Daniel Bravo, Bien Sports and the forgiveness of Strasbourg’s Nuno da Costa

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It was a quiet week in France’s Ligue 1 as PSG retained the league title, but it is important not to forget the controversies involving racist chanting and racist ignorance which has engulfed Ligue 1 and indeed the rest of European football this season.

Of course racism has never gone away, neither in society as a whole or in the confines of a football stadium, it has simply turned the cheek and then waited for its moment to strike. We had Prince Gouano last week having to stop the Amiens-Dijon game because of racist slurs from a fan. One story that hardly got told was not of a fan or a football player being racist but of a TV commentator.

That commentator, Daniel Bravo was working for Bien Sports one of the top Satellite pay per view TV stations in Europe if not the world and the game he was commentating on was Strasbourg’s 4-0 win over Reims. This is a story that should be brought to light given that it wasn’t the first time around.

The player attacked was Nuno da Costa who scored for Strasbourg, the player born in Cape Verde had scored his 8th goal of the season, but that fact didn’t matter to commentator Bravo. When da Costa scored he said, “not bad for a black guy.” Those six words should have ended his television career but it was da Costa himself who came to the pundits rescue.

Da Costa simply defended the former French international defender and put his comments down to a slip of the tongue and that perhaps he works too much given that this match was a midweek one. The Strasbourg player in one sense should be praised because he has tackled an obvious racist comment head on, but at the same time he has tried to diffuse the matter. Without saying it, da Costa is asking for him not to make a second slip of the tongue.

From an outside point of view though, it feels as if Bravo has got away with it- just imagine an English commentator doing the same thing with Sky Sports for example- could you imagine in your wildest dreams that person in a job 24 hours later?

There has to be a zero tolerance attitude to racism full stop- and it doesn’t feel that the issue was tackled correctly. If a fan can get a lifetime ban for being racist in the stands, how is it that pundits in France have immunity?

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Week 33: Best Players of the Weekend in Fantasy La Liga

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It was a weekend that saw the top 5 clubs in Spain win and Barcelona edging nearer to the league title once more and their 4th championship in five years. In the big match to help progress a top 4 position Getafe and Sevilla, 4th v 5th and it was Getafe who won the game 3-0 and the club moved into 4th place. Indeed another contender for a top 4 placed emerged in Valencia as Sevilla dropped down to 6th place.

But which players were the best performing of the past weekend, and who has earned you the most points in your team- look at these players and perhaps if you don’t have them, get them quick, as the season draws ever closer.

Formation: 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: David Soria- Getafe

In truth there were a few goalkeepers that earned 7 points at the weekend including Jan Oblak for Atletico Madrid. But David Soria of Getafe gets the nod given that his side won 3-0 and kept a clean sheet in such a big game as playing Sevilla, it could be a turning point in his career and for the club this season. Soria is 6m and is currently the 3rd best ranked keeper in La Liga Fantasy.

Defender: Diego Godin- Atletico Madrid

All of Atletico Madrid’s back four put in a super shift as the club conquered over Eibar 1-0 away from home. This was Godin’s 4th clean sheet in the last five games, and his tactical awareness and tackles was pivotal to keeping another clean sheet. He is valued at 9m and is currently ranked as the best defender in La Liga- this performance simply underlined that.

Defender: Ignasi Miquel- Getafe

Miquel has started just 2 games for Getafe this season but was drafted into the team because of injuries and considering his lack of first team football put in a memorable display in the heart of a defence that stopped Sevilla from scoring. His value is 2.5m.

Defender: Gimenez- Atletico Madrid

We often talk about the more recognisable players of this brilliant Atletico Madrid defence, but Gimenez has put in his great displays too and did so well alongside Godin. He earned 5 points as Atletico beat tricky Eibar away from home 1-0 and his value to buy is 6m.

Defender: Raphael Varane- Real Madrid

Varane has not had a great season with Madrid but the hope is with Zinedine Zidane back with the team that will change. Varane has just 32 points this season but 5 were earned at the weekend as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0. Varane is valued at 8.5m.

