Mean Montpellier out to frustrate leaders
By D. Crossan
Montpellier go to Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday afternoon unbeaten in 2018 and with fond memories of shutting out the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders in a 0-0 draw at La Mosson in Week 7.
It was that day that Michel Der Zakarian switched to five at the back, a system that has proved its worth ever since as Montpellier have the best defensive record in the division, having conceded only 15 times in 22 games, compared to 17 goals conceded by PSG.
Der Zakarian: "Hope to pick something up in Paris"
Montpellier, like PSG, reached the last 16 of the Coupe de France on Wednesday evening and for MHSC it was an uncharacteristic 4-3 home win over Ligue 2 side Lorient as Der Zakarian rotated his squad. The former Nantes coach conceded: "We'll have to play better when we go to Paris but the match proved to me that everyone wants to feature and that I've got players capable of playing. Casimir Ninga scored two and that might get him his confidence back. It was good that Isaac Mbenza and Junior Sambia scored too. Overall, we have had a very good January. Now we hope to pick something up in Paris. It will be difficult but why not?"
Chasing a fourth Coupe de France trophy in a row, PSG were 4-2 winners at home to Guingamp on Wednesday, a victory achieved without the injured Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Neymar, recovering from a thigh injury, wasn't in attendance at the Parc des Princes but the Brazilian megastar hopes to feature from the off on Saturday.
Speaking about Mbappé, injured in a clash with OL goalkeeper Anthony Lopes in the 2-1 Ligue 1 Conforama loss last Sunday, coach Unai Emery said: "After the Lyon match he asked to get straight back into action. But we have to place our faith in our medical team and be patient. Maybe he would have played if it had been a really important match at the end of the season. We might have taken the risk in that case, but not for the Cup game."
Getting Neymar and Mbappé back to full fitness ahead of Real
PSG need the teenager back to full fitness before facing Real Madrid away in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Champions League on February 14. Emery continued: "We'll see whether he can play against Montpellier or against Rennes in the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue. I hope to have him back at the very latest for the game at Lille the following weekend. He's doing fine and is calm. It was a heavy blow though and the risk is that he takes another blow to the same area."
Saturday's game will give Edinson Cavani another chance to move out on his own as club record goalscorer. El Matador is currently level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on 156 goals in all competitions. Marquinhos said: "Everyone is waiting for that record-breaking goal and that's normal. It will be a beautiful moment for him, the supporters and the club. He'll get there in his own time in a calm way and there's no poit pushing for it. He's a quality player."
Paris Saint-Germain: Aréola; Meunier, Silva (c), Kimpembe, Berchiche; Rabiot, Lo Celso, Draxler; Di María, Cavani, Neymar
Montpellier: Lecomte; Águilar (or Congré), Mukiele, Hilton (c), Mendes, Roussillon (or Cozza); Skhiri, Lasne, Sambia; Sio, Ninga