Surprise leaders Montpellier dare to dream

Surprise Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier will have watched the three French sides in thrilling Champions League action this week and allowed themselves a moment to ponder how wonderful it would be if they could qualify for next season.

At the start of the campaign it would have been almost inconceivable that the south coast club could be competing with the might of Paris Saint-Germain, Lille and Olympique Lyon but Montpellier deservedly lead the standings after 16 matches.

They will hope, or even expect, to maintain their three-point lead over PSG and possibly extend it in Saturday's game at perennial strugglers Valenciennes.

Their achievements this term have stunned the French football fraternity but attacking midfielder Remy Cabella, who scored his first home goal in last weekend's 4-0 thrashing of Lorient, expected a strong season.

"I'm not surprised because I think we have a group with quality, both in terms of play and spirit," he told the club's official website.

"We are scoring lots of goals. I believe we deserve to be where we are. Now we can't give up."

Cabella is characteristic of Montpellier, who have never won the French title but were runners-up in last season's League Cup.

The 21-year-old is young, athletic and comfortable on the ball.

His black hair with blonde on top is a sight to behold but like team-mate and Ligue 1 leading scorer Olivier Giroud, who has 12 league goals this term, he represents the future of French football.

Giroud has already been called up to the France squad and the big teams are pondering bids but Montpellier are highly unlikely to let him leave in January.

Money is no object for second-placed PSG, who travel to Sochaux on Saturday, but their Qatari owners have their eyes on a bigger name than Giroud with David Beckham making up his mind over a possible move to the Parc des Princes.

Coach Antoine Kombouare remains under pressure despite last weekend's win over Auxerre but may now survive until the mid-season break.

Seventh-placed Olympique Marseille, buoyed by their last-gasp 3-2 win at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday to seal a Champions League last 16 berth, host Girondins Bordeaux on Saturday.

Lyon in fourth go to Lorient on Sunday after a quite amazing 7-1 romp at Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday which sent them through to the knockout stages against all the odds.

French champions Lille, who needed just a goal to progress in Europe but were dumped out after a 0-0 draw with Trabzonspor on Wednesday, welcome promoted Dijon on Sunday looking to close the gap on the top two.