PREVIEW: Stade seek Clermont step to stave off drop
TOP 14 SPOTLIGHT: Stade Francais's hopes of staving off relegation from France's top flight face a tough test when Clermont visit Paris on Saturday, both teams smarting from exits from European competition.
The Paris giants are stuck in a low-league dogfight with just three games left (Lyon away, Brive at home and La Rochelle away) after this weekend's action.
With just seven wins to their name Stade have amassed 33 points and sit 12th in the league, level on points with Agen. Brive are 13th on 31 points while bottom-placed Oyonnax's run of four wins in their last five games (impressively taking the scalps of Toulon, Bordeaux-Begles, Stade Francais and Clermont) has seen them close the gap on 30 points.
Stade have won just once this year, at home against Castres, and come into Saturday's match on the back of narrow losses to Racing and Toulouse and elimination from the European Challenge Cup by fellow Top 14 rivals Pau.
Clermont's year has not been much better, last season's Top 14 champions wallowing in ninth position, 16 points adrift of a top-six play-off spot.
To make matters worse, Dan Carter came off the bench to lead Racing past them in last weekend's European Champions Cup quarter-final.
"The club's goal is to finish the best possible, head held high, letting nothing go," said Clermont scrumhalf Morgan Parra.
"It's annoying because next year we won't have the chance to play the European Cup and we've also not had a league showing that we can compensate with."
Clermont will be without back row forward Peceli Yato and lock Sebastien Vahaamahina for the encounter, both having picked up injuries in the defeat by Racing.
Coach Franck Azema predicted a physical battle at the Jean-Bouin stadium in western Paris.
"Stade played well against racing and Toulouse despite losing and will be fighting for the survival of the club," Azema said.
"We must expect a tough match and a real battle up front."
Leaders Montpellier host La Rochelle on Sunday, while second-placed Racing entertain Toulon, in fourth behind Toulouse.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Saturday, April 7:
Castres v Toulouse (13.45)
Bordeaux-Begles v Pau (16.45)
Brive v Lyon (16.45)
Stade Francais v Clermont (16.45)
Agen v Oyonnax (19.45)
Sunday, April 8
Montpellier v La Rochelle (11.30)
Racing 92 v Toulon (15.50)