PARIS (AP) -Having started the season brightly, Marseille's form has dimmed with three straight defeats and no goals scored, while its bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain has won its past four matches in all competitions and taken top spot in the league.
Marseille lost 2-0 to PSG in the League Cup on Wednesday, relinquishing its grip on the trophy it had won three consecutive times, and that followed losses to Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Europa League and lowly Troyes in the French league.
Marseille needs to rediscover its scoring touch when it travels to play Corsican side Ajaccio on Sunday. PSG, which is three points clear at the top having played a game more than third-place Marseille, looks to keep a fifth straight clean sheet when it hosts Saint-Etienne on Saturday.
"We're going through a bad spell, with defeats, injuries and suspensions. We have to stick together even more now," Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said. "A difficult match awaits us at Ajaccio. We need to be prepared and put an end to this negative run we're on."
Toulouse, which is away to Bordeaux on Sunday, is in second place, three points behind PSG, but having played the same amount of games.
Marseille has struggled to cope with the loss of top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac, who fractured a bone in his foot against Troyes two weeks ago. Loic Remy, who has replaced him in attack, still looks some way short of his best, having been plagued by a thigh injury for several months. Winger Andre Ayew, who scored so freely last season, has yet to score in the league.
Still, Remy is optimistic that Marseille can still challenge for honors.
"We have other challenges ahead, the (French) title, the Europa League and the French Cup," he said. "We're struggling a bit in terms of the squad at the moment, but you have to make do with that. It's difficult when you have injuries."
Marseille will be without defender Rod Fanni against Ajaccio, while Ayew is highly doubtful after hurting his left foot against PSG. Ayew, who left the field on crutches Wednesday night, was set to have tests later Thursday to determine the nature of the injury.
For PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti, it's more a case of who will choose to leave out against Saint-Etienne, rather than who's fit or available.
Ancelotti rested top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic against Marseille, but will be counting on the imposing Swede to lead the attack against Saint-Etienne. Ibrahimovic sits proudly at the top of the scorers' charts with 10 goals in nine league games.
"Zlatan wasn't 100 percent (against Marseille) and he's too important for us," Ancelotti said. "The team is in good shape, the atmosphere is good."
Ancelotti was also relieved to see playmaker Javier Pastore find some form. Pastore, who cost ?42 million when he joined from Palermo last season, has been struggling lately, but he set up PSG's second goal against Marseille with a superbly weighted pass for Jeremy Menez.
"He's much better at the moment, he played well and his pass was fantastic," Ancelotti said. "He's starting to get better because he believes in his ability more."
In other matches, Brest hosts Lorient on Friday, while on Saturday it is: Evian vs. Lille; Nice vs. Nancy; Rennes vs. Reims; Troyes vs. defending champion Montpellier, and Valenciennes vs. Sochaux.
Fourth-place Lyon, which trails PSG by four points, hosts mid-table Bastia in Sunday's other game.