Capital Punishment? Title race goes the distance
The curtain is drawn on Ligue 1 this weekend but there are still a number of things to play for. Most importantly, the title race has gone to the wire with Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain still able to get their hands on the Ligue 1 trophy when all is said and done this weekend.
Montpellier sit top of the league at present, leading PSG by three points. With the goal difference identical, PSG know that nothing less than a win will be acceptable whilst hoping that Montpellier get nothing from the already-relegated Auxerre.
Auxerre have struggled to hit form regularly this season and will find themselves playing Ligue 2 football next season. They will, however, be hoping to bow out of Ligue 1 with a bang and what better way to do so than spoiling Montpellier’s title party. Auxerre may have only won six of their home games this season but they will not allow Montpellier to bulldoze past them on their way to the title, especially not in front of the home fans at Auxerre’s Stade de l’Abbé-Deschamps.
With Montpellier needing just one point to win the title, the odds seem to be stacked in their favour. Winning their first Ligue 1 title would be a huge achievement for Montpellier. The squad is filled with talent but this is talent which other clubs have their eyes on, including sides from the Premier League. Defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and current top goalscorer Olivier Giroud made Laurent Blanc’s provisional France squad for Euro 2012 but have also been linked away from the club. Far from having their heads turned by these other clubs, they will be hoping to end the season on a high note in helping guide Montpellier to the Ligue 1 trophy.
Regardless of the outcome, Paris Saint-Germain will again use their financial muscle this summer. Having spent heavily during last year’s summer window, the club have laid the foundations for the next season but will still be hoping to get their hands on some silverware this year. For this to happen, PSG must win their final match and hope that Montpellier are unsuccessful in Auxerre.
PSG’s trip to Lorient on the final day may actually be trickier than expected. Lorient worked hard to upset PSG on the first day of the season, winning the tie 1-0 at the Parc des Princes. Lorient are still not mathematically safe from the drop and will take the game to PSG with this in mind. Just two points separate 12th from 19th and with Lorient in 14th place at the moment, they’ll be working to ensure that they maintain their place in Ligue 1 for next season.
It is easy to see that Montpellier’s road to the title looks smoother than what PSG will have to face. However, it remains to be seen just what the outcome will be in what will undoubtedly be a tense final weekend in France. It seems as though PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti has already admitted defeat:
“I’m a Catholic but I think God will have other things to think about than PSG.”
Should PSG find themselves unsuccessful in their hunt for the title this weekend, they will be able to look back on their match against Lille as the deciding match in their downfall. It was always expected that Lille would have a say in where the title went and came out 2-1 winners against PSG when they last played. Second-half goals from Eden Hazard and Nolan Roux ensured an important win for Lille after Mamadou Sakho had been given his marching orders for PSG.
Lille’s dreams of retaining the title were dashed when they were defeated by league-leading Montpellier. A goal from Karim Ait-Fana in the dying moments of the match have set the tone for the final weekend and ensured the 3-goal cushion over PSG. This result certainly set Montpellier on their way and will give the squad a confidence boost given the fact that it was scored so late in the game.
Predictions: PSG to defeat Lorient but Montpellier’s victory over Auxerre will render it useless. Montpellier will lift the Ligue 1 trophy after what has been a great season for the club and their fans. PSG will regroup and return to the transfer market in the summer with the cash to transform the squad once more with next year’s title in mind.