Girard: Montpellier face tough task
By Football News
Montpellier surprised many by claiming a maiden title last term, holding off the challenge of big-spending Paris-Saint Germain and 2011 champions Lille.
But head coach Rene Girard admits it will be difficult to defend their crown.
"I would say the danger, when we have experienced the kind of season that we had last time around, is in sustaining our level of performance," the 58-year-old said.
"The pre-season has passed by very quickly. But, when we start the new season, we start as champions and expectations will be understandably high.
"We won't be able to spring as many surprises this time around, as people will expect us to perform well. We must be strong mentally."
Meanwhile, despite surrendering their title, Lille managed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League after finishing third last term.
As PSG get ever stronger, following the recent arrivals of AC Milan duo Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Thiago Silva, and Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi, coach Rudi Garcia is aiming for a second-placed finish.
"Our primary goal will be to finish as runner-ups in France this season," he said.
"And Paris Saint-Germain logically, given the millions they have spent and the kind of players that they have been able to recruit, should finish first.
"Our goal is, of course, to finish in the top-three, so as to qualify for the UEFA Champions League."
With such competition at the top, it will be vital for the main championship contenders to get off to the best possible start.
Montpellier host Toulouse in the Ligue 1 curtain-raiser on Friday, with Lille and PSG facing Saint-Etienne and Lorient respectively on Saturday.