Montpellier Hérault SC and Olympique Lyonnais go head-to-head at the Stade de la Mosson on Saturday with both teams knowing victory could send them into the winter break on the podium.
Montpellier Hérault SC - Olympique Lyonnais
Lyon make the three-hour journey to the south of France in third, one place and two points better off than their hosts. The winner is guaranteed to occupy third place at the halfway stage of the season, and OL could even leapfrog LOSC into second provided Les Dogues lose to Toulouse FC.
Montpellier have not beaten Saturday's visitors in Ligue 1 Conforama since November 2015, when Casimir Ninga - now of SM Caen - scored twice in a 4-2 win, but La Paillade do at least have a mostly clean bill of health following a more than two-week break from competitive action.
Games in hand
Montpellier have a game in hand over Lyon - and two over Lille - with their match against Nantes FC postponed, while their clash with league leaders Paris Saint-Germain has been rescheduled for February. Coach Michel Der Zakarian would rather have had the match practice, though.
"We're still in the hunt," he explained following to narrow 1-0 loss to Lille in Week 16 - Montpellier's last competitive game. "But we haven't been dropped. We won't give up. [Regarding the postponements], what's done is done. We're not going to shout from the rooftops about it. We'll adapt, as always."
Paul Lasne, who has a pass completion north of 90 percent this season, remains sidelined with a groin strain, while fellow midfielder Keagan Dolly is not expected back until the summer having broken his leg, but Der Zakarian is expected to put out his strongest possible side otherwise.
Winning on all fronts
Lyon's recent schedule has been significantly busier. Since Montpellier last played, Les Gones have booked their passage to the UEFA Champions League last 16 with a 1-1 draw at Shakhtar Donestk, beaten AS Monaco 3-0 in the league, and won past Amiens SC 3-2 on Wednesday to punch their ticket into the Coupe de la Ligue quarter-finals.
Top scorer Houssem Aouar, top assister Memphis Depay and first-choice goalkeeper Anthony Lopes were among those rested by Der Zakarian's opposite number Bruno Génésio for the Amiens match, but all are expected to return on Saturday, with Tanguy Ndombélé surrendering the captain's armband to Nabil Fekir.
"It was a nod to the club where he took off," Génésio explained of his decision to have Ndombélé lead the side out on Wednesday. "Since he left Amiens he's become a full France international. He owes that to his hard work but also to the people that worked with him here."
'Big squad to choose from'
Former Manchester United man Rafael is out with a thigh injury, so Léo Dubois is likely to get the nod at right-back. Rafael is joined on the sidelines by Jérémy Morel (knock) and Maxwel Cornet (thigh).
Having progressed in three competitions in the last fortnight, Génésio is on no mood to let his players rest on their laurels, with his side having been 3-0 up against Amiens before Les Licornes brought it back to 3-2, despite having only ten men on the pitch.
"We have to be much more demanding of ourselves," he said at his post-match press conference. "We can't afford to worry until the last minute. This isn't normal and we'll correct this on Saturday. If some choose not to understand this, I have a big squad to choose from."
Montpellier: Lecomte; Mendes, Hilton, Congré; Aguilar, Skhiri, Le Tallec, Oyongo; Mollet; Laborde, Delort
Lyon: Lopes; Marcelo, Denayer, Marçal; Dubois, Tousart, Ndombélé, Aouar; Fekir; Traoré, Memphis