La Paillade and les Parisiens want to move one step closer to silverware...
Montpellier are a club who may have been around for close to 100 years, but they’ve won surprisingly little over that time. Coupe de France success was achieved in 1990, but otherwise, la Paillade have failed to lift a major domestic title. It would therefore please eccentric president Louis Nicollin greatly if they were to claim the Coupe de la Ligue.
Rene Girard’s side made a storming return to Ligue 1 last season, claiming a European spot courtesy of their strong finish. Though they have not proven to be quite the same force this time around, MHSC remain dangerous opponents for all of France’s elite clubs, particularly at the Stade de la Mosson, where they have been so impressive since rejoining Le Championnat.
Prior to Christmas, there were signs of a significant slump. A five match winless run saw Girard’s men tumble from third down to 10th, while their hopes of claiming success in the Coupe de France were blitzed by Ligue 2 outfit Reims on the opening weekend of action in 2011. Faced with this adversity, Montpellier were forced to battle hard to defeat Valenciennes on Saturday night, coming through 2-1 despite going into the closing 10 minutes of action a goal down.
“Perhaps we needed a match like that where we were behind and had to come back to win it. It’s proof that work pays,” Girard said. “It’s the perfect match before PSG come here.”
Character and exuberance are two of Montpellier’s great traits, and they’ve earned a lot of admirers in France over the course of their return to the top flight. While the Coupe de la Ligue may not be the most glamorous of competitions to win, lifting the crown in April would be a memorable achievement for a relatively small club punching above its weight due to their excellent youth academy.
Work On The Killer Instinct
Paris Saint-Germain’s remarkable season has not been allowed to slip away, despite the inconvenience of a two week recess breaking their momentum. Having lost only two matches since August, Antoine Kombouare’s side are once again recognised as one of France’s best, and they’ve gone some way to underline that over the last couple of weeks.
Against Racing Club de Lens in the Coupe de France, PSG showed the northerners no mercy, hammering five goals past them with only one late penalty kick as a reply. Last weekend, les Parisiens were still on winning ways, rallying from a goal behind to defeat Sochaux 2-1.
Saturday’s performance was not the smoothest from the capital side, who were on the back foot for the second half, but Kombouare was pleased. “In the first half, we seized Sochaux by the throat,” he told the media, Ligue 1’s official website reports. “We conceded against the run of play, but had enough character to get back into it. We created chances, but weren’t able to give ourselves a nice cushion.
“We put a lot of energy into this match. We have to try and kill games off, but even if it can sometimes work against us, we have to try and keep on putting pressure on our opponents to break through.”
Though the Coupe de la Ligue is down PSG’s priority list at present, the semi-final stage may induce the coach to throw in a few stronger players than he might otherwise have deployed. Going for a record fourth win in the competition, les Parisiens will be keen to maintain their fine record of reaching the tournament’s final.
There are a clutch of selection worries for the home side. Benjamin Stambouli and Emir Spahic are both banned, weakening the defence, while Nenad Dzodic, Romain Pitau, Hasan Kabze and Fode Koita are all ruled out. First choice goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren hasn’t played this year and is doubtful after being hit by a bout of the flu.
An 18-man panel has been named by PSG. Siaka Tiene returns after several weeks out with a calf problem, but there is still no respite for the injured Mathieu Bodmer. Ceara will be absent for at least another fortnight because of hamstring worries.