By Ed Dove
STRASBOURG (Reuters) – French soccer returns to domestic action this weekend in the aftermath of the Paris attacks amid tight security as the country tries to get back to a sense of normality.
France’s secretary of state for sport Thierry Braillard confirmed on Tuesday that this weekend’s fixtures across the country would go ahead following calls for postponements.
Security will be stepped up by the clubs, with tighter checks expected and fans asked to arrive early, while away supporters are not being allowed to attend matches.
Champions PSG will wear shirts with the words ‘Je Suis Paris’ (I am Paris) printed underneath the club crest in a show of solidarity with the 129 people who lost their lives.
Their hosts Lorient will have a special Eiffel Tower motif on their jerseys for the Ligue 1 match. The domestic programme is resuming following a one-week international break.
PSG’s Javier Pastore and Salvatore Sirigu lost friends in last Friday’s attacks by Islamic State in which hundreds of people were also injured but they are keen to play.
“I’ve lost two lads who I knew very well,” Sirigu told RAI television after Italy’s friendly with Romania on Tuesday. “I think France has responded in a dignified way.
“We need to continue doing the things we used to do — training and playing and being close with our thoughts to those who are suffering. We must be united and reflect on certain things that go beyond football and daily life.”
PSG’s Brazil defender David Luiz had expressed concerns about returning to Paris so soon after last week’s attacks but their Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani denied suggestions he was considering staying away from the French capital.
Leaders PSG, with 35 points from 13 matches, 10 more than second-placed Olympique Lyonnais, who play at Nice on Friday, will expect an eighth consecutive league win.
However, coach Laurent Blanc may well rotate his squad ahead of the midweek Champions League trip to Malmo.
Marco Verratti has a knee injury while Marquinhos and Javier Pastore are doubtful but Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to make his 100th Ligue 1 appearance since joining the club in 2012.
Third-placed Caen welcome Angers, who are fourth, also on Saturday, while Olympique de Marseille will look to return to winning ways at inconsistent Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)