PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN vs Montpellier HSC
Venue: Parc des Princes
Date: 19th February 2012
Kick-Off: 20:00 (GMT)
The biggest match in Paris Saint-Germain’s season takes places tomorrow – possibly the biggest in recent memory – as second-placed Montpellier makes the visit to the Parc des Princes.
Le Parisiens sit at the summit of Ligue 1 but the visitors only trail by one point as they look to overhaul their counterparts.
Last week’s draw in Nice was bittersweet for Carlo Ancelotti as he witnessed his team go back to the top of table but ultimately failed to capture all three points. The midweek win in the Coupe de France against Dijon has also kept the momentum despite the Coach’s displeasure at failing to capitalise more so in front of goal.
Nene, who netted the winner on Wednesday, is under no illusions at just how big a day tomorrow is in his club’s season. As reported by the club’s Official Site, he told reporters on Thursday; “Sunday’s game is a decisive one against a direct rival for the title and we’re playing at home…Montpellier are playing excellent football. They are a balanced and very solid team, especially in defence. Montpellier have all the qualities to play for the title and they prove it each weekend. At the moment, they’re our main rivals for the championship so Sunday will be a massive match for us”.
The Brazilian’s words are by no means an exaggeration. The job Rene Girard has done with his MHSC team is nothing short of unbelievable. Tipped for nothing more than midtable mediocrity by many people – even relegation in some quarters – they have gone on from strength to strength after a fantastic start to the season. They have only been humbled once this season and that was against the Parisians who registered a valiant 3-0 win at the Stade de la Masson last September under the influence of a brimming Javier Pastore. Remarkably, that has been their only defeat on home soil in the league all season.
Since a 4-2 defeat to Evian four days before Christmas, they have won every one of their games since in all competitions including a huge 1-0 win over Olympique Lyonnais thanks to Oliver Giroud on the hour. What makes tomorrow even more interesting is that Montpellier has the best attack in Ligue 1, accumulating 45 goals, where as PSG have the best defence, conceding just 19. It will be fascinating to see how the games pans out, particularly in the early going if either side opts to take the game by the scruff of the neck or adapt a more cautious approach.
Olivier Giroud, Montpellier’s main attacking threat has somewhat played down – rather cleverly it could be argued – his team’s chances tomorrow, stating that Ancelotti’s men will be champions at the end of the season. During a press conference this week he said; “We know they are the favourites, we know they will be champions. We will try to rise to the occasion. We know we have nothing to lose in Paris”. One thing is for certain, Giroud and his team have proved comprehensively these past six months that they have just as good a chance as anyone to become champions in the spring.
Ancelotti however may just have the ace up his sleeve with the return of Javier Pastore. The Argentine has been out for a month with a muscle tear but has always been pencilled in for a return tomorrow. He has trained all week with no problems and should figure at some point – although it remains to be seen if he starts.
Tomorrow will not determine who will go on to win the title, after all there will still be 14 more games still to play but it will give us an idea as to which team has the capability to come to the fore in such a pressurised situation. Whoever can adapt to that will have fate in their own hands for the rest of the season.