failed to feature since picking up a knee injury two years ago, set to play for the first time this season.

Elsewhere, newly-promoted Caen, in fourth, host Rennes, in seventh, as Nantes travel south to Montpellier, and Lorient host Guingamp in a Brittany derby.

Tailenders Evian travel to Toulouse; Lens host Reims and Lyon, fresh from their Europa League dumping, travel north to struggling Metz.

Fixtures (all times 1800 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Marseille v Nice (1830)

Saturday

Monaco v Lille (1500), Caen v Rennes, Lens v Reims, Lorient v Guingamp, Nantes v Montpellier, Toulouse v Evian, Bordeaux v Bastia (1200), Metz v Lyon (1500)

Sunday

Paris Saint-Germain v St Etienne (1900)

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