Midfielder: Thomas Lemar- Atletico Madrid

Thomas Lemar not only scored the goal that won Atletico Madrid the match against Eibar but he put in a brave performance and looked very dangerous on the ball to earn 6 points this past weekend. Lemar has played 18 times and looks good value at 6m.

Midfielder: Sofiane Boufal- Celta Vigo

Sofiane Boufal has earned just 25 points this season and 20% of those points came in just one weekend as his club Celta Vigo rose to victory over Girona. Boufal was excellent as he assisted in the first goal and scored the 2nd, in a 2-1 win. However he dropped points for a yellow card. Boufal can be bought for 6.5m.

Midfielder: Marc Roca- Espanyol

Marc Roca seldom earns point but he got 4 at the weekend as Espanyol drew 2-2 against Levante away from home. Roca got his clubs 2nd goal which put them in the lead and played one of his best matches of the season. Roca is just 5m to buy.

Midfielder: Gareth Bale- Real Madrid

Earning 4 points was enough to get Gareth Bale into the team of the week. But the Real Madrid play maker had a good, solid and determined game. This culminated in the Welshman setting up Karim Benzema for the clubs 3rd goal at the end of the game. Bale has started 19 games this season and is valued at 11m.

Striker: Karim Benzema- Real Madrid

Karim Benzema has been in our team of the week quite a few times this season and he was simply sensational at the weekend, where he earned a massive 14 points after scoring a hat trick. Real Madrid beat Atlethic Bilbao 3-0 and Benzema got all of his goals in the 2nd half of play. He is valued at 10m and is ranked in fantasy La Liga as the 2nd best striker in the league.

Striker: Jorge Molina- Getafe

Jorge Molina and Getafe were playing perhaps the biggest and most important game of their season so far as Getafe played Sevilla a direct top 4 rival for Champions League qualification. Molina scored a penalty and a great goal in a match that ended 3-0. He has 9 goals this season and his value is rated at 6m. He is ranked 8th in Fantasy La Liga standings.

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How La Liga side Getafe spent under €25m and are aiming for a top 4 finish

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Not many pundits, journalists and fans could have expected to see Getafe in 5th place in Spain’s La Liga in the middle of April with just 6 games left to play, but that is how this season has transpired.

Getafe are aiming of course for a Champions League finish and Sevilla are the only club that currently stand in their way. Forget about the top 3- Barcelona are 23 points in front, Atletico Madrid are 14 points and Real Madrid have 9 points more. But Sevilla are just one point to the advantage of the club.

Directly below Getafe the fight is not finished to overtake them and they may have to fend off threats from Valencia and to a lesser extent Athletico Bilbao who are currently 5 points off of Getafe’s blistering pace.

With 13 games won so far this season and a plus goal difference of 11 the club have taken everyone by storm, but just how has this improvement happened this season?

The club had a big summer clear out last summer and brought in over 20 players, most of these were loans and loan backs and they actually spent just over 20m euros in the window.  Vitorino Antunes for 2.5m euros arrived from Dynamo Kiev and Mauro Arambarri from Argentinian side Boston River for 2m euros. Ivan Alejo from Eibar came for 4m euros and the teams biggest expenditure was on Valencia’s Nemanja Maksimovic for 5m euros.

And it has been interesting. Antunes has impressed in defence and has picked up 49 points so far this season in Ligue 1 Fantasy football, he is the 3rd best performing player for Getafe. In first place for the club is David Soria, the 26 year old goalkeeper also joined the club from Sevilla last summer.

Goals have come from Angel Luis Rodriguez Diaz, simply known as Angel, which makes buying a shirt with his name on the back more cost effective. The Spaniard has scored 12 goals this season and is the clubs leading goal scorer, but he has also assisted a further 7 times, this is his 2nd season with the club and from 57 games he has 18 in total. But this has been far his most impressive season after his switch from Real Zaragoza.

