Ligue 1 preview

Monaco look to extend best start to campaign

Monaco look to extend best start to campaign
Monaco's Falcao celebrates after helping his team retain top spot in Ligue 1 against Bastia on Wednesday. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP
Defending champions Paris Saint-Germain and fellow title hopefuls Marseille will continue to jostle for Ligue 1 supremacy with early-season pace-setters Monaco this weekend.

Claudio Ranieri's principality side retained their two-point lead at the top with a 3-0 win at home to Bastia in midweek, as PSG and Marseille kept pace with respective victories over Valenciennes and Saint-Etienne.

Radamel Falcao scored twice at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday to take his season's tally to a league-best seven goals, as Monaco extended their best start to a Ligue 1 campaign.

"As a striker of course I'm always happy when I score and that was again the case in the victory against Bastia," said Falcao.

"For us it was important to win, thanks to the victory, we stay top," added the Colombian.

Ranieri, though, said it was premature to cast Monaco, who only returned to the top flight this season after a two-year absence, as genuine title challengers despite their strong start.

"I think it's too early to say we've sent out a signal (to the other teams) but we continue to reaffirm our good start to the season.

"With the results we play with confidence and calmness," said Ranieri, who dismissed the significance of being first in the table so early in the campaign.

"The standings? The important thing is the way in which the team moves forward," explained the Italian.

On Sunday Monaco travel to mid-table Reims who have lost just once in seven outings and conceded only one goal since mid-August.

Second-placed PSG, who are in the middle of a run of five fixtures in 15 days, return to the capital on Saturday to host Toulouse.

Alain Casanova's men were languishing in the bottom three a fortnight ago but back-to-back victories have catapulted Toulouse up to 11th.

Meanwhile, PSG put the disappointment of Sunday's 1-1 draw with Monaco behind them as Edinson Cavani struck the decisive goal in a 1-0 win away to Valenciennes.

"We got the main thing, the three points, because there was a lot of fatigue (on Wednesday). We had a difficult match but it won't be the first, nor the last this season," said PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi.

"We had to recover the two points dropped at home to Monaco, and we did that. Now we have to continue our march forward," added the France international.

The fixture marks a return to the Parc des Princes for Clement Chantome, who left Paris in the summer to join Toulouse on loan.

Despite strong ties to PSG, who are unbeaten so far this term and have not lost any of their last 18 Ligue 1 games, a confident Chantome insisted Toulouse were capable of causing a surprise this weekend.

"We should go there to play the game. PSG are a beatable team when they doubt (themselves)," said Chantome.

Marseille, who are a point behind PSG in third, visit Lorient in Saturday's early game seeking to build on Tuesday's 2-1 win over Saint-Etienne.

Joint-leading scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac could return for Marseille after the burly forward was back in training on Thursday following a toe problem, while Jeremie Aliadiere may be welcomed back into the Lorient line-up after a six-week injury lay-off.

Elsewhere, Lyon will seek to bounce back from a defeat to lowly Ajaccio when they host Lille, while Saint-Etienne are at home to Bastia and Rennes entertain Nantes in a local derby.

Valenciennes go to Sochaux, who are without a coach following the resignation of Eric Hely, in a bottom of the table clash.

Fixtures (kick-off 1800GMT unless stated)


Lorient v Marseille (1200GMT), Paris Saint-Germain v Toulouse (1500GMT),  

Evian TG v Bordeaux, Lyon v Lille, Nice v Guingamp, Saint-Etienne v Bastia, Sochaux v Valenciennes


Rennes v Nantes (1200GMT), Ajaccio v Montpellier (1500GMT), Reims v Monaco

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