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The Italian tactician has ruled the captain out of the weekend clash but confirmed that on-loan Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov was close to full fitness

Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri expects Eric Abidal to miss Saturday's Ligue 1 clash with struggling Sochaux.

The Frenchman was absent for last weekend's 2-0 defeat to Saint-Etienne and was later hospitalised after being diagnosed with a viral infection.

The former Barcelona defender has since returned to training, but the Italian believes the 34-year-old is unlikely to take part in the game.

"[Abidal] will probably be able to do a little more today so I do not know," Ranieri told reporters. "But I do not think he can play."

However, the former Chelsea boss was more positive over the fitness of Dimitar Berbatov, who could be in line to make his first start since his January loan move from Fulham against relegation-threatened Sochaux.

"Berbatov has improved physically, he is getting better. He may start on Saturday," said the Italian.

The defeat to Saint-Etienne left second-placed Monaco eight points adrift of Paris Saint-Germain following the league leaders' 2-0 win over Marseille.

Ranieri was not surprised by the setback at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, and is anticipating another difficult game against a Sochaux team who have won three of their last five league outings and held Monaco to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture back in October.

"We are in the process of competing for a major championship. If a few times we are brittle, this is normal," said the 62-year-old.

"I feel Sochaux will stay up. Some think it may be easy against Sochaux, I think the opposite."

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