PSG lose another game in Ligue 1 but get away with it

PSG lost their 3rd game of the season, something which usually doesn’t happen until around April and yet they are still 7 points in the lead in Ligue 1, in a season which is looking quite bland as far as who will win the league title goes.

This latest defeat was perhaps the most surprising as the club were playing Dijon who are struggling badly in the league and look set for a relegation dog fight. Whilst it is true that Dijon’s form has picked up no one expected them to get anything against the champions even if they were at home last Friday night.

What made matters worse was that PSG opened the scoring and it looked like only a matter of time before the league leaders would add to that, but it didn’t happen. Dijon actually fought back and won 2-1, that winning goal coming after a great solo run from Jhonder Cadiz.

Dijon coach Stephane Jobard said: “I’m happy for my players because they were rewarded for their efforts. We caused PSG problems and were also able to hold them off. It’s a great chapter in the club’s history, and proves to me that we belong in Ligue 1″ He continued: “I’m certain of my players mental strength, and we showed character in equalising before the break. We scored at key times: at the end of the first half and the start of the second. That ruined things a bit for PSG, because after that they became a little too individualist.”

With PSG losing it meant that 2nd placed Nantes could take full advantage and close the points gap to 5, but the Canaries lost to Bordeaux 2-0 to make it 3 defeats in a row. This has let in Angers who have gone back up to 2nd place after they beat Strasbourg 1-0. At the end of the weekend PSG can be content in knowing that they only lost 1 point

Next PSG will play in the Champions League and their next domestic match will be against Brest. On paper this should be 3 points but Brest are at home and unbeaten their all season and have proved to be very solid. It should be an interesting game and we have seen already that if teams are willing to give PSG a game this one can struggle.

Is Thomas Tuchel’s job under threat? For now that answer is no, but if the club struggle some more in the league and do not win the Champions League, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is his last season.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Edinson Cavani

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Edinson Cavani has had a great career at PSG where he has been with the club for 6 seasons, playing 279 games and scoring 193 times, and even at 32 he has been good enough to be recognised as one of the best strikers in France’s Ligue 1.

Of course his season was dealt many blows- being knocked out of the two domestic cups seemed a step backwards given how PSG have dominated in France. But they did win the league and won it in style with several games to go. Cavani missed big games including some in the Champions League when PSG lost over 2 legs against Manchester United.

For Cavani though this was another personal successful season that saw the Uruguayan forward score 18 goals only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe were able to score more this season. Cavani also assisted in a further 5 goals and when he played which was 20 games in the league for 50% of that time with him in the team PSG kept a clean sheet. Cavani’s cards records were great too where he received just 1 yellow card from the 20 games played.

Cavani ended the season in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 records with a points total of 83. Whilst that was 26 points shy of Nicolas Pepe in 2nd place Pepe had the advantage of playing 17 more games than Cavani who totalled 83 points to finish in 3rd place. Overall with all strikers combined in all the major European leagues Cavani finished in 15th place.

Cavani’s season started brightly as he scored a goal in each of his first three games. He only really had one bad spell which was in October when he failed to score in back to back games when PSG played Lyon and Amiens. Ironically the French champions won both games 5-0 but Cavani failed to register a goal or an assist.

The striker’s best game of the season came in January when PSG were playing Guingamp in Paris. The score was an incredible one which ended 9-0 to them. Cavani obliged with a hat trick and 2 assists, in a special game for him, it’s fair to say he kept the ball that evening.

Another memorable game occurred against Monaco earlier in the season when PSG beat the troubled 2017 champions at the Stade Louis III winning 4-0. Cavani helped himself to a hat trick and bonus points to go with that to get a total of 14 points.

Cavani’s last home game saw him get a goal against Dijon and in the last game of the season away to Reims, PSG lost 3-1 but he scored points by assisting Mbappe for PSG’s consolation goal.

Cavani’s total points of 83 is one of his worst under PSG but at the same time he only played just over half of the season due to injuries and in that respect he actually had a very solid season.

The player has talked about a move away from PSG and France and could be eyeing a Premier League club, if so Cavani will be very much missed in Ligue 1, he scored some fantastic goals and has been a big part of PSG’s fantastic success in the 2010′s. He remains one of the very best strikers in Europe.

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Thierry Henry sacked, Leonardo Jardim returns and yet Monaco could still be relegated from Ligue 1

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If anything at least it hasn’t been a quiet forgettable season for Monaco. The 2017 champions and the only team to stop PSG winning the league since 2012 are in 17th place and have a realistic chance of being relegated.

