Lille secure Champions League football and Neymar redeems himself ahead of PSG ban

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It’s been a tough month for PSG star Neymar who learned that he would receive a 3 game Champions League ban next season for being critical of match officials when PSG lost to Manchester United. Then the Brazilian was handed a 3 game ban by Ligue 1 after he hit out at a fan at the end of the Coupe de France final. PSG are appealing on that, but he was on target to open the scoring as PSG beat Angers 2-1 at the weekend.

It was Neymar’s 15th goal of the season which with his long term injury considered is a decent return. The win was also PSG’s 2nd win in 5 games as they have gone through the worst form of their season in the last month which included losing in the final of the Coupe de France to Rennes. Of course they became champions weeks ago and the players seem to have switched off but the win away to Angers was still an important one.

The big news came from Lille and saw the side secure their Champions League place for next season after they beat Bordeaux 1-0. They will almost certainly finish 2nd but even if they lost their last two games and Lyon won their next two, they would finish 3rd which would still be good for the qualifying stages, but the odds are looking great for them to finish in the runners up spot. The Bordeaux victory was the clubs 19th of the season.

Lyon went away to Marseille and secured a brilliant 3-0 win to give them a huge advantage in finishing the season in 3rd place and possible Champions League for next season. Playing at Stade Velodrome was no mean task and the game was loaded with tension throughout. Maxwell Cornet who has been brilliant for the team this season scored a brace and was the eventual hero. Lyon remains 6 points behind Lille but have now pulled four points clear of Saint Etienne.

Saint Etienne who had won 4 games on the bounce really had to win at home to Montpellier but they were downed by a Gaetan Laborde goal, which more or less ended their Champions League hopes. They would have to win their last 2 games and hope that Lyon lost both or lost one and drew one and that seems unlikely.

Could Montpellier pip Saint Etienne for that final Europa League place though? The club at least gave themselves a chance by beating the club at the weekend but they are still 4 points adrift and it looks like, despite their heroics, that they will just miss out.

Marseille certainly will as they have just 55 points and the best they can hope for now is to finish in 5th place. The club started strongly this season only to fade away in the winter months and then bounce back again soon after. But they look to be going through poor form once again and have no wins in their last 3 games.

Any European football officially ended for Nice this past weekend but they still pulled off a decent 1-1 draw against Nantes who came into that game having won 5 matches in a row including wins over PSG, Lyon and Marseille. That was the 11th draw this season for Nice though, just 3 of those matches converted into wins and the team would be challenging for Europe.

And Nimes continued their fine form by beating Monaco 1-0, that’s 3 wins from their last four games and they took advantage of Reims poor form to move 3 points clear of them and firmly establish 8th place. Nimes could finish as high as 6th if their form continues and others drop points around them.

Finally matchday 36 was one that saw referees having to work over time with no less than 6 red cards dished out. Four of those to top 8 sides and a few players will have played their last games of the campaign for their respective clubs.

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Remy Cabella sent off as Saint Etienne’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread

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Saint Etienne didn’t need this type of controversy, indeed all they needed to do was keep their heads, but against Montpellier at the weekend it went all wrong.

The club had been in such great form coming into this game winning their last 4 matches in a row and had put real pressure on Lyon in 3rd place for that final Champions League position. Indeed the Verts as they are known entered the game which was played on Friday night just 1 point behind Lyon. Playing at home they were expected to win given that they have the third best home record in the league but Montpellier were not reading the script.

In the end it took one goal, scored by Gaetan Laborde to settle matters and Saint Etienne lost the game and ended up losing their minds, borne out of frustration of course.

The game had no less than 7 yellow cards and 2 reds. First to go was Daniel Congre from Montpellier who received his marching orders on the 53rd minute for roughing. This seemed to play into Saint Etienne’s hands and yet roughly 10 minutes later they themselves would be down to 10 players and it wasn’t just any player seeing red by Remy Cabella, who has shone recently for the club and really stepped up. Well at the weekend he stepped down and took an early shower to go with it.

Two minutes later Laborde scored just to rub salt in the wounds, and for Saint Etienne they dominated every statistic but the one that counted and lost the game.

Saint Etienne’s coach Jean-Louis Gasset believes the game should have ended in a draw he said: ”Given how we ended the game, with all these balls passing in front of Montpellier’s goal, a draw would’ve been fair. We weren’t focused enough after Montpellier went down to 10 men. We rushed things trying to score immediately. Montpellier scored at a fateful moment. We gave everything, we had chances, but we lacked a cutting edge. We missed the chance to confirm our Europa League place, but we have two games left.”

