Ligue 1 preview

Pressure mounts on Montpellier

April 26, 2012

Montpellier boss Rene Girard believes his side are coming under increased pressure as they fight for the first Ligue 1 title in the club's history with Friday's game at Toulouse giving them the chance to open up a five-point gap at the top of the table.

Girard's side are the unlikely leaders of Ligue 1 but have earned their place at the summit and a victory over seventh-placed Toulouse would put them in a great position in the championship race but the former France Under-21 coach knows all is still to play for.

He said: "It's extra pressure. We must learn to manage it all for a young team, which hasn't proven anything yet.

"I tell them every day, we have not won anything, they are two points clear and 15 still remain (available), it is more complicated."

Girard also reckons fixtures get tougher at this stage of the season as opponents are fighting their own battles for a strong finish to their respective campaigns.

He said: "It is possible that we are less risky, we have less success, but the context has also changed, our opponents play for Europe or to avoid relegation, and so the look has changed. We must be realistic - the players must give their maximum, and we will not hide."

Friday's other fixture sees mid-table Marseille travel to Lorient before second-placed Paris St Germain travel to current champions Lille on Sunday knowing that a defeat for Montpellier would mean they could move above them in the table.

Despite the difficult nature of their match against third-placed Lille, Marseille's task could be made a little easier as playmaker Eden Hazard looks set to miss the game for the hosts.

Hazard picked up an injury in Lille's 2-0 win over Dijon and is now a major doubt for a game Rudi Garcia's side must win to maintain any slim possibility of retaining their league crown.

Sunday also sees a big game at the foot of the table as bottom side Auxerre host 18th-placed Brest.

Brest have lost four out of their last five in the league, a run which has seen manager Alex Dupont lose his job with sporting director Corentin Martins now given the task of saving the club from relegation.

Auxerre have won only once in their last 16 league outings but can close the gap on Brest to two points with a win at the Stade de l'Abbe-Deschamps.

Sochaux are level on points with Brest and will be looking to pull themselves out of the relegation zone with a win at home to Bordeaux while 17th-placed side Ajaccio will be looking over their shoulders as they travel to a tricky fixture at Rennes.

St Etienne have won their last two and host struggling Dijon knowing that Europa League qualification is still attainable while Nancy play Caen and Nice travel to Valenciennes.