Alexis Sanchez has no intention of letting Paris Saint-Germain ease to another Ligue 1 title after helping drag Marseille back into a position to catch its bitter rival.
His two goals in a 2-1 win at Reims and PSG's first home league defeat in two years before the international break saw Marseille close to within seven points with 10 games to play. Sanchez, who netted his 51st goal for Chile against Paraguay midweek, has led Marseille's push to stay the course in the league following a bitterly disappointing French Cup quarterfinal loss to second-tier Annecy.
"I really want to stay, but I want to win," Sanchez, who joined Marseille from Inter Milan in August on a one-year deal with the option for another season, said recently.
"I'm not here to finish second, third or fourth. I play to be a champion and to win titles. I didn't come here for a holiday in the sun. I'm here to win and make people happy," he added.
Sanchez is Marseille's top scorer with 12 league goals this season, seven of which have come in the past 10 games for Igor Tudor's team. Marseille could cut PSG's lead to four points with a victory over Montpellier on Friday and keep Lens at bay in the race for the second automatic Champions League berth. But Tudor insists Marseille's hope of overtaking PSG is largely beyond its control.
PSG's title to lose
"If [PSG] wants to win, it wins," Tudor said in an interview with French sports daily L'Equipe. "Then there is [Kylian] Mbappe. I have huge respect for [Lionel] Messi, who for me is the best player in the history of soccer. Neymar is very strong as well, but today Mbappe is the best in the world and the team is not at all the same without him," he continued. "We beat them when he wasn't there [in the cup]. Then, with him, and with a different motivation on its part, PSG won. It always decides. It's a tough league where you have to fight for every point. We'll try to win everything, and we'll see where it takes us."
Montpellier is on an excellent run as well, picking up 16 points from a possible 18 since the team reappointed former manager Michel Der Zakarian last month.
On Saturday, Lens visits a Rennes team that remains in the hunt for a top-three finish, while fourth-place Monaco hosts improving Strasbourg on Sunday.
Laurent Blanc returns to the Parc des Princes as Lyon's manager for the first time since leaving PSG in 2016, having led the club to three successive Ligue 1 titles. Lyon is struggling in 10th place and the team's season hinges on how it fares in the French Cup, where it will face last year's Cup winner Nantes in the semifinals next week.
"We're not far from disaster. It's a difficult season at all levels," Blanc said following a 1-1 league draw at home against Nantes in Lyon's last game.
One to watch: Habib Diallo
After the disappointment of not being selected to Senegal's World Cup squad, Diallo has knuckled down and scored a number of crucial goals to lift Strasbourg out of the relegation zone.
Eight of his 14 Ligue 1 goals have come since Qatar, most recently scoring in a 2-0 win over Auxerre after missing a penalty earlier in the game. Diallo, Strasbourg's record signing from Metz in 2020, is having his best season in the top-flight — forcing his way back into the national team for Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers — and will be pivotal to his club's chances of surviving relegation.
Friday: Marseille vs Montpellier
Saturday: Auxerre vs Troyes, Rennes vs Lens
Sunday: Lille vs Lorient, Angers vs Nice, Brest vs Toulouse, Clermont vs Ajaccio, Nantes vs Reims, Monaco vs Strasbourg, Paris Saint-Germain vs Lyon
© Agence France-Presse