Topical: Lyon exert pressure on Lille for 2nd place after shock loss

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Lyon’s objective this season in Ligue 1 is to get the runners up spot which affords teams in France automatic qualification for the Champions League. For most of the season they have been locked in a battle with Lille who have surprised everyone. Only a week ago it looked as if Lyon’s dream was over but Lille finally slipped up.

That slip up came at the weekend when Lille lost at home to Monaco 1-0 in what was seen as a shock. True Monaco have progressed since Thierry Henry was sacked but they still hadn’t found their stride away from home, so the thought of going to Lille and getting all three points seemed unrealistic.

What added salt to the wounds for Lille was that it was a last minute goal for Monaco through Carlos Vinicius that settled matters and despite Lille having 12 attempts on goal they had to succumb to only their first defeat in their last 10 games. It was a defeat that let Lyon right in. Lyon beat Montpellier 3-2 in a thrilling game which means that the gap between 2nd and 3rd has been reduced to just 4 points with 9 games left. Lille’s next game is away to Nantes and Lyon will play Rennes at Roazhon Park.

The game that everyone was talking about was PSG and Marseille’s match up on Sunday night. The two biggest rivalries in French football came together in Paris, but the result was inevitably the same as PSG ran out 3-1 winners to keep their 100% success rate at home. Because Lille lost PSG also went 20 points ahead in the league.

Kylian Mbappe scored his 25th goal of the season for PSG  but then missed a last minute penalty. The hero of the day for the home side was Angel Di Maria who scored a brace before Steve Mandanda was sent off for the visitors in a frantic and exciting game. The defeat for Marseille means that they have slipped 6 points behind 3rd place Lyon in the chase for the final Champions League spot.

Saint Etienne ended their losing run in style by defeating Caen 5-0 in a one sided match which saw five different goal scorers and just one shot on target for the home side who are now bottom of the league.

Reims impressive unbeaten run continued as they beat Nantes 1-0 and have put the pressure on Marseille in the process being just 1 point behind them. The run in for the top six is still undecided and looks set to go down to the wire. Montpellier’s loss against Lyon has dealt a huge blow to their top 6 aspirations as they have fallen four points behind 6th place. Rennes in 8th place dropped another two points as they drew 1-1 against Bordeaux, but the draw did mean the side have not lost  a game for the past 3 weeks.

Whilst PSG and Lille are still clear of the chasing pack it is interesting to note that there is just 7 points between 3rd and 6th, and most of the European places are still up for grabs. Ligue 1 takes a break next weekend and returns on the weekend of March 29th.

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com 

 

Controversy in Ligue 1: PSG v Marseille- a sending off, a missed penalty and 4 goals

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This past weekend in Ligue 1 was always going to be dominated by one: PSG v Marseille the fiercest rivalry in Ligue 1 that is more than just a game. In the end it was a game yet again won by PSG who ran out 3-1 winners in Paris and went 20 points ahead of 2nd placed Lille as a result and still have a game in hand of them.

Marseille were aiming not only for a top 3 place which would give them Champions League automatic qualification plus of course there would be bragging rights about becoming the first team to beat PSG in Paris in the league. It wasn’t to be but we were entertained to a thrilling game nonetheless, which as normal had its controversy.

In total 7 yellow cards were shown and in the 2nd half Marseille’s Steve Mandanda who has had an impressive season was shown the red card and sent off. Kylian Mbappe had opened the scoring but the hero for PSG in the absence of Neymar’s injury was Angel Di Maria who scored a fantastic brace.

Even with the game won at 3-1 there was still controversy to be had when Saki tripped Mbappe for a penalty which delayed the game somewhat. Mbappe then stepped up to take the penalty…… and missed! Nobody could have seen that coming, least Mbappe who was looking for his 26th goal of what has been an incredible season for the 20 year old.

Marseille coach Rudi Garcia had this to say about the game. “We have nothing to be ashamed of in this defeat. Up until Steve [Mandanda]‘s sending off we were playing a coherent match. We didn’t let PSG impose their game and we didn’t concede chances. But we didn’t have enough chances in the second half, and that’s where my regrets lie. We could have been more clinical and more enterprising in the final 30 metres. It was also tough to play an excellent first 45 minutes and then go into the break a goal down – it happened to us last season here in Paris as well.”

