PARIS (AP) – Montpellier coach Rene Girard sought to take the pressure off his team on Thursday ahead of the match at Paris Saint-Germain with top spot in the French league at stake, declaring ''we know they will be champions.''
Montpellier has won its past seven matches in all competitions without conceding a goal and trails PSG by only a point in the league, but Girard is downplaying expectations for his side in Sunday's match.
''We know they are the favorites, we know they will be champions,'' Girard told a news conference. ''We will try to rise to the occasion. We know we have nothing to lose in Paris.''
Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud is the top scorer in the league with 16 goals but he was as humble as his coach.
''A draw would a good result, too,'' Giroud said. ''The pressure is on their shoulders.''
Montpellier has the most prolific attack in the league this season after possessing a reputation for rough play last term. By contrast, PSG has climbed to the top spot by having the tightest defense.
''It's important to feel confident defensively,'' PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi said. ''We are going to face the best attack in the league. I hope we'll do our best to contain them.
''Up front, we have the quality to make the difference. And we'll play at home, so we'll do anything to win this match.''
PSG hired Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti midway through the season in the hope that the team would play a more exciting brand of football than under his predecessor, Antoine Kombouare.
A 1-0 win over Dijon in the French Cup on Wednesday showed that the team's attack is still a work in progress. Ancelotti hopes Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore will recover from a thigh injury to bring some spark to the attack.
''Up front, we must be more efficient and use more the width of the pitch to create more chances,'' Ancelotti said.
Meanwhile, Bordeaux seeks to get back into the race for a European spot when it hosts Lyon on Sunday.
''We are among the top five teams in the matches played since the winter break,'' Bordeaux coach Francis Gillot said. ''If we keep playing like this we can catch up with the team in sixth place.''
Bordeaux has recovered from a poor start to the season to trail sixth-place Marseille by five points.
Lyon is level on points with third-place Lille and No. 5 Rennes but has very little room to maneuver in the race for a Champions League spot.
Montpellier is having such a good run that it opened up a 10-point gap on those three teams, meaning that two of Lille, Lyon and Marseille are likely to miss out on the lucrative European competition next season.
''The league is getting complicated,'' Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons said. ''But we have a great mental strength this season and we are going to try to finish on the podium, which is very important for Lyon.''
Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette has blossomed this season, scoring in the 1-0 win over APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League on Tuesday.
On Saturday, it's: Ajaccio vs. Brest; Caen vs. Evian; Dijon vs. Nice; Lorient vs. Lille; Nancy vs. Toulouse; Sochaux vs. Auxerre and Marseille vs. Valenciennes.
Also Sunday, Rennes visits Saint-Etienne.