Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Stephy Mavididi

With Ligue 1 taking a break last weekend it was back to the Coupe de France. There were not many shocks and most of the Ligue 1 sides that you would expect to go through to the last 16 did so. Although one of the stand out shocks was Pau FC beating Bordeaux 3-2.

Our player of the week though goes to a young Englishman who has started his trade in foreign waters. Stephy Mavididi is only 21 and has spent his time on loan at such diverse clubs like Charlton, Preston North End and Juventus. Whilst most of Mavididi’s career at the Italian giants was with the under 23s he did play one game for the senior side. He has been a player constantly on loan and now he is with Ligue 1 side Dijon. This past weekend Dijon were involved in the cup and played fellow Ligue 1 side Nimes. With two Ligue 1 teams clashing there was no guarantee that Dijon would advance.

However Nimes ended up being no match for Dijon even though the game was only 1-0 to the hosts for the majority of the game. An incredible 4 goals though were scored in the last quarter of an hour and the match ended up with Dijon winning 5-0.

Mavididi was the central part of winning the game as the 21 year old scored not one but two goals. It would have given his confidence a massive boost. There were some other players who stood out this week such as Montpellier’s Andy Delort who also scored 2 goals, but Delort is more of a veteran of the game compared to Mavididi and it felt more impressive for the youngster to help his team reach the last 16.

So far Mavididi does not appear in the fantasy rankings being a last minute loan switch to the Ligue 1 side. He has only made 6 appearances for the club in the league so far and scored one goal. His best season remains for Juventus Under 23 side in the season 2018/19 when he managed 6 goals from 32 games.

It is clear that the player is still learning- he is no Kylian Mbappe for example. But what is interesting is all of the very different clubs he has played for so young into his career and that could well bode well for the future. Whilst some players can peak between 24-26 it could be true of him that he peaks a little later and shows the world’s game how good he can be into his 30s. For now Dijon will be happy that they have Mavididi on their books and they may just become the first club to believe in the player and sign him up on a permanent deal.

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Coupe de France round up: PSG squeeze through, Bordeaux shocked

The round of 32 in the France’s main cup, the Coupe de France was the main focus this past weekend as Ligue 1 took a rest.

All eyes were on league champions PSG who had to travel to Lorient. Lorient are currently in 1st place in Ligue 2 and PSG of course top the standings in Ligue 1, so it made for an interesting match up. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel decided to have star players Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the bench and he didn’t use them. The game was a very tight one which in the end PSG won 1-0 through a Pablo Sarabia header with just 10 minutes to go to break Lorient’s hearts. PSG will now face Pau FC in the last 16.

This will be a dream for Pau FC who are in the 3rd tier of French football, to be able to play against the mighty PSG for a chance in the quarter finals. It is everything Pau FC deserved after shocking another Ligue 1 team as they knocked out Bordeaux, winning 3-2 in what many have called one of the games of the round.

The match finished 2-2 and Pau FC won the game in extra time, there were 15,000 fans to see it and they have been drawn again at home to face PSG- put this in your calendars, the game takes place on January 29th.

Perhaps the game of the round though took place in Nantes where Lyon came to town and won an enthralling match 4-3. Lyon had found themselves 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes and at half time they were 3-1 up. Both teams revised their normal line ups but it was Lyon that showed more hunger in the end. Moussa Dembele who has arguably been one of Lyon’s better players this season seemingly put the game away when he made it 4-1. But Nantes were not completely done and a comeback looked on the cards after goals from Louza and Simon one in the 83rd minute and then another three minutes later. It was a very nervous last five minutes as Nantes pushed for a fourth goal but they couldn’t find it.

Elsewhere Strasbourg beat Angouleme 5-1 with Ludovic Ajorque getting on the score sheet once again though this was a penalty. Saint Etienne were involved in a very good game eventually beating Paris FC 3-2 away. Angers beat Rouen 4-1, Montpellier easily beat 5-0 with star striker Gaetan Laborde getting on the score sheet. Rennes won and Dijon put 5 goals past Nimes and Monaco squeezed through too.

Only the Bordeaux game was seen as a shock result, the last 16 games take place at the end of the month.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Ismaila Sarr

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Ismaila Sarr may not come first to your mind when you think of brilliant midfielders plying their trade in France’s Ligue 1 but Sarr had a very solid season at Rennes to end up being the 5th best midfielder of the season.