Garcia continued, “The negative point is that the lads who were here last season   haven’t learnt the lesson and that’s a shame. We need to grow in experience as we have a young team. Still, they did extremely well to equalise early in the second half, but unfortunately we couldn’t hang onto the 1-1 score line for long enough.”

Marseille are still in the hunt for a top 4 place but after Lyon’s win they have slipped 6 points behind with just 9 games remaining.

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com 

Ligue 1 -Player of the Week- Kylian Mbappe

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Kylian Mbappe scored both goals as PSG beat Caen at the weekend in what was a tougher match than expected for the current French champions, and he has emerged as our Fantasy player of the week.

Mbappe collected a cool 8 points with his two goals which now puts him on an overall points tally of 107 pts. Not only was Mbappe the player of the week but he is the leading player in Fantasy Ligue 1 and is a massive 27 pts in front of Lille striker Nicolas Pepe and his team mate Edinson Cavani.

Mbappe is just 20 years old and what has been incredible is how he has been able to adapt himself so well and shown so much consistency it’s as if he has been playing football at the top level for the past 10 years.

Not only is he leading the Fantasy Ligue 1 rankings but he is also the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 with 24 goals to his name already. He has already surpassed his best season goals wise which came with his former club Monaco in the 2016/17 season when he scored 15 league goals. Overall that season he was able to net 26 times but this season he has 29 and could well have 40 by the end of it.

It’s not just about goals for Mbappe though and he has assisted in 5 goals, with his vision and his pace no defender wants to really go toe to toe with him, and it is clear that Mbappe is one of the best players in the world, and possibly as an out and out striker could well be the best centre forward, even at 20. In that relation he reminds one of the Brazilian Ronaldo who burst onto the scene 23 years ago. Both players share that pace and a willingness to go for goal without hesitation.

If you don’t have Mbappe in your team, perhaps you should do and he can be bought for 10.5m his current value. That is 2.5m cheaper than Cavani who has 7 goals less than him. Indeed Neymar cost 14.5m and that’s 3m more than Mbappe, although to be fair Neymar has missed the past month and could be out until April, so injury has hampered his season performance.

What has also been impressive with Mbappe being in first position is that he has received 3 yellow cards and 1 red. Whilst Pepe and Cavani in 2nd and 3rd place have no cards against them and yet Mbappe still has a huge lead over them.

Mbappe has scored 5 goals in his past 3 games and looks the favourite to be the top goal scorer this season in Ligue 1. For 10.5m he is proving to be not the only the best player of the week in France, but currently the best player in Ligue 1.

Think you know all about Ligue 1 players and the French League? Play the most popular Fantasy Ligue 1 game https://ligue1fantasy.com 

 

 

Paratici comments on Ramsey, Mbappé and more

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Fabio Paratici is in Dubai for the Globe Soccer Awards and weighed in on few players while speaking to Sky yesterday. He begun by expressing his hopes for the new year: “My first desire is for this season to be equal or better than the last six or seven. Champions League has become our goal, we earned that over the years. After the last four or five editions, we feel like we are ready to take on the challenge with more self-awareness.”

On the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo: “If you have the best in the world on your side, everybody’s confidence rises. But our quality was already very good, we have always been in the upper echelon and performed well in Europe recently. We have had great players in our roster and now we have Cristiano.” Continue reading

How can Barcelona’s Lionel Messi only be the 5th best player in the world?

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The awards season can usually give us surprise leanings and results, although at least for the past decade the winner’s have usually been right. But 2018 can be seen as an exception. Lucas Modric swept all before him in 2018, not trophy wise with his club and country but on a personal level trophy wise, but did he truly deserve accolade after accolade? Then there was the quite bizarre announcement at the Ballon d’Or awards that Lionel Messi wouldn’t win, ok this was half expected given that Messi had not won other awards, but then they went one step further and gave him 5th place, really, 5th place.

First let’s analyse why Modric should never have won the trophy. To do this we first must point out that Modric is a superb player who had a great year. This included being a part of the Real Madrid team that won the Champions League for a 3rd time in a row. And then being a part of the Croatia team that got to a World Cup final. Those are fantastic achievements. But at the same time it also disregards Real Madrid’s domestic season, fought over 38 hard games and 9 months, where they lost the title once again to Barcelona. Indeed Madrid didn’t even finish 2nd and trailed Barcelona by a whopping 17 points. But in a World Cup year- why should that matter?

