Montpellier next for resurgent Guingamp
By I. Holyman
In-form En Avant Guingamp will be looking to continue their remarkable renaissance when they welcome Montpellier Hérault SC to Brittany on Sunday.
EA Guingamp - Montpellier Hérault SC (kick-off 14:00CET)
Guingamp's is perhaps the most remarkable story of the Ligue 1 season as Jocelyn Gourvennec's men continue to astound. The homely Breton club were beaten 7-2 at home by OGC Nice earlier in the campaign and as recently as Week 15 found themselves propping up the entire French top flight following a defeat to fellow strugglers Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC.
That loss might have signalled the death knell for the Coupe de France holders, but instead, it marked the beginning of a Hollywood-esque reversal in fortunes. Since, only leaders Olympique Lyonnais have picked up more points than Guingamp, who - in the space of ten games - have gone from relegation candidates to an outside bet for a top-five finish having won seven and lost just one of their last ten league games.
"We continue stringing together good results," said EAG captain Lionel Mathis following last weekend's 2-0 win at FC Metz. "Today's game was perfect, because we didn't concede. We scored early from our first two or three chances. After that, in the second half, we managed to control of things against a side that is lacking a little self-belief. We had goalscoring opportunities towards the end. We dominated the game."
The performance was all the more remarkable given inspirational top scorer Claudio Beauvue remained on the bench throughout ahead of the midweek Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev.
"Everyone is committed, that's our job, it's like that," explained Mathis. "We have a technical staff that asks a lot of us, and we - the players - are very demanding of each other. There are some great games coming up. Everyone is giving their all and want to be part of the squad."
Coming into the game, Montpellier find themselves just a point ahead of Guingamp, despite their own excellent recent form. Though Rolland Courbis' men were deprived of facing AS Monaco last Saturday due to torrential rain and lost to LOSC Lille on their previous outing, they had embarked on their own run of one defeat in ten L1 matches prior to that.
An unbeaten streak of five away games has done much to keep the 2011-12 Ligue 1 champions in contention for a top-five finish, and with Lucas Barrios seemingly having finally found his feet in France, Montpellier will head north optimistic of winning at the Stade du Roudourou for a fourth successive trip.
They will face a Guingamp side who added to their momentum with a 2-1 win over Kiev in the Europa League on Thursday. Beauvue and Moustapha Diallo struck in the space of three minutes in the second half to beat the Ukrainian visitors, who ended the game with nine men after two dismissals late in the first half, including a red card for former Montpellier man Younes Belhanda.