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Paris Saint-Germain facing tricky test at Nice in French league following loss to Barcelona

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PARIS — Hit by yet another injury and without suspended striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paris Saint-Germain faces a tough trip to Nice on Saturday.

Games between Nice and PSG are always heated, and Nice relishes taking PSG on at home, where it is hard to beat.

PSG captain Thiago Silva limped off injured early on in the 3-1 home loss to Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Wednesday.

With David Luiz only just returning from an injury of his own, and midfielder Thiago Motta also struggling for fitness, coach Laurent Blanc really needs Ibrahimovic on the field.

The problem is that the imposing Swede is suspended for the next four league games following his expletive-laced rant at French officials after a league game against Bordeaux last month.

PSG, which trails leader Lyon by two points but has a match in hand, has appealed to the French Olympic Committee in a bid to have Ibrahimovic available on Saturday.

Here are some things to know about this weekend's games:


GRENIER'S RETURN

With expensive Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff sidelined by yet another injury — his 20th since joining in 2010 — the return of midfielder Clement Grenier could be a timely boost.

Grenier was one of Lyon's best players last season, and earned several France national team appearances on the back of some impressive performances.

He returned to the Lyon side in Wednesday's 2-0 home win against Bastia, his first performance since limping off injured with a groin injury in a Europa League game on Aug. 21.

The injury proved much more complicated to heal than anticipated and further complications kept Grenier out until he returned to play in a reserve match two weeks ago.

With six games to go, Lyon will be counting on free kick specialist Grenier to find his shooting range — starting with a home game against rival Saint-Etienne on Sunday.


MARTIAL MATTERS

PHOTO: Bastia's Mathieu Peybernes, left, and Paris Saint Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic challenge for the ball during their League Cup final soccer match Bastia against Paris Saint Germain at Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis, outside Paris, France, Saturday, April 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Bastia's Mathieu Peybernes, left, and Paris Saint Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic challenge for the ball during their League Cup final soccer match Bastia against Paris Saint Germain at Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis, outside Paris, France, Saturday, April 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

With veteran striker Dimitar Berbatov struggling to score goals in recent weeks, teenage forward Anthony Martial has scored six times in his past six league games.

The 19-year-old Martial cost Monaco 5 million euros when he joined from Lyon two years ago.

Cash-strapped Lyon was somewhat pushed into selling Martial — considered one of the brightest young talents in French football — because it needed to raise funds.

Several of Martial's 10 goals in all competitions have caught the eye — and jogged memories of a former Monaco player who made a similar impact 20 years ago. Martial is very quick, skillful, has good balance, likes to cut in from the left wing and is a clinical finisher.

No wonder Martial resembles a young Thierry Henry.


LOVING BIELSA

With the French season now in its closing stages, Marseille is trying to convince coach Marcelo Bielsa to stay.

The former Argentina coach, widely credited for Marseille's return to prominence this season, will be out of contract after this season. He has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia, where he could take over as national team coach.

Marseille owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus recently met with Bielsa and made it clear she would be glad to see him stay on the Mediterranean.

"She told me she would like to keep going with me, but it's not the same thing as extending a contract," the tough-talking disciplinarian said. "It's up to the club to assess the situation. I will only answer once I received a concrete offer."


TURNING PARANOID

There has been a sense of paranoia growing at Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille.

Players from both clubs have been complaining of perceived unfair refereeing decisions, sometimes in very harsh words that led to the suspensions of PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet.

Both players were sanctioned for comments caught on TV by Canal+ cameras.

Instead of blaming their players for their appalling words, PSG and Marseille have decided to boycott the channel in question until the end of the season.

The clubs have found an unexpected ally in the person of league president Frederic Thirez, who lambasted the channel for "its way of using what happens behind the scene to create scandal."

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