If the awards were to be influenced by a World Cup why didn’t Antoine Griezmann win the trophy? A player who was influential in the World Cup knock out goals, dominant and confident in midfield and scoring important goals and winning the World Cup. Was Europe on the awards minds? Well be mindful that Griezmann won the Europa League and then when his side Atletico met Real in the Super Cup clash, Atletico won that too.

It may sound controversial but Modric sweeping the awards was set in stone after the World Cup final where FIFA gave the sympathy award of best player at the tournament to Modric, who had just lost the World Cup. Had Croatia won it, Griezmann would have won best player- do we need evidence? Go back to 2014 when Lionel Messi won the best player award when his Argentina side had lost the final to Germany. The look on Messi’s face said it all.

Now to Messi himself and how could he have come 5th in the world? On his day he is a better player than the four that finished above him. But what else could have been the reason? Over Modric there might be a case given that Modric won the Champions League and got to a World Cup final. Although Messi can claim to have won the league and cup, so a domestic double and let’s not forget at his age of 31 he just averaged his best ever games to goals ratio.

Next up is Cristiano Ronaldo, again a Champions League winner. But Messi has that double and a personal better season over him and both did not do well at the World Cup. Griezmann and Mbappe follow next and they did have a better season than Messi trophy wise with World Cup, Europa League, French League and domestic cups between them and yet they only finished 3rd and 4th.

The awards season used to give the best out to the best players. This year that trend has shifted mostly because new blood was wanted after Messi and Ronaldo dominated for a decade, but although Modric is a very special player, Griezmann or Mbappe should have won the award and Messi certainly shouldn’t have been out of the top 3.

Can PSG go the whole season in Ligue 1 unbeaten?

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More or less PSG have been absolutely dominant in the French Ligue 1 since 2012 and their massive takeover which has seen the club win 6 out of the last 7 titles in France. Millions have been spent on some of the greatest players to have graced the game in recent years. The likes of Zlatan Ibramhimovic, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and a new starlet in Kylian Mbappe have passed through their doors.

However it is this season that just feels different under new coach Thomas Tuchel. The reason is evident when you glance at the league tables. Yes it is no surprise to see PSG in 1st position, but they have played 14 games so far and won 14. It’s like a PlayStation game that went very wrong in a kind of excellent way. 42 points means that their nearest challengers Lyon are 15 points behind and the league in effect looks over before December.

We should also be reminded that their nearest rival Lyon were soundly beaten 5-0 last month by the Parisians. They are just that good that no team in France seems to be able to touch them. And yet of course in previous seasons it felt the same way until they would lose a surprise game away from home. This past weekend that almost happened. Not so much that the team would lose but even drop their 100% win rate. The team was Toulouse and with an important Champions League game coming up against Liverpool, both Mbappe and Neymar did not play and PSG edged to a 1-0 nervous victory.

PSG certainly have it within them to not only go unbeaten the whole season but to win every game, it would be a massive achievement even if some critics would point and suggest that the French league is not strong. Well tell that to Premier League champions Manchester City who in 2 games against Lyon both home and away failed to beat the team and conceded 4 goals along the way.

Ligue 1 is not the strongest league in Europe of course but it is far from weak, all it is missing is some wealthy owners to give PSG a run for their money (pardon the pun).

PSG’s real tests will come as the season progresses. How will they react if they are knocked out of a cup competition, especially the Champions League? The league is theirs that is basically assured now, but it is a question of how long they can continue their dominance this season which is most fascinating. Europe will be looking on in anticipation that is for sure.

Liverpool or PSG set to be knocked out of Champions League at the group stage

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Liverpool and PSG were amongst the favourites to win this seasons Champions League but it looks more and more like one of them will not even qualify for the knock out rounds after a topsy turvy group stage.

When the two European giants were announced to be in the same group, there was obvious excitement but most pundits believed they would get through in a group also containing Italians Napoli and Red Star. But some surprise results have left that chance really open ended with just 2 games left to play each for the super clubs.

Liverpool who got to the final last season have already lost 2 of their 4 games. These defeats both came away from home against Napoli and then this week to Red Star in a 2-0 loss. However for now they are still in 2nd place on 6 points.

As for PSG they started their campaign off with a loss away to Liverpool which ended 3-2 and then they drew two times against Napoli but slaughtered Red Star at home, they are, at this moment going into the Europa League with 5 points so far.

