PARIS: With the bulk of this weekend's Ligue 1 fixtures moved back to make room for yesterday's League Cup final, today will see the title run-in between leaders Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain begin in earnest.
Montpellier's 3-1 win at Marseille on Wednesday -- sealed with a stunning scissors kick from man-of-the-match Younes Belhanda -- took Rene Girard's side three points clear of second-placed PSG with seven matches remaining.
Intriguingly, Montpellier and PSG will both face the same five sides over the course of their run-ins -- Auxerre, Lorient, Valenciennes, Rennes and defending champions Lille.
Both teams face clubs threatened by relegation today, with Montpellier travelling to Lorient, who slipped into the bottom three last weekend, before PSG visit bottom club Auxerre.
Victory for Montpellier at Stade du Moustoir would put them six points clear of PSG by the time Carlo Ancelotti's side take to the field at Auxerre in the day's late game.
After weeks of downplaying their objectives, Montpellier's players are now unequivocal about their dreams of winning the first Ligue 1 title in the club's history.
"We're very determined and focused, and we've been more or less spared by injuries," said Ligue 1 top scorer Olivier Giroud, who claimed his 19th goal of the season at Marseille.
"We can't hide it anymore -- our belief in the title is as strong as iron."
Girard has pledged to inject "a bit of freshness" into the team that won at Marseille, with young forwards Remy Cabella and Karim Ait-Fana and holding midfielder Benjamin Stambouli all candidates for a starting place.
Having finished seventh in 2009-10 and 11th last season, Lorient have been sucked into the bottom three by a run of form that has seen them win just one of their last 16 Ligue 1 games.
Christian Gourcuff's side are only a point from safety though, whereas Auxerre are six points below 17th-placed Ajaccio ahead of the visit of PSG.
Today: Lille v Ajaccio, Lorient v Montpellier, Nancy v Bordeaux, Saint-Etienne v Brest, Sochaux v Dijon, Valenciennes v Evian, Auxerre v Paris Saint-Germain. Tomorrow: Rennes v Nice. Wednesday: Marseille v Caen, Toulouse v Lyon . AFP