Sarr who is from Senegal is widely unknown even in the league- although his performances this season should change that view. One has to remember that Sarr is still only 21. Sarr had played for Metz before being snapped up by Rennes in 2017 and has since fit into the team without any problems.

The Rennes midfielder would have cost you 7.5m to have in your team- that could go up next season after his performances in this one. He gained a total of 60 points, just 10 points shy of Reims’ Remi Oudin. His goal scoring feats were impressive as he netted 8 times and assisted in a further 6 goals and was part of a team that kept 11 clean sheets.

Sarr’s season started by picking up points in 3 of his first four matches as his play and his team gained momentum. However that was stopped soon after as Rennes went through a bad period of form that begun in mid September. As a consequence Sarr picked up no points for 5 games in a row.

His best form started at the beginning of December where he scored points in five consecutive games totalling 18 altogether. His best game of the season actually came down to two matches. The early season win over Angers in which he scored a goal and kept a clean sheet and the terrific 2-0 win at Lyon where he assisted in both goals and of course kept a clean sheet. For the player the Lyon victory might be the best moment of his season league wise.

Sarr picked up 6 bookings but otherwise never finished a game below -1 points which is an impressive sign at his age that he is maturing well. This is his highest ever points total and he will be looking to keep that momentum going for next season.

As for Rennes season they had a memorable one. True they could only finish in 10th place with 52 points and finished 14 points from a European place, but that is only the beginning of the story. Rennes qualified for the Europa League after winning their first major trophy in a generation when they stunned PSG in the Coupe de France final and beat them. It was one of the biggest shocks in French football history. The club won on penalties after a 2-2 draw and Sarr was on hand to score one of his to crown a very special season indeed.

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Neymar allegedly punches Rennes fan in ultimate meltdown after Coupe de France defeat

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The Coupe de France final was supposed to not only be a straight forward win for champions PSG, but was supposed to be ‘Neymar’s final’. The Brazilian had just come back from a lengthy injury lay off, this was supposed to be his redemption.

It had all started so well for PSG who took an early lead through a brilliant long distance strike from Neymar’s Brazilian team mate Dani Alves who was looking for his 43rd trophy in his career. He made it to 42 with the league win which has since been confirmed as making him the most decorated football player in history.

PSG then made it 2-0 with a delightful goal from Neymar, there was surely only going to be one winner here, and PSG was about to pick up its 5th cup final trophy in a row. But the football Gods had not had their say.

Quite incredibly Rennes pulled it back and started to believe. An own goal made it 2-1 and a quick fire header that no goalkeeper in the world was saving made it 2-2. The game went to penalties and Rennes triumphed as PSG wilted. The scenes were simply incredible. PSG look stunned, but Neymar even more so after missing a chunk of the season only to experience this episode.

But there was more to come. Some fans could be seen screaming towards Neymar- all inaudible and to be fair it seemed to be just banter. But as the PSG players passed the fans to collect their trophies it all kicked off.

Allegedly a Rennes fan joked and said to Neymar ‘you should learn how to play football’. Then allegedly Neymar struck out at the fan as seen in video footage. It is unclear if it was a punch, slap or push, although wide media are reporting the incident as a punch.

More details need to be gathered and the French Football Federation will be doing that over this week. But if the fan really did say just that then Neymar is set to be in a lot of trouble. Some are talking that he could be looking at a 5 game ban, some even say that under French football rules it could be 8 games.

All of this feel like a huge meltdown for a player that was banned for the first 3 games of next seasons Champions League after his criticism tweet of UEFA when PSG were controversially knocked out of the Champions League against Liverpool.

Sometimes football is unfair, but it seems that Neymar can’t take that and he has certainly over stepped the mark in the Coupe de France. Is this the beginning of the end of his career at PSG? It could well be.

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Preview of Europe’s Top Domestic Cup Competition Finals

Due to be played today are the finals of many of Europe’s domestic cup competitions.

In Germany & Italy, Bayern Munich & Juventus respectively, are each aiming to secure domestic doubles. PSG have the opportunity to clinch a second successive French domestic treble, whilst Manchester United aim to win their first piece of silverware under Louis Van Gaal.

