Deschamps calls for cool heads with Marseilles on verge of title

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The Independent Football

The ligue 1 leaders Marseilles head into tonight's crucial title match against second-placed Auxerre with their coach Didier Deschamps' call for humility ringing in their ears. Marseilles look set to end years of underachievement by finally winning the French title this year and know their trip to face their closest rivals can all but decide matters.

Victory for Deschamps' side would put them eight points clear and seemingly wrap up their first title since 1992, while defeat would move their hosts to within two points of top spot. "Getting a big head about our success so far would mean that we think that we've already won, that the title will just fall from the heavens," Deschamps, whose side have won their last seven matches, said yesterday.

"We've won nothing yet. If we deserve anything from this season, we will only get it by going after it and constantly demanding the best from ourselves. Whatever you think about Auxerre, they're in top form and their defence is the best in the league. They're full of confidence and deserve their second place; they're not there by accident. Along with us, they're the most consistent side in Ligue 1. But whatever the result, we'll still be in the lead."

Auxerre's captain, Benoît Pedretti, played down pressure on his side as they seek to continue their unexpected title challenge. "We'll have nothing to lose and anything we get from the game will be a bonus," he said. "We have the experience to deal with the media pressure. We don't pay much attention to what is said about us, whether it's positive or negative. That's our biggest strength: we don't get carried away. We know we don't have the quality of Marseilles, Lyons or Bordeaux but on the other hand, we're a very tight-knit group and we have the desire to help each other succeed as a unit."

Bordeaux's unsuccessful title defence slipped to a new low this week as they lost their game in hand, at Valenciennes, 2-0. Laurent Blanc's side are sixth, four points off a Champions League place for next season. Blanc, strongly linked with the France national team job after the World Cup, is at the end of his tether.

"We no longer have the technical, mental or physical force to put our opponents in danger." he said. "You get the impression that our adversaries are playing good matches, with strong individual performances. That was certainly the case for Valenciennes, but it was certainly also due to our weaknesses. We had the right intentions going into the match but as soon as it kicked off, we were shaky. At the moment, we're playing too poorly to really hope for anything.

"The match [against Valenciennes] was like many of the matches since our elimination from the Champions League against Lyons. We missed the boat, and it's hard to take. Is a European place a utopian dream? At the moment, it seems utopian to hope for a win. We need to lift our game."

The Champions League hopefuls Montpellier have been dealt a blow ahead of their home match against Lyons after their captain, Nenad Dzodic, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a thigh injury which sidelined him in January. Dzodic had looked set to return last weekend before a relapse scuppered his comeback plans. Lille head the queue for the third Champions League place and will be hoping for victory at home to Nancy on Sunday.

In Germany, VfL Bochum yesterday followed Hamburg's example by firing their coach, Heiko Herrlich, only days ahead of their most important match of the season. Herrlich, in charge for only 22 league games in his first senior coaching job, was dismissed two days before the relegation candidates visit treble-chasing Bayern Munich. "On the grounds of the sporting nosedive, Bochum have parted company with Heiko Herrlich with immediate effect," the club said in a statement.

Bochum have not won in their last 10 games and have lost seven of their last eight. The youth team coach Dariusz Wosz was named as Herrlich's replacement, becoming the team's fourth coach – including caretakers – of the season. Bochum are 16th in the Bundesliga, the relegation play-off spot, one point ahead of Hanover 96.

Marcel Koller began the season in charge of Bochum but was dismissed and replaced by Frank Heinemann on a caretaker basis. Heinemann was in charge for five games before Herrlich was appointed. Hamburg fired Bruno Labbadia on Monday, three days before their Europa League semi-final second leg away to Fulham.

Steve McClaren's FC Twente can claim their first Eredivisie title on Sunday with victory over NAC Breda.