Leader PSG keen to make amends for home defeat


PARIS (AP) -French league leader Paris Saint-Germain can prove that last weekend's home loss to Saint-Etienne was a blip when it travels to play struggling defending champion Montpellier on Sunday.

Montpellier produced arguably the biggest upset in the history of the French league when it edged out big-spending PSG - which spent more than ?100 million last season alone - to win the title with a team packed with homegrown players.

Montpellier is in disarray only a few months later, failing to win any of its four Champions League games and languishing in 14th place in France, only four points clear of the relegation zone.

Marseille, which is level on points with PSG despite playing one game less, is at home to Nice on Sunday.

PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said that Tuesday's 4-0 thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League was evidence that the 2-1 home loss to Saint-Etienne last Saturday "may have been an accident."

However, the level of opposition provided by a shoddy Dinamo team losing for the 10th successive time in the competition offers little proof, and the fact PSG will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday will be a headache for Ancelotti.

Ibrahimovic is the league's top scorer with 10 goals but the team has struggled to find the net without him. He is suspended for Sunday's game after being sent off against Saint-Etienne for a dangerous high kick to the chest of goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.

"He is a fantastic leader, he uses his qualities to help the team and his teammates, which is what makes the difference between a great player and a champion," Ancelotti said. "He is indispensable for PSG at the moment."

The problem for Ancelotti is that hardly anyone else has been scoring in the league, with Kevin Gameiro the next top scorer with three goals. Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore has been in patchy form this season, but with Ibrahimovic out he is likely to play behind Gameiro or center forward Guillaume Hoarau.

Meanwhile, with confidence low, Montpellier coach is trying not to be too hard on his players after Tuesday's 3-1 loss away to Olympiakos.

"Playing in the Champions League will help our team mature," he said.

While PSG has been grateful for Ibrahimovic's goals, Montpellier has sorely missed Olivier Giroud up front since he left to join Arsenal, and no one has really stepped in to fill his boots after he scored 21 league goals last season.

Elsewhere, third-place Lyon looks to maintain the pressure on the top two when it travels to play Sochaux on Sunday. Lorient hosts Bordeaux in Sunday's other game.

In Saturday's other matches, it is: Lille vs. Brest; Bastia vs. Valenciennes; Reims vs. Evian; Saint-Etienne vs. Troyes, and Toulouse vs. Ajaccio.

Nancy hosts Rennes on Friday.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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