Title rivals PSG and Montpellier clash in Ligue 1

17 February 2012 01:46

Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain welcome surprise title challengers Montpellier to the French capital on Sunday evening in a top-of-the-table clash at Parc des Princes.

Carlo Ancelotti's PSG, unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions, have a one-point advantage over the southerners and are aiming to repeat their success from the reverse fixture, a 3-0 win at Stade de la Mosson in September.

PSG advanced to the last eight of the French Cup with a narrow 1-0 victory over Dijon on Wednesday, but Ancelotti warned his side they will "need to be more clinical" against a "dangerous" Montpellier on Sunday.

Brazilian forward Nene, PSG's leading scorer this season, says the Parisians must stifle their opponents' attacking style of play and isolate Montpellier talisman Olivier Giroud.

"We have to not let them play on Sunday, and the ball needs to go as infrequently as possible to Olivier Giroud, who is an excellent striker," Nene told reporters.

"We must apply pressure while staying balanced and have a stranglehold on the game."

Despite seven straight wins since the turn of the year, the home defeat by PSG clearly still rankles with Rene Girard's men, and particularly Ligue 1 top scorer Giroud.

"We have a score to settle, and we want to continue with our attacking style while staying ultra-solid," the 25-year-old said.

"We want to win all our matches, whether they're against Paris or not. But a draw would also be a good result. All the pressure is on them because we don't have much to lose."

The first versus second encounter has all the ingredients required to provide an enthralling spectacle, but Nene does not necessarily believe it will decide the title race.

"It's a gala match for sure, but not quite yet a final, because there are still many matches before the end of the championship. The result will not be definitive but it will the most important match of the year."

Ancelotti is hoping to be able to call upon record signing Javier Pastore, who has been out since the end of January with a left thigh injury.

Elsewhere, in-form Marseille host Valenciennes at Stade Velodrome on Saturday.

Didier Deschamps' side are unbeaten in their last eight league matches dating back to November and could climb to third should other results go in their favour this weekend.

Defending champions Lille travel to Lorient knowing victory is paramount to keep their fading title hopes alive.

Rudi Garcia's team lie third, 11 points adrift of PSG with a game in hand, and a third defeat in four matches would likely end their chances of retaining the league crown.

Relegation-threatened Nice travel to 16th-placed Dijon seeking a victory to propel them out of the bottom three.

Bottom club Sochaux will look to arrest their alarming slump in form when they host fellow strugglers Auxerre at Stade Auguste-Bonal.

Sochaux are without a victory in nine league matches, while their 19th-placed opponents have yet to win in 2012.

A resurgent Bordeaux will be on a revenge mission on Sunday when they host Lyon, following their elimination from the French Cup at the hands of Remi Garde's side earlier this month.

Lyon downed Cypriot outfit APOEL 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday, but their league form has been poor of late, with three losses in their past five outings.

Meanwhile, seventh-placed Saint-Etienne take on fifth-placed Rennes with both teams looking to boost their chances of qualifying for Europe.

Fixtures (1800GMT unless otherwise stated)


Ajaccio v Brest, Caen v Evian, Dijon v Nice, Lorient v Lille, Nancy v Toulouse, Sochaux v Auxerre, Marseille v Valenciennes (2000GMT)


Bordeaux v Lyon (1600GMT), Saint-Etienne v Rennes (1600GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier

Source: AFP

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