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Ligue 1 trio escape cup pain

18 January 2013-PA Sport

Ligue 1's leading trio will be well-placed to strengthen their positions this weekend after largely escaping as African Cup of Nations call-ups wreak havoc across the league.

Forty players from the French top flight have been called away to South Africa for the tournament, which runs until 10 February.

But while the likes of Ajaccio - deprived of five starting players - and Brest - which will be without three defensive options - count the cost of the tournament, Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille have lost only five players between them.

And PSG's two absentees, Siaka Tiene and Mohamed Sissoko, have started only once between them this season and have been linked with moves away this month.

The capital club travels to Bordeaux for the final game of the weekend, with defender Alex expecting a tough test against the fourth-placed side.

"We know it is always difficult to play against Bordeaux," the Brazilian told the club's website.

"They defend very well and are very dangerous on the counter-attack. We will have to stop their counters and play intelligently."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will wear PSG's number 10 shirt for the first time, having inherited it from the departed Nene. The Swede will continue to wear number 18 in the UEFA Champions League.

An enticing set of fixtures sees fifth-placed Nice take on a Lille team only two points behind it in eighth while Rennes, sixth and level on points with both Bordeaux and Nice, travels to Bastia.

Lyon hosts Evian - whose joint leading scorer Saber Khelifa is away with Tunisia - while Marseille faces a Montpellier side which is without Morocco's Younes Belhanda.

OM, three points off the summit in third, has defender Souleymane Diawara back in contention after he suffered a minor injury in a collision with Sochaux goalkeeper Simon Pouplin last week.

The midfield pairing of Joey Barton and Benoit Cheyrou will look to continue their fine understanding, with the Englishman hailing his colleague as 'a French Andrea Pirlo'.

He added on the club's website: "He is a fantastic player with a very good left foot and he brings a lot to the team."

Elsewhere, Sochaux's clash with Reims on Saturday afternoon (Sunday morning AEDT) has been brought forward to 4pm (local time) due to adverse weather forecast for later in the day.

Ajaccio, shorn of Carl Medjani, Mehdi Mostefa, Fousseni Diawara, Sigamarry Diarra and Chahir Belghazouani, takes on Valenciennes while Brest, which can add Kamel Chafni and Jonathan Ayite to the loss of defenders Ismael Traore, Ahmed Kantari and Ousmane Coulibaly, hosts St Etienne.

Troyes and Valenciennes - who along with Nancy are the only clubs unaffected by Cup of Nations call-ups - travel to Lorient and Toulouse respectively.

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