All of the five finals have the potential to be highly entertaining, closely contested affairs, although there is a favourite in each, as identified in the following previews.

Coupe de France – PSG v Marseille – Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to play his final game for PSG as the Parisian side will aim to clinch a second successive domestic treble when they face Marseille in the Coupe de France final. The Swede – who is PSG’s record goal scorer – has already scored three times against Marseille in the league this season, to help his side to a pair of 2-1 victories over their final opponents, who overcame Sochaux in the semi-finals, whilst PSG beat Lorient. Although Marseille are the leading all time winners of the Coupe de France with ten titles, victory for PSG would match that haul and win the trophy for a second year running, after Edison Cavani scored the only goal of last year’s final as Laurent Blanc’s side defeated Auxerre 1-0.

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As vital to PSG’s prospects for victory as Ibrahimovic is, equally important to Marseille’s chances of recording a surprise win is their in-demand Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi.

DFB Pokal – Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund – At the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich meet Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal final, as Pep Guardiola aims to end his reign as manager of the Bavarian giants with a win to secure a league and cup double. Ironically Dortmund achieved just that in 2012, when managed by Jurgen Klopp, as they beat Bayern 5-2 in that year’s final. The fierce rivals also contested the 2014 with Bayern lifting the cup virtue of winning 2-0 after extra time.

Whilst Bayern reached the final courtesy of a semi-final win over Werder Bremen, Dortmund did so by sweeping aside Wolfsburg.

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Just as the final marks the end of Guardiola’s Bayern career, it will be the last time Matt Hummels plays a competitive game for Dortmund as the German international’s transfer to Munich has already been confirmed. Nevertheless Hummels is determined to help Dortmund overcome his future employers. “I will give it everything I’ve got to go home with the cup.”

In switching to Bayern, Hummels is set to follow the path taken by former Dortmund teammates Robert Lewandowski and Mario Gotze, the latter of whom will not feature for Guardiola’s team, due to being sidelined with a rib injury.

Coppa Italia – Juventus v AC Milan – At the Stadio Olympico in Rome, Juventus will aim to become the first side to complete an Italian domestic double for two consecutive years when they face AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final. The Turin giants, managed by former Milan manager Max Allegri, have won Serie A for the fifth year in a row and now turn their attention to winning a second successive Coppa Italia after beating Lazio 2-1 in last year’s final.

In contrast to Juve enjoying great domestic success over the past five years, Milan have stuttered and failed to win a single trophy during the same stretch. Should Christian Brocchi’s side manage to end that barren spell and win a first piece silverware since 2011, that would help to avenge a disappointing 7th place finish in Serie A, whilst securing direct qualification to European competition for next season.

The team that Brocchi fields to try to achieve that may be without first choice full backs, Ignazio Abate and Luca Antonelli, as there is a doubt over the fitness of both players.

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Allegri similarly has team selection worries with which to contend. Sami Khedira, Martin Caceres & Claudio Marchisio are out injured, whilst Leonardo Bonucci is suspended.

The stage is set for an intriguing encounter between Italy’s two most successful sides, as Juve seek to add to a haul of 60 trophies, whilst Milan will try to add to their 33 domestic titles.

FA Cup Final – Manchester United v Crystal Palace – To be played at Wembley between Manchester United and Crystal Palace, is the final of the oldest football association cup.

Manchester United last won the competition in 2004, whilst their final opponents have never lifted the trophy.

The game is a repeat of the 1990 final, which went to a replay. After a 3-3 draw, United overcame Palace 1-0.

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Louis Van Gaal is aiming to lead United to their first piece of silverware since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, which would help to offset the disappointment of the club failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Meanwhile under the guidance of Alan Pardew, Palace comfortably retained their Premier League status by finishing in 15th place and reached the final after beating Watford 2-1 in the Semi-Final, whilst United overcame Everton by the same score line after extra time.

Former Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha is set to return for Palace after a three game absence due to injury, with United welcoming back Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin, Marcos Rojo and Marouane Fellaini. The giant Belgian scored in United’s semi-final win and should he play, is likely to engage in a fierce battle with his Palace counterpart Miles Jedinak.

Just as the goals of Connor Wickham are vital to Palace, so too are those of Marcus Rashford for United, with each player set to spearhead the attack’s of their respective team’s.