French Ligue 1 preview

Thursday 8th November 2012 13:13

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Absent for Paris Saint-Germain

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Absent for Paris Saint-Germain

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Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi is confident the Ligue 1 leaders can cope without Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Montpellier on Sunday.

Sweden international Ibrahimovic was sent-off for a chest-high, studs-up tackle on St Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier last weekend as PSG suffered their first league defeat since April.

He was this week handed a two-match suspension, meaning he will miss the trip to last season's French champions.

Matuidi told Le Parisien newspaper: "It will be difficult to play without Ibra because he is an exceptional player but we have already proved, especially against Marseille (in the Coupe de la Ligue), that we can be successful without him.

"There are other players who can also be relied on, for example Guillaume Hoarau, who has two goals, and (Ezequiel) Lavezzi, whose movement gives us lots of options."

PSG, who lead the table on goal difference from Marseille, will encounter a Montpellier side whose defence of their Championnat crown has been disappointing.

Rene Girard's men are 14th having won three of their opening 11 games while they have picked up just one point in four Champions League outings.

Their most recent setback was a 3-1 defeat at Olympiacos on Tuesday.

"I'm disappointed because I think we can do much better," said Girard.

"We have to work out what we did wrong."

Marseille were 2-0 winners at Ajaccio last weekend but will not focus on Sunday's clash with Nice until after tonight's Europa League game at home to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Third-placed Lyon are also playing in Europe's second-tier competition and, ahead of Sunday's trip to Sochaux, will take on Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.

Toulouse could have claimed a share of the leadership with victory at Bordeaux last Sunday but instead slipped to fourth following a limp 1-0 defeat.

Coach Alain Casanova admitted afterwards his team struggled with the expectation suddenly place upon them and will expect better against Ajaccio.

He said: "All that matters is our progression. People are starting to talk about us, and it is not easy to deal with that sometimes.

"We are not prepared or programmed to deal with it, but are more designed to finish between fifth and 10th."

The weekend action starts on Friday night with rock-bottom Nancy seeking their second win of a dismal season at home to Rennes while, on Saturday, eighth-placed Lille will hope to bounce back from their 6-1 Champions League thrashing at Bayern Munich last night when they meet Brest.

Also on Saturday, Bastia host Valenciennes, Evian go to Reims and St Etienne take on Troyes.

In addition to the matches involving PSG, Marseille and Lyon on Sunday, Bordeaux will hope to build on their derby win over Toulouse when they visit mid-table Lorient.

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