A lot of the credit has to go to coach Jose Bordalas who at 55 and mostly coaching 2nd and 3rd tier clubs got his break in 2016 when he was appointed head coach from Alaves after he had guided the club to the Segunda Division title.

Last season Getafe finished 8th with 55 points, that points total will surely be passed this season and the club have properly progressed in the last couple of seasons. What has helped is that goals have been spread over 3 different players. The aforementioned Angel, but also Jorge Molina has weighed in with 9 goals and Sebastian Cristoforo even in a  midfield role has 10. It means that Getafe for the first time in years are not reliant on just one player.

The club continue to play the game within their means, and if that means Champions League qualification in the process then their success will not just be on the pitch but in their accounts too.

For now Getafe look good for at least the Europa League and they will be hoping to continue their great level and their capacity to shock the bigger teams as the league’s end draws in.

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Tottenham reach their Mount Everest in stunning Champions League win over Manchester City

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Admit it, who really thought that Tottenham would see a way past Manchester City- a club who have poured hundreds of millions of English pounds into their team to win the Champions League- but that is what Tottenham did. The very same Tottenham who bought no players in either transfer window this season and then lost Harry Kane to injury.

This week which saw the fall of Juventus and their £100m Ronaldo gamble to the youth of Ajax and the grace and sheer class of Lionel Messi’s one man show for Barcelona against Manchester United, there was an even bigger story that will live on in the hearts of football fans everywhere.

Tottenham playing Manchester City was always going to be a big draw- indeed any two teams from the same country playing each other in the latter stage knock outs of the Champions League means the football world will pay attention. Unfortunately though there is an uncanny way for these games to play out with very few goals and a cagey nervous affair where each team cancels out each other- the 2003 Champions League final anyone? When Milan only seized victory over Juventus in a penalty shoot out after spending 120 minutes consoling over a 0-0 result.

In some ways this is how the first leg of this match did play out. City remained the favourites but it was Tottenham who got a 1-0 victory- their first European game at their new stadium no less, through a Son Heung-Min goal. Ever the darer and the saviour for Tottenham this season, the South Korean player has stepped up in the past 12 months. For City they played an unusual game, desperate for clear cut chances and perhaps some of the blame could have gone to coach Pep Guardiola with his tactics and starting choices. Those decisions looked like it would be made up for the 2nd leg, but let’s face it nobody was prepared for what would happen at the Etihad.

Going into the crucial next match, City knew that they had to score two goals or they would be out. It took them less than 250 seconds to get the first goal through the irreplaceable Raheem Sterling. And then something quite wonderful (if you’re not a City fan happened) because it was at the stage when ball left Son and hit the back of the net for Tottenham’s equaliser that Spurs, the team that play great football, but the pretenders to titles did not read the script.

When Son struck again to put the Londoners 2-1 up three minutes later all of a sudden all of the hard work behind the scenes, rooted in the tiresome work of Mauricio Pochettino and his coaching staff and the vision of club owner Daniel Levy came to the forefront, and we could embrace the fact that this club, Spurs, have stepped up to another level, one not seen in a generation.

That didn’t mean that Guardiola’s side were dead on their feet, no team at home that plays such beautiful attacking football was suddenly going to give up, with 80 minutes still to play City had time on their side. They needed to score 3 goals and one was pulled back 60 seconds after Son had roared away with a semi final and Ajax in his sights. Bernardo Silva was the man to give City hope and ten minutes after that Sterling struck again- this was madness. We had witnessed 5 goals in 21 barnstorming moments of English football, played mostly by wonderful continental footballers in a European Cup setting. There had been a goal every 4 mins and 20 seconds, and it felt too much even, you didn’t know what was going to happen next. And it got better.

The first half ended 3-2 to City who now only needed one more goal to go through. As the second half got underway it was apparent that the Goliath which is City was steadily taking the game away from the David which was Spurs. City were playing their game and most notably the Belgian Kevin De Bruyne so cruelly not picked by Guardiola to start in the first leg was playing one of his best matches this season, and when it mattered, underlining just how important he is to the side.