Lyon played on Sunday and beat Marseille 3-0 which means that they have pulled 4 points clear from 4th with just 2 games remaining and look like the massive favourites now to go on and get 3rd.

As for Saint Etienne they now have Montpellier in their rear view mirror for 4th, although there is a four point gap and Saint Etienne’s consolation looks like a Europa League place.

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Ligue 1- 11 Player Picks for the Weekend

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There is a full fixture list for Ligue 1 this weekend and whilst PSG will win the league this season there is still so much to be proven, won and lost from now until May. Who will get the other 2 places for the Champions League? And on Sunday night we will witness one of the grandest fixtures in European football when PSG take on in form Marseille. Below is our list of players to watch out for this weekend that you may want to add to your Ligue 1 Fantasy team.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Steve Mandanda 8.5m

Mandanda hasn’t always had it easy this season and that is why he is in 7th place in Ligue 1 fantasy standings. But his current form has been terrific where he has shipped just 2 goals in the past month or Marseille. He picked up 7pts last weekend and a good performance this weekend would see him into the top 5.

Defender: Yunis Abdelhamid 6m

The Reims defender has been in good form in the back four who have been able to keep a few clean sheets already in 2019 as the club are now in the top 5. Reims play Nantes at home, and we could well expect them to achieve another clean sheet against a side who are in 14th place.

Defender: Kenny Lala 5m

Lala has been an unsung hero of the defence of the Strasbourg team. While it is true that his defenders conceded 2 goals last weekend that was against Lyon. But they have a good chance to keep a clean sheet as they play newly promoted Nimes at the weekend and Lala who has 43pts already should be looked into.

Defender: Dante Costa 6.5m

Dante Costa won’t ‘costa’ you a lot and the Nice defender has already garnered 36pts this season. Nice are at home against Toulouse on Friday night where they will be the favourites to win and could well keep a clean sheet, helping Costa’s cause.

Defender: Thiago Silva 9.5m

The PSG talisman has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in Ligue 1. PSG play Marseille at the weekend in a game which could go either way when we look at recent form. At the same time history tells us this might be a very difficult match for Marseille and PSG may be able to keep a clean sheet. Silva is 9.5m but has scored a massive 61pts so far.

Midfielder: Maxime Lopez 5m

Maxime Lopez has just got on with what he needs to do at Marseille and whilst he only has 29pts in midfield, he remains a luxury player at a good price of 5m that can change a game. Marseille do have a difficult match against PSG but they will be 100% focused as they try to reach 3rd place in the standings. He is more adept at assists than scoring goals.

Midfielder: Thiago Mendes 7m

Mendes has been very solid for Lille this season in the middle of the football pitch and Lille will be taking on Monaco who have struggled this season even though they are playing much better now. But Lille at home should be able to ease to victory and Mendes could be a key player.

Midfielder: Xavier Chavalerin 6m

Chavalerin is just 6m and has done very well for his team Reims this season starting 26 games. Reims have been a revelation and remain a strong contender for European football and are playing an average form team in Nantes this weekend. In recent months the player has scored a few goals and assisted well. He could be worth a pick this weekend for his price.

Midfielder: Younousse Sankhare 8m

Looking at his season the Bordeaux midfielder Sankhare looks overpriced but he is the type of player that can make teams of the weekend and he might be able to help his club when they will be at home to Rennes. Rennes will be tired after the Arsenal game in the Europa League and Bordeaux could take advantage of that. Plus Sankhare has assisted in 3 goals this season.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe 8m

Pepe is excellent value to add to your team as he has been one of the best strikers in Ligue 1 this season. We will pick him because he is in form and will face the defence of Monaco who have been less than impressive this season. He has 84pts and has scored 17 goals this season and assisted in 8.

Striker: Gaetan Laborde 5m

Laborde is just 5m and the Montpellier striker has scored 10 goals this season and is always a danger and attacking player. Montpellier play play Lyon but Lyon have been shipping goals lately which could work out for Laborde and he should be looked into.

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How Gus Poyet can inspire Bordeaux to European football this season

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New Bordeaux manager Gus Poyet has had a stellar impact upon the club since his arrival in Ligue 1. With the campaign to finish within the European places beginning to heat up as we approach the final stretch of the season, could his impetus be the driving force behind a late surge for the top six?

The 50-year-old’s side ran out convincing winners away to a Strasbourg side that have slid down the table in recent weeks, having now won only one of their last five fixtures.

Poyet’s team took an early lead when 28-year-old Senegalese midfielder Younousse Sankharé put them ahead in only the 3rd minute, grabbing his fifth goal this season hitting a points tally of 27 for the campaign. Continue reading