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Montpellier wary of slip-up as title beckons
Published : 20 May 2012 04:46:59Rss feed
Montpellier celebrated like champions after beating Lille 1-0 in dramatic circumstances last weekend, but they still require a point at relegated Auxerre on Sunday to claim the first Ligue 1 title in their history.
Karim Ait-Fana's injury-time goal at Stade de la Mosson last Sunday eliminated defending champions Lille from the title race and left Montpellier three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the season's final day.
To steal the title, PSG must win at Lorient and hope Auxerre defeat Montpellier.
If the top two finish level on points, PSG will prevail courtesy of a superior goal difference, but although that seems an unlikely outcome, Montpellier coach Rene Girard says his side can afford no room for complacency.
"We're trying to prepare as simply as possible," he said.
"Like it's an ordinary match, even though it isn't. With everything that's happening to us, it's complicated. Particularly as, when you get to the end, it's always difficult.
"I have to increase my vigilance to make sure everyone stays concentrated and focused. The importance of the match should keep us on our toes.
"The players have worked well, but we can't look at the fact that Auxerre are going down and think it's going to be an easy game."
Complicating Montpellier's task is the unavailability of playmaker Younes Belhanda and left-back Henri Bedimo, who are both suspended.
Veteran defender Cyril Jeunechamp, 36, will come into the team in place of Bedimo, while Remy Cabella is expected to continue to deputise for Belhanda.
PSG travel west to Lorient knowing that even a fourth consecutive victory is unlikely to be enough to give them the title they have been aiming for since last summer's takeover by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).
Jeremy Menez, who has two goals and two assists in his last four appearances, misses out for PSG through suspension, while central midfielder Mohamed Sissoko is a doubt with a knee complaint.
"We want to win this match so we have no regrets," said PSG right-back Christophe Jallet, recently promoted to captain by Carlo Ancelotti.
"If we don't win at Lorient and Auxerre beat Montpellier, we'll be very disappointed."
Stade Geoffroy-Guichard will play host to a virtual Europa League play-off, with Bordeaux requiring victory at Saint-Etienne to make sure of fifth place and a berth in Europe's second-tier competition next season.
Saint-Etienne will climb above Bordeaux if they win, however, but Les Verts could still be pipped by Rennes, while Toulouse remain in contention as well.
Meanwhile, no less than eight teams will go into the final day hoping to avoid slipping into Ligue 2 alongside Auxerre.
Second-bottom Dijon, promoted from the second tier last season, must win at seventh-placed Rennes to stand any chance of survival, while third-bottom Ajaccio -- another promoted side -- face a challenging trip to Toulouse.
Lille's home game with Nancy is the only fixture with nothing riding on it, as last season's champions are already assured of third place and Nancy are certain to finish the season in 11th.
It nonetheless threatens to be an emotional occasion, as recently crowned Ligue 1 Player of the Season Eden Hazard will bid goodbye to Lille ahead of his anticipated summer move to one of the Manchester clubs.
"Two days until LOSC-NANCY, the last (game) with the club of my heart," the Belgian wrote on his Twitter account on Friday.
"Hoping for a victory and great goodbyes...( and a great party too lol)."
Auxerre v Montpellier, Evian v Brest, Lille v Nancy, Lorient v Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon v Nice, Rennes v Dijon, Saint-Etienne v Bordeaux, Sochaux v Marseille, Toulouse v Ajaccio, Valenciennes v Caen