Thierry Henry infamously replaced Leonardo Jardim who had guided the club to their Ligue 1 win and had done pretty much nothing wrong to be sacked in the first place. This was proven just 4 months later when Henry couldn’t even buy a win and was sacked as Monaco lay in the bottom three. He was inevitably replaced by Jardim and Monaco’s fortune swiftly turned around, well at least, for a few weeks.

It seems though that Jardim and possibly even Henry were not the root of the problem and the real problem for the club is that for many seasons they have constantly sold their best players. Run as a business Monaco have been terrific one of the best clubs in Europe, buy cheap and sell large. Clubs such as Manchester City and PSG have spent hundreds of millions acquiring the talent pool from Monaco. That is all very well and good but was it worth it to be playing in Ligue 2?

Jardim has simply not been able to turn things around enough for a club who have slumped in the past month. Their latest defeat was against newly promoted Nimes losing 1-0 and Monaco are 17th. The problem for the club is that they are only in this position on goal difference. Caen have found excellent form and have the same number of points on them on 33. And that is not all, Dijon’s victory over Strasbourg at the weekend means that they have 31 and remain a threat and there is still 2 games to play in the league.

Monaco have lost 3 of their last four games and from their last 10 games they have won just once. Their last victory came 2 months ago when they beat Lille. Indeed that has been a sticking point with the club. Their last two wins came against Lille who are 2nd and Lyon who are 3rd, but they have had a hard time beating teams just above them and around them which could ultimately be their downfall.

Will Monaco survive? Well if they finish 18th that is no longer automatic relegation in France and instead they would partake in a play off against the 3rd place Ligue 2 side to see who would be promoted and relegated. Monaco’s last two games are at home to Amiens and then away in the derby against Nice. How ironic that it is Nice who could end up sending them down?

The Amiens game then is massive and win that and that should be enough to fend off the challenge from Dijon. Plus Dijon have to play PSG away from home next, and yes whilst PSG have been in poor form, no one is expecting them to lose that match. So Dijon do look down. As for Caen that is the real worry for Monaco, since Caen would be 6th in the league on form.

Caen have to play Lyon away which is going to be incredibly tough and then finish the season with a home game against Bordeaux. It’s going to be close and both Caen and Monaco could finish on 36 points.

While the excitement of who would win Ligue 1 felt done and dusted by Christmas the relegation battle is only just heating up with 2 games to go.

Ligue 1 Player of the Weekend: Valentin Rongier

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One of the best teams in France’s Ligue 1 in the last month has been Nantes- a club that seem to famously struggle season after season. But after the pressure of not getting sucked into a relegation battle together with knowing that they would not be able to secure enough points for European qualification, the shackles have come off the club and they have been simply superb.

On form Nantes would be in 1st place having won their last 5 games and those victories are not just against any clubs. It’s more a roll call of the best teams in the league which include PSG, Lyon and Marseille. Indeed had Nantes started the season in this fashion people would be taking the club seriously on a league challenge and most certainly a chance of qualifying for the Champions League.

Valentin Rongier has been a big part of Nantes revival. The midfielder who has played 33 times this season has been a rock in the middle of the field and has scored 4 goals and assisted in 5 others.

At the weekend Nantes beat relegation threatened Dijon 3-0 in a very easy win at home and Rongier scored the 3rd and final goal to seal victory with 10 minutes left. This past weekend Rongier by scoring from midfield and with his club keeping a clean sheet earned 8 points in Ligue 1 Fantasy football which is more than any other player at the weekend.

Those 8 points have put Rongier of 37 points which means he is the 54th best player in the league according to the rankings and the 18th best midfielder in the league. His value is 4.5m.

Rongier scored at the weekend after being set up by Samuel Moutoussamy to slide the ball home. Nantes manager Vahid Halihodzic said: “We created some very good chances in the first half, but unfortunately we didn’t take them. At half-time I told them to keep their pace up but to try and stay organised, because they have one or two boys who can hurt you with individual actions. In the second half, it was almost logical that we scored three goals. The team played at a good level, especially going forward. We were still a bit wasteful. We have to make better choices.”

Nantes could yet break into the top 10 and finish there and they look almost certain to do so if they can keep up their terrific form. They have certainly been the best side led by Rongier for the past month.

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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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Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe earns player of the week accolade

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This week’s player of the week award goes to Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe, whose defensive and attacking contributions played a valuable role in the side’s comfortable 4-0 win over a disjointed Dijon at Stade Louis II.

The defender played a critical role in the side’s first goal of the match as the vision of Thomas Lemar enabled him to split the Dijon defence to find Sidibe’s immaculately timed run in behind, who duly put the ball on a plate for Keita Balde to bury calmly past Reynet.

The fixture remained a tight affair for the majority of the game, in spite of the lead, until Monaco doubled their lead as Fabinho converted from the spot with 20 minutes to go. Continue reading