Just before the hour mark Tottenham’s dream inevitably caved in when Sergio Aguero (who else)? made it 4-2 to City, and now City were going through to only their second semi final. Tottenham had to score but it was City controlling the pace of the game. And yet as crazy as the match was playing out, you knew Tottenham would get their chance and 14 minutes later the ball fell to Fernando Llorente who with a hip, elbow? and force- got the ball in the net. If any doubts persisted on the legality of the goal then VAR crushed it and Tottenham got their goal. Now they were going through and City were going out.

City attacked, Spurs stayed firm and the minutes closed in- neutral football fans couldn’t breathe, to be a fan of either club defined a new term in squeaky bum syndrome and yet the drama was not over. City needed another goal and as the 90th minute came and went all looked lost until Sterling scored again- it was in, the goal sent Sterling, the fans and Guardiola into euphoria, until VAR flagged up an incident. Was Sergio Aguero offside when the ball was played back in? Hearts in mouths, and what drama, the time ticked by in the real world but stood still for the 53,000 fans inside the stadium. The verdict came back…. Goal denied- City were out of the Champions League and Tottenham had reached their first European Cup semi final in 57 years and their first ever Champions League one.

It was an incredible night of football- with the players as much as VAR in the end playing its role. City could feel hard done by- without VAR they would most probably have squeezed through, but with justice intended they didn’t. And one would have to criticise a team at this stage of the competition for conceding 4 goals over 2 games. Yes Tottenham did the same, but for City the Champions League was supposed to be the one endearing trophy that the club have been wanting to win.

As for Tottenham they have a new role, as the remaining last 4 team. They will play Ajax- unfortunate for them it is an Ajax who look back to their best, they have already knocked out Real Madrid and Juventus from this competition. If they get past that test it is Liverpool or Barcelona in the final.

As for this game it will be remembered as one of the most exciting Champions League matches and will be talked about for some time. And there will be no love lost between the clubs who in less than 72 hours will do this all over again in the Premier League in the same stadium, one can only imagine what will happen….

 

 

 

EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 35

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The English Premier League only has a few weeks left and there is clearly a reason why football fans regard the league as the most exciting and competitive. That is because the league title is the closest of all the European major leagues and will most likely go down to the wire between Liverpool and Manchester City.

There are 2 Champions League places to take care of as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham do battle to secure a top 4 place. And Cardiff have given themselves a chance by beating Brighton in midweek- all is to play for as we enter another weekend of Premier League football which should be enthralling and fascinating.

Manchester City v Tottenham

Just where do we start after the teams played out an incredible Champions League 2nd leg quarter final where City won 4-3 on the night but went out on the away goals rule. City need to win this game or that could be the title over too. They will be utterly determined to win this game at home now. Watch out for Raheem Sterling who was denied a hat trick because of VAR, a system not used in the Premier League yet. Manchester City to beat Tottenham

Bournemouth v Fulham

Fulham got a terrific victory over Everton last weekend even though they are down, but their away form is very poor. Eddie Howe’s side are safe and beat Brighton 5-0 in their last match. Callum Wilson could be the difference between the sides, but this should be a close game. Draw

Huddersfield v Watford

More than likely Watford’s mindset will be preparing for the FA Cup final even if it is still a month away. They will be without influential player Troy Deeney who was sent off in the defeat against Arsenal. Huddersfield are relegated and have little to play for, except for home pride and we could see a surprise result here. Huddersfield to beat Watford

West Ham v Leicester

West Ham have been in poor form but the players put in a great shift against Manchester United at Old Trafford and if they can take something from that game even though they lost they could do well here. Felipe Anderson played very well. Leicester have been strong under Brendan Rodgers but lost their last game at home to Newcastle where they didn’t turn up. West Ham to beat Leicester

