PSG without Cavani, Draxler, Neymar against Marseille

PARIS (AP) — Runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain will be without striker Edinson Cavani and winger Julian Draxler against bitter rival Marseille on Sunday, a clash between France’s two biggest clubs.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said on Saturday that Cavani, who featured in the 3-1 loss to Manchester United last week in the Champions League despite a hip injury, has not recovered for the match at the Parc des Princes.

Draxler is hampered by a thigh injury.

In the absence of Brazil star Neymar, who is also out injured, France striker Kylian Mbappe is expected to lead the attack while Dani Alves returns from suspension.

Known as “Le Classique,” the match between PSG and Marseille became popular during the 1990s when the arrival of foreign stars such as Rai, Rudi Voeller and George Weah started a strong rivalry heavily promoted by the clubs’ respective owners — Bernard Tapie at Marseille and Canal Plus at PSG.

With Marseille no longer among the favorites for the title, the matchup has lost some interest in recent years. But with PSG still reeling from its shock elimination at the hands of United and Mario Balotelli back to his best, this weekend’s fixture has more appeal.

Italy striker Balotelli has scored five goals in seven games to help Marseille get back in contention for the European places.

“They are in form and have won many of their last matches,” Tuchel said. “They have gained confidence, they play with more quality, it will be complicated and we will need to be at our best.”

PSG has a 17-point lead at the top of the league and is expected to win a sixth title in seven years. Fourth-placed Marseille is unbeaten since early February and the team’s good performances in recent weeks have dragged the team back in the hunt for a Champions League place.