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PSG cautious of Montpellier trap in French league

14 May 2015, 19:06

Paris - A final hurdle remains on Paris Saint-Germain's road to a third straight French title, and it should be taken seriously.

With two matches remaining this season, PSG will be crowned champion if it manages a draw at seventh-place Montpellier on Saturday. On paper, it's very feasible for PSG, but history suggests the trip to the Mediterranean shores will be a tough one.

Also read: PSG fans banned from attending French league match

In the corresponding fixture last December, Montpellier held Laurent Blanc's side to a goalless draw at the Parc des Princes and the southern club has lost only one of its last 10 home games against PSG. Montpellier also sprung a massive surprise three seasons ago when it defied the odds to beat PSG to the title.

But a loss in Montpellier would not seriously damage PSG's march to a domestic treble. Since losing to Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, PSG has four consecutive wins, scoring 17 goals and conceding just two.

PSG, which already won the League Cup and takes on second-tier Auxerre in the French Cup final on May 30, leads second-place Lyon by six points. Even if Lyon wins its remaining matches, it's hard to imagine PSG throwing away the title on the final day of the season at home against struggling Reims next weekend. PSG also has a superior goal difference of 45 versus 38 for Lyon.

Lyon, which has already sealed Champions League qualification, hosts Bordeaux on Saturday. The focus will also be on the three-way battle for the last Champions League spot involving Monaco, Marseille and Saint-Etienne.

Third-place Monaco hosts relegated Metz, Marseille is at Lille and Saint-Etienne travels to Evian, which needs a win to keep alive its small hopes of remaining in the topflight.

Hitting targets

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will look to reach 20 league goals for the fourth straight season and fifth time in his career when PSG travels to play Montpellier.

The imposing Swede, the French league's top scorer in the past two seasons, would already have reached the target if not for a heel injury that sidelined him for several weeks, and a recent suspension that ruled him out for three games.

Ibrahimovic scored 25 league goals for Inter Milan in the 2008-09 season, and 28 for crosstown rival AC Milan in 2011-12, before netting a career-high 30 in his first season with PSG and then 26 last term.

He already holds PSG's record for goals in one season: 45 in all competitions last season.

With two league games remaining, followed by the French Cup final against Auxerre, Ibrahimovic also has another target in sight: PSG's club scoring record.

He has scored 106 goals for PSG in all competitions in just 126 games and is three behind Pauleta. The former Portugal striker netted 109 in 211 games from 2003-08.

Fight for sixth

A victory for Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup final will give the team finishing sixth in the French league a spot in the Europa League which gives Montpellier even more motivation to beat PSG on Saturday night.

Montpellier is vying for sixth spot with Bordeaux. With two games remaining, Montpellier is in seventh place, three points behind Bordeaux, which has a tough trip to Lyon.

Depending on results, Bordeaux can seal sixth place this weekend, but otherwise it will be decided in the final game — when Bordeaux hosts Montpellier.

Friend turned foe

Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier was left feeling shocked when Caen goalkeeper Remi Vercoutre screamed in his face during last weekend's match.

Grenier's offense? He had tried to chip his former Lyon teammate when he went through on goal in a 2-0 defeat that all but ended Lyon's title hopes.

Vercoutre, who played alongside Grenier for several seasons before joining Caen in the offseason, perceived this as a lack of respect because he thought Grenier was trying to embarrass him.

Asked to comment on Vercoutre's outburst, a stunned Grenier could only say "I still can't understand. ... Perhaps he shouldn't be a goalkeeper" and "there are certain things you do and you don't do."

Outcast Joudren

Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren will again be left out by coach Rolland Courbis when PSG travels to the Stade de La Mosson.

Jourdren did not feature in Montpellier's 1-0 win at Lens last weekend after criticizing the team's strikers for their lack of efficiency. He was replaced by Jonathan Ligali, who put on a good display and will again be given a starting nod.

"Ligali will play against Paris and Jourdren will play against Bordeaux on the final day," said Courbis. "Ligali is being rewarded for his qualities, his attitude, the fact he's happy to play for the reserves and the fact he never says stupid things in the dressing room or to the press."

Angry fans

About 50 Nice supporters vented their anger at their club's recent poor results by causing havoc during a training session on Thursday morning.

During the session ahead of Saturday's match against Lens, the fans some of them throwing firecrackers managed to invade the pitch. L'Equipe newspaper reported that players had to stop their training while punches and insults were traded.

After a 5-0 thrashing at Saint-Etienne last week, 15th-place Nice has yet to secure its future in Ligue 1.

- AP


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