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PSG, Montpellier return to French Ligue 1 action
Paris Saint-Germain and Montpellier will both be looking for lifts ahead of the start of their Champions League campaigns when they return to Ligue 1 action on Friday after the international break.
PSG put their slow start to the season behind them with a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired 2-1 win at Lille in their last outing a fortnight ago in a game that acted as a warning to the rest of the country.
However, the capital giants are still six points adrift of bitter rivals, and early Ligue 1 leaders, Marseille, so French international winger Jeremy Menez knows what is required as an unbeaten Toulouse side head to the Parc des Princes.
"Our start to the season means we have little margin for error," admits Menez, who was a late substitute in France's 3-1 home win against Belarus in a World Cup qualifier in midweek.
"We are not especially feeling the pressure because we know we'll have to deal with it all year," he added. "We have dropped points, which is annoying, but we have the means to come back.
"We want to win Ligue 1 and go far in the Champions League."
Brazil defender Thiago Silva is unlikely to make his debut yet, and PSG, who entertain Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday, will again look to Sweden captain Ibrahimovic to lead from the front against opponents who are traditionally difficult to break down.
"They are a Champions League team, we are a long way from being that," said Toulouse coach Alain Casanova this week.
"On paper we have no chance but we will go there and look to use our phyiscal, mental and tactical qualities.
"The first idea will be to defend well, but if you go there and just put men behind the ball they have the talent to eventually make the difference."
Defending champions Montpellier also endured a slow start to the season before winning 3-1 at Sochaux a fortnight ago.
Now Rene Girard's side travel to promoted Reims, and the Montpellier coach is hoping his side will not be distracted by the prospect of a first-ever Champions League match against English giants Arsenal next Tuesday.
"We are starting a series of matches close together and the best thing to do is take each one at a time," he said.
"We need to put all our energy into this game, but it is up to me to find the right words so that the lads don't start looking too far ahead."
Girard also admitted that centre-back and captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa could be rested after playing twice for France over the past week.
Ligue 1's other Champions League representative, Lille, go to Troyes on Saturday seeking to bounce back from that defeat at the hands of PSG, which was a blow to their hopes of competing at the top of the table.
Later on Saturday, Bordeaux, who have been drawn in the same Europa League group as Newcastle United, travel to Valenciennes with the aim of maintaining an unbeaten run in all competitions that stretches over 13 games since the start of April.
It has been a good start to the season for Lyon too, although Remi Garde's side now begin life without goalkeeper and France captain Hugo Lloris on Sunday when they entertain Ajaccio, for whom Adrian Mutu could make his debut.
Meanwhile, after winning their opening four games of a season for the first time since 1932, leaders Marseille can continue their perfect start with a win at Nancy on Sunday night.
English midfielder Joey Barton will play no part after it was confirmed that his 12-game suspension, imposed by the FA, will carry over into French domestic football.
Elsewhere, Evian entertain Bastia in their first game since parting company with coach Pablo Correa, while Rennes and Lorient meet in a Brittany derby.
Fixtures (kick-off times GMT):
Paris Saint-Germain v Toulouse, Reims v Montpellier (1845)
Troyes v Lille (1500), Evian v Bastia, Nice v Brest, Saint-Etienne v Sochaux, Valenciennes v Bordeaux (all 1800)
Rennes v Lorient (1200), Lyon v Ajaccio (1500), Nancy v Marseille (1900)
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