League leaders Montpellier take on reigning champions Lille at the Stade De la Mosson, in an encounter that could decide the destiny of the Ligue 1 title. With just 2 rounds of games left and the hosts 3 points ahead of 2ndAi??placed PSG, a win in this game and any result other than a win for PSG will see Montpellier crowned as champions of France.

The visitors – 5 points behind the hosts – on the other hand, will be looking to throw a spanner in the hostsai??i?? machine and make a last minute ditch for the title. Having strung together 5 wins on the bounce and confirmed third place, which guarantees Champions League football next season, the pressure is off Lille to some extent . A win here would bring them within two points of Montpellier, thus setting up an exciting final Match Day 38. However, in what has been the most exciting title race of the last decade, Montpellier remain the favorites for both fans and critics alike.

Their championship pursuit looked as if it had run into troubled waters, during their 2-2 draw at home against Evian. Their star performer since January, Younes Belhanda, was sent off in the dying stages of the game for getting involved in a brawl with the opposition players, after winning a penalty. The penalty was missed by Soulemaney Camara, as the league leaders had to make do with a point at home. The fallout from the game was acrimonious. Belhanda, criticized his team-mate and top goal scorer, Oliver Giroud, for refusing to take such an important penalty. These public accusations threatened to destroy their team spirit and camaraderie, which have long been touted as the reasons for their remarkable run this season.

But Montpellier have shown they are made of sterner stuff. They exhibited grit, determination, ability to withstand pressure and composure to record a crucial 2-0 victory at Rennes, a day after their challengers PSG had drawn level on points. Credit for snuffing out these murmurs of discontent amongst squad members must go to their coach Rene Girard, and, more importantly to their owner, the colourful, eccentric and the indefatigable Louis Nicollin. Realizing the damage the Belahanda saga could do to the championship pursuit, he quickly diffused the situation. He turned the tables on the media and Montpellierai??i??s alleged ai???detractorsai??? for stirring a controversy and attempting to derail their title tilt.

Lille, on the other hand, have been heavily reliant on their star playmaker Eden Hazard. With the Belgian in breathtaking form, they have chalked up 5 wins in a row and are the in-form team in the league. But a clash against a Montpellier side, who look hell bent on proving their critics wrong may halt their run. They have also not won against the home side in the last 3 games in all competitions.

Probable Starting Lineups

Montpellier:Ai?? G. Jourdren; Hilton, G. Bocaly, M. Yanga-Mbiwa, H. Bedimo; B. Stambouli, J. Saihi, R. Cabella, S. Camara; J. Utaka, O. Giroud

Lille: M. Landreau; M. BaA?a, M. Debuchy, A. Chedjou, L. Digne; F. Balmont, Rio Mavuba, B. Pedretti, E. Hazard; D. Payet, TA?lio de Melo

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For

Remy Cabella (Montpellier)

With the teamai??i??s creative outlet, Belahanda, out suspended, it was expected that Montpellier would struggle to create chances. This, in addition to the dip in form of Giroud, had prompted some to predict a goal drought. But the young and dynamic Remy Cabella- a product of the youth academy-stepped up to the plate in the game against Rennes, with a Man of the Match performance. A thorough statistical analysis of Cabellaai??i??s performance so far reveals that Belahandaai??i??s understudy, is, after all, not so bad.

Eden Hazard (Lille)


Eden Hazard

.

Who else but the Belgian. In sizzling form for the last 2 months, he is leaving an indelible impression on the league, in his final season in France. 17 goals and 16 assists show that he has carried the team on his shoulders after the summer exits of other big players.

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