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Football: PSG look for Euro boost against reigning champions

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

All thoughts may currently be on next week's Champions League quarter-final tie with Barcelona, but Paris Saint-Germain must first negotiate a potentially tricky Ligue 1 encounter with Montpellier on Friday.

The Ligue 1 leaders face the Catalans at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday in the first-leg of a tie that has generated huge excitement in the French capital, and their meeting with the reigning champions has been brought forward to aid their European preparations.

Midfielder Clement Chantome admits that focusing on their domestic obligations has not been easy with so much attention on the club's first Champions League quarter-final in 18 years.

"Everyone is talking about it," said Chantome.

"Even us players have never received so many calls asking us for tickets. You get the impression that, outside the club, people are forgetting about the league.

"I won't lie, we are all thinking about it. But the most important thing is Montpellier."

The quick turnaround after the international break poses a problem for coach Carlo Ancelotti, with several members of his squad having been in action with their countries on Tuesday.

The Italian is likely to rest some of his star names, including Ezequiel Lavezzi, who was only expected back at the club on Thursday after Argentina's World Cup qualifier in Bolivia.

However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was allowed to miss Sweden's friendly in Slovakia on Tuesday, and the Swede could therefore start against Montpellier before also featuring against Barcelona after having a suspension for that game rescinded.

In addition, midfielders Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta are fit again after injuries.

PSG's league form immediately prior to the international break was far from perfect, with eight points dropped from their last five games, but they still come into this weekend five points clear of Lyon at the top.

"We are in a good position, with a five-point lead and quite a favourable goal difference," said the 25-year-old Chantome.

"If we don't make any mistakes, we should win the title."

Montpellier will not retain the title they won in such dramatic circumstances last season, but they remain in with an outside chance of qualifying for Europe.

Rene Girard's side are just three points adrift of the top five, and can take confidence from their performance against PSG back in November, when the teams drew 1-1 at the Stade de la Mosson.

Nevertheless, veteran defender Vitorino Hilton dismissed suggestions that PSG will have their eye off the ball this weekend.

"There is no good time to play such a team," he said.

"The players who play against us might not start in the Champions League but they will undoubtedly want to show that they are worthy of a place in the team.

"If we get a good result in Paris we can still dream of qualifying for Europe," he added.

Elsewhere, second-placed Lyon will be looking to snap out of their sluggish recent form when they host struggling Sochaux on Sunday, while Marseille, in third, travel along the south coast to face Nice.

OM's recent form has also been disappointing, and Nice will move above them in the table with a win at the Stade du Ray.

Saint-Etienne could also take advantage of any slip-up by the sides above them. Unbeaten in 14 matches played since the winter break, they go to struggling Troyes on Saturday afternoon.

Fixtures (kick-offs 1900 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier (1930 GMT)

Saturday

Troyes v Saint-Etienne (1600 GMT), Ajaccio v Toulouse, Bordeaux v Lorient, Evian-Thonon-Gaillard v Reims, Rennes v Nancy, Valenciennes v Bastia

Sunday

Nice v Marseille (1200 GMT), Brest v Lille (1500 GMT), Lyon v Sochaux (1900 GMT)

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