Preview: Montpellier bid to refocus after European frustration

PARIS Thu Nov 8, 2012 7:29pm IST

PARIS (Reuters) - Defending champions Montpellier hope to put their disappointing Champions League campaign behind them when they return to domestic action at home to leaders Paris St Germain on Sunday.

Montpellier were eliminated from Europe's flagship competition after their 3-1 loss at Greek side Olympiakos on Tuesday left them bottom of the group B with one point from four games.

The Southern French side, who claimed their maiden French title last May, have also endured a miserable start to the defence of their Ligue 1 crown and lie 14th in the table on 12 points, ten adrift of PSG.

"We now have to clear our minds and move on," coach Rene Girard told reporters.

"It is not that bad to immediately face a big club. It will not be hard to find the motivation and it will help us move past the disappointment."

Lille, Ligue 1 champions in 2011, were also dumped out the Champions League, after being thrashed 6-1 by Bayern Munich, leaving PSG as the only French side on course to reach the last 16.

The Ligue 1 leaders have been relying heavily on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but will be deprived of the forward's services on Sunday as he begins a two-game suspension after being sent off for a kung-fu style challenge last weekend.

The Swede has scored 10 out PSG's 17 league goals so far and shone in a playmaker role against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Tuesday, setting up all the goals in a 4-0 win.

Girard was disappointed that Ibrahimovic would not feature in the match.

"It may be surprising for you but I wished he had been there," the Montpellier coach said. "A long-haired tough guy, I think that everyone would have liked to watch him."

Lille, who are currently eighth, will also have a chance to bounce back at home on Saturday against mid-table Stade Brest.

"We have to separate the competitions," coach Rudi Garcia said after his side were embarrassed in Munich.

"Let's go back to the league in which we are having a good time," he added, referring to his team's four-game unbeaten run.

Second-placed Olympique Marseille, tied on points with PSG, face Nice at home on Sunday.

Centre back Souleymane Diawara, who is set to return from a knee injury sustained last March in the Europa League on Thursday, said Marseille could fight for the title this season.

"The boys surprised me. Anyone who said we would have 22 points from 10 games would have been called a fool," he told French daily L'Equipe. "This team can do very, very well."

Olympique Lyon, third on 21 points, visit 17th-placed Sochaux on Sunday, while fourth-ranked Toulouse host Ajaccio on Saturday. (Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Additional reporting by Dimitri Moulins in Montpellier; Editing by Toby Davis)

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