Wolves v Brighton

Wolves have been excellent this season but they have just 1 win in their past four games. However at home against a poor form side like Brighton this should be 3 points and they could be back in the hunt for a 7th place finish. Brighton continue to be poor in 2019 and could now face a relegation dog fight. Wolves to beat Brighton

Newcastle v Southampton

The Magpies pulled off a great result last weekend going to Leicester and getting a 1-0 win and playing well. Southampton have just 1 win in their past four games and this is their furthest trip in league fixtures. We will opt for the home win here in a game where we could see plenty of goals. Newcastle to beat Southampton

Everton v Manchester United

Since the beginning of March Everton have found form and Marco Silva’s job has been saved. But they put in a toothless display against Fulham last weekend and lost. Back at home where they beat Arsenal and Chelsea recently they can give United a game. United have been in average form and were knocked out in the Champions League against Barcelona, but remain a danger as they hunt for a top 4 finish. Could Everton’s Richarlison be the difference? Draw

Arsenal v Crystal Palace

Arsenal should have few problems against Palace and get all three points. The Gunners have been one of the best teams in the league at home and have lost here just once back on the opening day of the season. Palace are safe and have little to play for. Pierre Emerick- Aubameyang is in great form and will relish this game. Arsenal to beat Crystal Palace

Cardiff v Liverpool

Cardiff got a massive victory over Brighton in midweek to give themselves a chance for survival. But they must keep winning. The problem is they are facing Liverpool and this will be a difficult match. Liverpool just keep on collecting the points, and whilst this will be  a difficult game for the Reds they should have enough quality up front to hurt the home team. Liverpool to beat Cardiff

Chelsea v Burnley

Chelsea still have a great chance to finish in the top four, the problem is that their direct rivals have 5 games to play while they have 4. That means that every game counts but winning at least at home is essential. Eden Hazard is looking the business as he possibly wraps up his career with the Blues. Burnley are in excellent form with 3 wins from their last 3 games but have lost 9 times on the road this season. Chelsea to beat Burnley

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Ligue 1: Week 33: 11 Player Picks for the Weekend

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Another game for PSG and another chance to win the league, but they lost their game in hand over Nantes in midweek. It means that they have missed out on winning the league for the 3rd straight game. Still such is their lead that they will still win the league- they need just 1 more point from 6 games, but they have made heavy weather of it all.

Alongside PSG’s game with Monaco to possibly decide the league outcome we will take a look at the fixtures this weekend in Ligue 1 and try and pick out the players that could earn you points for your Fantasy Ligue 1 team. Formation 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Stephane Ruffier- Saint Etienne

Ruffier is valued at 7.5m and has been part of a Saint Etienne team that has conceded just 4 goals in the past month. He has also kept 3 clean sheets from the last five games as they travel to Reims this weekend he could be worth picking up.

Defender: Dante Costa- Nice

Costa has put in some great displays over the past few weeks for Nice and let’s not forget here is a team who have kept 3 clean sheets in a row. Also they will play the bottom club in Caen and will be at home, so will be favourites to pick up the points and keep another clean sheet.

Defender: Malang Sarr- Nice

Let’s stick with another Nice defender who have done so well at the back and that is none other than Malang Sarr who has also played the majority of the season. They are facing the poorest side in the league and will be at home. Sarr is great value too at just 5.5m.

Defender: Kenny Tete- Lyon

Lyon have been in poor form but at the same time surely this will not last as they try and consolidate 3rd place. They will be at home this weekend against Angers in 12th place. Tete has only played 10 games this season but has been the choice of late and is valued at 6.5m.

Defender: Diego Carlos- Nantes

It’s true that Nantes have not kept a clean sheet in over a month but that will end at some point and the club will be at home against Amiens who have only scored 8 goals away from home. There is a good chance they will get a clean sheet and Diego Carlos can score goals too, he did so in Nantes last game against PSG. He is valued at 6m.

