Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Montpellier bottling it? PSG prepare for crucial St Etienne match

There's only one brand of water for me from now on
After blithely stating on yesterday's blog that "there's no point worrying about Montpellier now", I was glued to the internet last night praying that Evian would hold out as they led MHSC 2-1 at the Stade Mosson.

The match eventually ended 2-2, with Olivier Giroud sparing the home side's blushes with an equaliser five minutes from time. But what would have been a good night for the leaders, who after all extended their lead at the top by a point, turned sour in injury time. Souleymane Camara missed a penalty which would have won the match, moments after key player Younes Belhanda was sent off for lamping one of the ETG players, an incident which sparked a frankly tremendous mass brawl.

Montpellier's record this season without Belhanda, who was away for the Africa Cup of Nations with Morocco back in January, is actually quite impressive - P7 W4 D2 L1 (thanks to James Eastham on Twitter for that) - but nevertheless his absence through suspension, which is likely to encompass the last three games, will be a blow to their chances. And it remains to be seen whether the missed penalty will have an effect on morale; had it gone in they would be eight points clear this morning, but as it is Paris St-Germain could be top on goal difference by the time Rene Girard's men next take to the field. Lille can't be written off either, pending their match tonight of course.

All this doesn't alter the fact that PSG need to win against St Etienne at the Parc tonight. We beat ASSE 1-0 in Antoine Kombouare's last game in charge, and on that occasion they showed they are certainly no push-overs. Now firmly in the hunt for a Europa League place, they possess an increasingly prolific forward in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and other attacking players who can hurt you given the chance such as ex-Leeds man Max Gradel.

They will almost certainly get a chance of three courtesy of PSG's back four, which will feature Lovely Lugano at the centre alongside Alex, with Bisevac injured and Sahko suspended after his misdemeanour against LOSC. On the plus side, Jezza Menezza should be back, with Gameiro making way, and Maxwell could return in place of Tiene at left-back. Clement Chantome could be on the bench after recovering from his latest injury.

"Saint-Etienne are sixth, chasing a European place, so this will be a difficult game," notes Carletto, who is confident that we can still go on and lift the Ligue 1 trophy.

Not one for Alex Ferguson-esque "mind-games", he continued: "It's weird to say that the championship is over. Everyone thought that the Champions League final would be between Real Madrid and Barcelona, or that Manchester United would easily win the (Premier League) title.

"I don't think the championship is already decided. We have to play our games and do as well as we possibly can.

"We need to focus on our own game, not that of Montpellier. If we take 12 points then we are assured of second place and qualification for the Champions League."

He's obviously been reading this blog.


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