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Montpellier out to continue Ligue 1 hot streak
Published : 03 Mar 2012 06:46:56Rss feed
Montpellier, flying high at the top of the French league, are out to retain control of the Ligue 1 summit at lowly Dijon on Saturday.
The season's surprise packages owe their lofty standing in no small part to striker Olivier Giroud, whose 16 goals for his club have put him top of the French scorers chart.
The in-form Giroud played a starring role in France's eye catching 2-1 international friendly defeat of Germany in Bremen on Wednesday.
Les Bleus took the lead after a superb run from Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena, who found Giroud unmarked to bury his shot into the back of the German's net.
That was Giroud's first ever goal for his country after earning a starting place in Montpellier old boy Laurent Blanc's side following injury to Real Madrid's Karim Benzema - Blanc coincidentally is Montpellier's all time top scorer with 84 goals.
Giroud had a pivotal part in France's second goal too when he played the ball into substitute Florent Malouda.
Whether he will be staying at Montpellier next season is debatable as he is reportedly a target for Bayern Munich. Despite a comtract running until 2014 he has a 16 million euro get out clause.
Giroud was on cloud nine after the Germany game, saying: "First start, first goal and we beat Germany, FIFA's second top ranked team. I will savour this in the days to come."
"I've also been quite successful with Montpellier," he added modestly.
Montpellier are gunning for their first ever league title, their highest placing up to now being their third place finish in 1988.
Montpellier took control of the league last weekend with a 1-0 defeat of Bordeaux as nearest rivals Paris Saint Germain were held to a 4-4 draw at Lyon, with Carlo Ancelotti's men grabbing an unlikely point after a 94th-minute equaliser by Guillaume Hoarau.
PSG, one point shy of Montpellier, will be hoping for a more straightforward encounter than they experienced at the Stade Gerland when Corsica side Ajaccio come calling on Sunday.
That was PSG's third stalemate on the trot.
Defensive midfielder Christophe Jallet told the club's official website: "Montpellier have just taken over the lead again, they're a very good side, but we'll focus on ourselves. We're one point off first place, and the pressure is on the first four or five teams as the final sprint approaches."
Of Sunday's game he said: "We're at home and we can't afford to let more points slip from our grasp. Victory is essential., any other result will be a disappointment."
Didier Deschamps' Marseille, lying in eighth place 14 points shy of Montpellier but with a game in hand of the teams above them, face a tough assignment with the visit of Toulouse, one point ahead of them in seventh.
Marseille's Champions League qualification ambitions were held in check last weekend with a 1-0 loss at Brest.
The club's star Ghana striker Andre Ayew is struggling with a painful shoulder complaint.
"If I have to undergo surgery my season's over, so I'll grit my teeth and try and hold it off as long as possible," said the forward who grabbed a late winner in Marseille's round of 16 first leg defeat of Inter Milan at the Velodrome last month.
Defending champions Lille, seven points off the pace in third, are at home against Auxerre with fourth-placed Saint Etienne, three points further back, taking on Evian.
Dijon v Montpellier, Lille v Auxerre, Marseille v Toulouse, Nancy v Lyon, Saint Etienne v Evian, Sochaux v Valenciennes, Bordeaux v Nice
Caen v Brest, Paris Saint Germain v Ajaccio, Lorient v Rennes
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