Midfielder: Julian Draxler -PSG

Draxler has had a mixed season with PSG but he is set to play when the club take on Monaco due to injuries. He can score goals too and has netted 7 times this season and set up another 3 goals. Draxler can be bought for a bargain 6m.

Midfielder: Mathieu Debuchy- Saint Etienne

The Ligue 1 Fantasy player of the week is in good form and very confident and it’s possible that against Reims he can shine again at the weekend after scoring 2 goals. His distribution is excellent too and he can be brought into your team for 7.5m.

Midfielder: Jonathan Bamba- Lille

Jonathan Bamba has been consistent of late for Lille and he scored against PSG in Lille’s last game which they won 5-1. Lille will be away at the weekend but this is against Toulouse where they will be expected to win and he could well get on the score sheet. Bamba is valued at 7m.

Midfielder: Florian Thauvin- Marseille

Marseille will play Guingamp in 19th place and will be the odds on favourites to win this game. Thauvin has the quality to score from midfield against such opposition and if he isn’t already in your team could well be worth picking, Marseille could get a few goals in that game.

Striker: Kylian Mbappe- PSG

Mbappe was dropped from PSG’s last game v Nantes because he criticised the commitment of the team. But coach Thomas Tuchel has many injury worries and needs Ligue 1′s leading scorer. This is a game in Paris against Monaco where if they win or draw they win the league. Mbappe could score and get the winner and vital points to crown a fantastic domestic season.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe- Lille

Pepe has been one of the finest young strikers not just in Ligue 1 but in Europe this season. Lille will play Toulouse and Pepe has just scored against PSG and found his scoring boots once more. Pepe can add to his tally again at the weekend and is valued at 8m.

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Ligue 1 Player of the Week: Mathieu Debuchy

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Mathieu Debuchy is the Ligue 1 Fantasy player of the week after he collected a whopping 13 points at the weekend as his side Saint Etienne beat Bordeaux 3-0 in a one sided game.

Points were immediately earned for the 33 year old defender as Saint Etienne not only won the game but also kept a clean sheet. But that was just the cusp of things to come for the player who maximised his points tally at the weekend by scoring not one but two second half goals.

Debuchy has scored 4 goals this season but getting half of those goals in one game was obviously a special moment for the player. The former Arsenal player finally joined up with Saint Etienne at the beginning of 2018 and has been a rock in defence for the team. However because of injuries he has only been able to start 18 games this season and earn just 33 points in the process. His value is rated at 7.5m and at this moment he wouldn’t make the top 20 defenders in the league in Fantasy Ligue 1 but that could be set to change with another couple of performances like this for his club before the end of the season.

Saint Etienne still have the hope of Champions League football which would be a glorious return for Debuchy given that he has already had that experience with Arsenal. Saint Etienne are just 3 points behind 3rd placed Lyon to finish in a position where they would then have to participate in a play off to get to the competition proper. More realistically a Europa League spot should be for the club but they have given themselves a chance of appearing in Europe’s elite competition after securing 2 clean sheets in their last five games and remaining unbeaten in their last four.

As for the goals at the weekend, Debuchy’s first was set up by former Bordeaux player Wahbi Khazri whose cross was met by Debuchy’s head for a fine goal. Debuchy added his 2nd in the final minute after a cross from Pierre-Yves Polomat with the game already won.

Saint Etienne coach Jean-Louis Gasset praised Debuchy’s performance and said: “The players showed great spirit, led by Mathieu Debuchy. I saw him limping and suffering, and then he came back on and scored twice. We do this job to work with people like him. There are still 18 points to play for, and if we continue playing like that we will keep moving forward. Let’s see where we are after that.”

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Lille destroy PSG in stunning fashion as Lyon lose again

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For the second week in a row PSG have blown the chance to wrap up the league title and both have been in quite stunning fashion. The first was when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting missed the sitter of a century to the club in front against Strasbourg. That was one shock to take away and analyse. But it got worse at the weekend when Paris visited Lille, the 2nd best team in France this season and were soundly demolished 5-1.

