Ligue 1 Preview: PSG begin title defence versus Montpellier
By Football News
Laurent Blanc will launch Paris Saint-Germain's title defence with a tough encounter against the 2011-12 champions Montpellier on Friday.
The new PSG boss faces a tricky-looking trip to the Stade de la Mosson to take on Jean Fernandez's charges in the first game of the new Ligue 1 season.
However, they look set to be without two of their three big-name signings, with Marquinhos and Edinson Cavani struggling for fitness.
Blanc will be hoping to better the 1-1 result achieved there in 2012 when Carlo Ancelotti was in charge.
A strong start is also imperative for the champions as their main competitors Marseille face a decidedly easier contest against the newly promoted Guingamp on Sunday.
Jocelyn Gourvennec has seen his team earn a place back in the top flight for the first time since the 2003-04 season, but their opening fixture may prove somewhat of a baptism of fire.
Marseille have also poached one of their star players in Gilbert Imbula, but they have also been busy bolstering their ranks in the close-season and will fancy their chances at home.
The first weekend of the campaign also offers a tantalising encounter between last season's third and fourth-placed teams when Nice travel to Lyon.
The away side were beaten 3-0 in their last visit to the Stade de Gerland and they have also had a difficult pre-season, with heavy losses to PAOK Salonika (6-0) and Fulham (4-0) included.
There will also be difficult encounters for league newcomers Monaco and Nantes, with the former heading to Bordeaux while the latter host Bastia.
Monaco will be one to watch this year after a huge-spending close-season saw them bring in big names such as Radamel Falcao, Eric Abidal and Ricardo Carvalho.
Other games to feature on Saturday include Evian TG versus Sochaux, Valenciennes against Toulouse, Lorient's trip to Lille, and Rennes' home clash against Reims.
Ajaccio face a tough start against Saint-Etienne on Sunday, with the Corsican side desperate to improve on the previous campaign that saw them one place off the drop.
Manager Fabrizio Ravanelli has added 10 new players to the squad following last season's disappointment, though, and among them is the experienced Benoit Pedretti, who completed a move from Lille on Sunday.