The champions of the last two years meet in the Coupe de France tomorrow night. The romantics will have fond memories of Montpellier’s title winning season which was a modern miracle in the French game. It was like going back to the old days in England where a team tipped as relegation fodder at the beginning of the season, go on an do the unthinkable by becoming champions. It was a great thing for the game, even though the Parisien faithful felt it was opportunity let slip as we were their closet challenges that season. Fast forward 12-months and Les Parisiens finally got their hands on L’Hexagonal in a season where MHSC understandably did not live up to their previous exploits. But the mere fact they were competing in the Champions League was surreal.
This time around, the southerners are embroiled in a relegation scrap. They sit four points above the drop zone in 16th. They recently went on a terrible run where they did not register a single win in all competitions. But in the last four games, since the winter break really, there has been an improvement and that was certainly evident against Monaco, earning a point in the process. Their last outing resulted in a 2-0 win away to Sochaux which could turn out to be huge come the end of the season.
They come into this stage of the Coupe de France having beat amateur side Rodez, making hard work of it as well. As for ourselves, we had to deal with two postponements before we could face Bastia on a torrid pitch but it would not prove to be detrimental, coasting to a 5-2 win.
Our form to the start of this year has been imperious. And the performance on Sunday night against Nantes was as good a team performance you will see from any club in Europe. It was an absolute pleasure to watch. The ball retention looked as if we participating in an exhibition match and when we did lose the ball, we harassed Les Canaris into submission to obtain it. That tactic was confirmed by Blaise Matuidi who said that the team have added that to their game in the last few weeks. It seems like a ploy from Laurent Blanc to go for the jugular in the second-half of the season.
The coach will ring the changes again. With Adrien Rabiot out for six weeks, he is a little short on cover in central midfield. He may fancy putting Marquinhos in defensive midfield which he did in the second-half against Nantes. It was only the second time the young Brazilian was placed there but if Blanc has seen enough, he will not hesitate to put him in. Javier Pastore’s resurgence will merit a start for him having not started at the weekend and Jeremy Menez will most probably come in to.
Our guests tomorrow stifled us in the opening game of the season and will look to do the same. But in the rich vein of form we are in (23 game unbeaten at home also), if we get into our stride, the dream of a domestic treble will live on.