It threw shockwaves around the league given that PSG had previously lost just 1 game all season and when, on the rare occasion, they do lose they don’t concede 5 goals. It was a strange game that actually started with a Thomas Meunier own goal to put Lille in front, but PSG were level on the 11th minute through a Juan Bernat effort, but he would later be sent off to compound the misery for the champions.

Both Meunier and then Tiago Silva were taken off early on through injuries and it was shortly after this point that Lille saved their best moments for the game. In 30 second half minutes Lille scored 4 goals, PSG were in shock and the game fell away. The club will put it down to a bad day at the office, but the party poppers just keep getting delayed for a side that are still 18 points clear with a game in hand.

PSG will play Nantes away from home next weekend when all they will need is a single point to win back to back league titles. The sticking point in that game could be that Nantes have just pulled off one of their finest results this season by beating Lyon in 3rd place 2-1. That means back to back defeats for Lyon and with it they look like to have conceded runners up spot to Lille. The gap between the two teams is now 8 points with 18 remaining to be played.

Saint Etienne beat Bordeaux 3-0 and they are now just 3 points behind Lyon for a final Champions League position. In short Lyon simply have not been good enough this past month and could miss out on participating in next seasons competition. Marseille beat Nimes 2-1 in an enjoyable but nervy encounter for the home side which puts them on 51 points and five points behind Lyon just to add the pressure.

Montpellier beat Toulouse 2-1 which was good enough to move up to 6th place. But it was disappointment for France’s most historical club Reims who have had a superb season back in Ligue 1 when they could only 0-0 with Monaco, they are on the same points as Montpellier with 48 but their succession of draws is damaging their chances of finishing in a European position.

Finally Nice make the top 8 and while they remain undefeated in their last 4 games, it was another dour 0-0 draw away to Rennes that doesn’t raise much interest in how the team will finish up this season.

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Prince Gouano is forced to stop Amiens v Dijon because of racist chants

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What could be more controversial than the ugly desperate disease that is racism? It has never really gone away of course but there have been too many recent cases of black players being subjected to abuse from the football stands in the last few weeks, be it at international or club level.

The latest vile incident was last Friday night when Amiens played Dijon in a game that ended goalless. Amiens defender Prince Gouano actually halted play because racist abuse was being used towards him and what happened next has been impressive.

In the past we have seen players walk off, or halted a match and been subjected to an investigation by either the national league or UEFA. It doesn’t mean that any official thinks that they were wrong, but actually stopping a game just seemed in the past against the laws of football. Thankfully that looks set to have changed.

When Gouano halted the game everyone seemed to be on his side. The officials, the players, the manager. After the game the French Football Federation commended Gouano for his actions and so did UEFA and FIFA and that response gives everyone involved with football a hope for the future.

The LFP the Ligue de Football Professionnel said ‘The LFP condemns the racist insults that led to the temporary interruption of Friday’s game between Dijon FCO and Amiens SC. The LFP wishes to show its support for Prince-Désir Gouano. On Wednesday, the Disciplinary Committee will study the case. The person accused of the racist insults was identified by Dijon on Friday evening and later arrested. As part of its agreement with the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), the LFP will study the next legal steps to be taken in this case.’

The statement above is terrific news for any real football follower. Ligue 1 has shown that there will be a zero tolerance attitude to racism. If one was to think of this scenario of a racist fan attending a game in the coming weeks surely they are going to have pause for thought about the results of their actions. Leagues such as Serie A could learn a thing or two about how swiftly and correctly the LFP has reacted.

Prince Gouano himself has also commented saying that racism has no right to be in football or society. What Gouano did was the right thing but what has been more remarkable has been how backed up he has been. Take the example in Italy a few weeks ago when Moise Kean for Juventus was subjected to racist chants and not even his teammate Lenoardo Bonucci could see how clear the picture was initially saying it was a 50/50 fault. He later backtracked on his comments, but it felt like a lazy typical reply in the first place.