Napoli have been the real surprise and the problem for Liverpool and PSG. But Napoli who are in 1st place are not safe yet as they have drawn 3 of their 4 games but they do remain unbeaten. So the key to qualification will be in the next two matchday fixtures.

Napoli will play Red Star at home and given how poor they have been on the road we would expect a win for the Italians. But then they have to play Liverpool away and what would be a packed out and atmospheric Anfield and that could well end in a loss, so Napoli has the chance to finish with 9 points.

Liverpool have a massive crunch test with PSG in Paris on November 28th and it will in effect feel like a knockout game. All eyes will be on this match, let’s be conservative and say this game ends in a draw. It would mean that even if PSG beat Red Star away from home as long as Liverpool win they would go through. The key game seems to be Napoli’s match against Red Star, win that and one of Liverpool or PSG are going to go out. It would be a massive blow for either club.

Arguably one could say the blow is bigger for PSG given the new coach in Thomas Tuchel and the fact they have Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in order to win the competition. By the end of this month we should know which one of these teams will be playing Europa League football next year.

Will Thierry Henry’s choice to coach Monaco end in tears?

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French football legend Thierry Henry has finally taken the step into first grade management and signed on to become Monaco’s new coach on a three year contract.

On the face of it Henry’s decision makes perfect sense. He is a former player of the club, Monaco have been a solid outfit for the past four seasons, winning the league in 2017 and they have a billionaire Russian owner in Dmitry Rybolovleva. Plus let’s not pretend that living in Monaco for Henry will have its advantages with one being that his salary will be tax free.

As assistant coach to Roberto Martinez with Belgium, Henry has learned the ropes and saw the national team go all the way to the semi finals of this summers World Cup. Recently Eden Hazard, the man of the moment spoke very highly of Henry’s coaching abilities and he should on the face of it do a solid job with Monaco.

But one can’t help but feel that Henry will really be up against it. Look at previous coach Leonardo Jardim who was sacked on Thursday after spending almost six seasons with the club. Jardim had done a great job and Monaco began to be successful under him, culminating in deep Champions League runs and then stunning PSG who have dominated Ligue 1 since 2012 to win the league in 2017. Monaco at times have had the perfect team, scoring many goals and being wickedly decisive in defence.

However the reality is that the Russian owner has an agenda of scouring Europe to buy potential and then selling on to the highest bidder. The list really is endless, the talent that has left Monaco in recent seasons including Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and of course Kylian Mbappe. Sure the sales have brought in over £500m to the club, but the owner is already a billionaire so the agenda, at least on the face of it seems a little warped.

What has happened as a result is that Monaco are not competing anymore and when Henry arrives at Stade Louis II he will do so with his team in 18th place and 20 points behind PSG. Monaco have won just 1 game this season which was on the opening day of the campaign away to Nantes. No wins at home and a winless run for 2 months does not bode well.

However the good news is that the appointment of Henry will indeed rally the players to start to pick up points and play better. The worry is how long will this last? A few weeks, a few months? Surely Henry has discussed the selling of players too and one wonders if he has assurances that the bulk of quality at the club will not be sold. History says they will and so Henry’s move to Monaco may not be the dream one that everyone is expecting. For sure the next few months will be very interesting indeed for the former Arsenal great.

PSG’s Mbappe returns to action and breaks Ligue 1 record

mbappe4A couple of weeks back we reported about how Kylian Mbappe would serve a third match suspended following his sending off against Nimes last month, having previously hoped to get away with two matches on the sidelines. That suspension is now over of course, and this past weekend Mbappe lined up for his first home game since returning to the team with Lyon as the guests. The first half was a fairly run of the mill 45 minutes, with PSG going into the interval holding a 1-0 lead thanks to a first half penalty from Neymar. The second half, however, produced the type of football that fans in attendance could one day look back and say “I was there”. In just 13 second half minutes, Mbappe set the world alight once again – and made history while doing so.

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Thomas Meunièr: PSG’s marauding right-back

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iThe footballing world is like a maze which keeps throwing new dimensions and nuances for all those who love the game with all their heart. Just when you believe that you finally know it all and have mastered the game, there is something which the game throws up at you leaving you in a state of daze and confusion.

How many of you are familiar with the fact that one of the greatest legends of the game- Ian Wright almost opted to give up on the game at one stage in favour of a regular profession? That’s certainly accurate although it seems unbelievable in nature. Wright almost decided to become a plasterer at one stage before his heart reigned supreme over the min gifting the footballing world an absolute genius.

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