Every major league in the world has racism problems but tackling it head on as the LFP have done has to be the right thing to do, and hopefully one day this won’t be an issue in football anymore.

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Week 32: Best 11 Players of the Weekend in Fantasy La Liga

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It was a weekend that saw Atletico Madrid close the gap on league leaders Barcelona to 9 points after Barca rested most of their first team squad in order to prepare for their Champions League match against Manchester United in midweek. But Barca will surely still win the league. Real Madrid do not play until today but given that they are 8 points clear of 4th place their Champions League participation will be assured for next season.

Below in a formation of 4-4-2 we look at the best performers in La Liga over this past weekend and see if you had any of these top performing players in your line up.

Goalkeeper: Sergio Asenjo-Villarreal

Sergio Asenjo had an important job to do even if the goalkeepers of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona earned the same points. Villarreal are struggling with relegation and Asenjo was able to keep a clean sheet and make important saves as his team beat Girona 1-0 to move 2 points clear of the bottom three. It was the clubs first clean sheet in the last 5 games.

Defender: Xabier Etxeita- Huesca

Etxeita was the defender for Huesca that really stood out at the weekend to earn his 5pts. Huesca played league leaders Barcelona, and while Barca did rest the majority of their first teamers, Etxeita remained disciplined in defence and made sure his team got a famous point against the Catalan giants. He is valued at 3m.

Defender: Filipe Luis- Atletico Madrid

It was a typical solid performance from Filipe Luis as Atletico eased to a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo to move within 9 points of Barcelona and pull 5 points clear of Real Madrid. Luis has had an outstanding season and is valued at 6.5m.

Defender: Alvaro G. Soberon- Villarreal

Soberon won’t be on many of the team of the week lists but he shored up a Villarreal defence as the team who have struggled all season got a huge result at the weekend by beating Girona 1-0 away from home. He has earned just 7 points this season and 5 of them came at the weekend. He can be bought for 4.5m.

Defender: Jeison Murillo- Barcelona 

Murillo is seldom used at Barcelona but the 26 year old was drafted into the team as Ernesto Valverde opted to rest the majority of players. It is to Murillo’s credit that he stayed focused and made some good blocks as Barca kept a clean sheet, impressive given a wealth of this team were playing together for the first time.

Midfielder: Sarabia- Sevilla

Sarabia had a fantastic game as Sevilla took on their arch rivals not only did he assist in the first goal for the club but he then scored the 2nd and Sevilla won a thrilling game 3-2 for Sarabia to earn 6pts at the weekend. The player is currently the highest ranked in midfielders with 78pts and is valued at 7m.

Midfielder: Giovani Lo Celso- Real Betis

Keeping with the Sevilla derby on the other end was Lo Celso and Betis who put in a big performance before losing 3-2. Lo Celso did score though to make it 6 goals this season and was a threat in the match.

Midfielder: Franco Vasquez- Sevilla

Vasquez has stepped up his game in recent weeks as Sevilla look to finish 4th and claim a Champions League berth. He also scored what turned out to be Sevilla’s 3rd and winning goal in the derby against Betis and earned his 4pts this past weekend.

Midfielder: Pablo Fornals- Villarreal

Fornals has earned 25pts this season and was the best midfielder that Villarreal had at the weekend earning 3pts for helping his team keep a clean sheet and keeping his midfield together as they got a vital away win over Girona. Fornals can be brought into your side for 8m.

Striker: Santi Mina- Valencia

Santi Mina earned the most points of any striker this past weekend with 8. Mina scored 2 goals as his team beat Levante 3-1 to edge closer to a Champions League spot he has a total of just 14 pts but could have a strong finish to the season and is valued at 7m.

Striker: Inaki Williams- Athletic Bilbao

Inaki Williams really helped Bilbao out at the weekend by scoring a brace as his side won 3-2 in a game that included them missing a penalty. The win was huge and Bilbao have a chance for a Europa League finish. Williams has earned 49pts and is worth 7.5

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