Ligue 1: Fantasy Player Picks for Week 26

There are just 13 games to go until the end of the season and whilst PSG are cruising to another league title, Champions League and Europa League places are indeed up for grabs. Relegation will be contested too. We take a look below to see which players could well perform the best at the weekend.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy- Rennes

Rennes have conceded 7 goals in their last 10 games and that is the 2nd best record in Ligue 1. Mendy has been at the heart of this and Rennes will try and bounce back to winning ways and will be the favourites at home to Nimes at the weekend.

Defender: Damien Da Silva- Rennes

Da Silva has been strong at the back for Rennes and we are backing them to do well at home to Nimes. Da Silva has already been able to keep 8 clean sheets this season and is valued at just 5m which looks like a bargain.

Defender: Hamari Traore-Rennes

Another Rennes player but Traore has really built up a good chemistry with Da Silva and the two of them have been the difference in keeping 8 clean sheets this season for their club.

Defender: Alvaro- Marseille

Marseille did concede in their last game v Lille in a 2-1 win but Alvaro has been an important player and the club have a great defensive record of late. They are also returning back home to face Nantes and Alvaro has not only kept 8 clean sheets he can be brought in to your team for just 4.5m.

Defender: Jose Fonte- Lille

Everyone knows the quality of Lille, who rarely lose at home, and even though they did last weekend it was to 2nd placed Marseille. But they will be at home again this time to bottom club Toulouse and will be the big odds on favourites to win. Fonte has kept 8 clean sheets and has 22 points so far, he is valued at 7.5m and looks to be a great addition at least for this weekend.

Midfielder: Tiemoue Bakayoko- Monaco

Bakayoko has been brilliant in midfield as Monaco have found form and won their last 3 games and they play Dijon away where he could put in another good game. He has helped keep 5 clean sheets.

Midfielder: Steven N’Zonzi-Rennes

Steven N’Zonzi is coming back from injury so has next to no points, but he will have a point to prove to keep his midfielder’s position as Rennes return back home to play Nimes.

Midfielder: Dmitri Lienard- Strasbourg

Lienard has been good at scoring and creating goals for his position and has also helped keep 6 clean sheets. He can be a dangerous and gifted player and his club will be at home to Amiens where they will start as the favourites to win, could be a shrewd call to bring the player in.

Midfielder: Bouna Sarr- Marseille

Bouna Sarr has been impressive lately and Marseille will be at home to Nantes. Sarr can play in a more attacking midfield role, so there is hope that he will have plenty of opportunities.

Striker: Victor Osimhen- Lille

We have picked Osimhen on a few occasions and the reason is that the player is in great form for Lille. But at the weekend he will face off against Toulouse the poorest team in Ligue 1 so far. He will have great chances to add to his goals.

Striker: Ludovic Ajorque- Strasbourg

Strasbourg have got some form and will be expected to beat and score a few against Amiens at the weekend. Ajorque already has 8 goals and has assisted in a further four and would cost just 4m.

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PSG held in 4-4 thriller as Monaco make a move into the top 5

There was no doubt about it that the game of the weekend in Ligue 1 was between  PSG and Amiens. It was simply an incredible match that ended in a scoreline that nobody would have predicted: 4-4.

Of course PSG did rest some players namely Kylian Mbappe as Thomas Tuchel’s side have their crucial Champions League match to play against Borussia Dortmund in midweek. But even taking that into account it was an incredible start from Amiens who are in 19th place. The club went 3-0 up within 40 minutes and the home fans simply could not believe what they were witnessing. This was the same Amiens who had won just 3 games at home this season and scored just 13 before the game, now they had 3 in one match.

Serhou Guirassy opened the scoring after just five minutes to make Amiens intent very clear. Perhaps they had sniffed blood and realised that one eye for PSG would be on their Champions League game and that this was the perfect time to face the current French champions. Gael Kakuta made it 2-0 shortly afterwards and then Fousseni Diabate sent the stadium out of control with the third goal. How many teams come back from this situation and it seemed like the home fans were celebrating a rare victory over the mighty PSG who had lost just 3 games all season.

But this is still PSG, and even though some stars were rested they have an almighty talented team. Ander Herrera scored just before half time to make it 3-1 and there was a little self doubt at that point that had crept in.

In the 2nd half PSG dominated the game and Tanguy Kouassi broke home fans hearts with 2 goals in five minutes and now Amiens were hanging on from a cliff that they thought they had just conquered. With 16 minutes to go Mauro Icardi put PSG in the lead to make it 4-3 and PSG looked to have made one of the great comebacks and earn yet another three points. But there would be some joy for the home crowd when in the very final minute the man who had opened the scoring finished it and Guirassy scored his 2nd to send the stadium wild and the final score ended an incredible 4-4.

Amiens are 19th and 6 points from safety and it looks like the best the club can hope for would be the play-offs. But then again if they can put in consistent performances like they did at the weekend could they make one of the very special comebacks in Ligue 1 history themselves?

It was a very good weekend for 2nd placed Marseille who beat Lille 2-1 away from home, a very hard ground to go to. Not only did PSG drop points which means that Marseille have shortened the gap to 10 points but Rennes also lost which means they have an 11 point safety net and the club are almost guaranteed 2nd spot now which means automatic qualification for next seasons Champions League, job, almost achieved one would suspect.

Rennes lost at Reims 1-0 and the club have now gone their last 3 matches without a win, but they somehow stay in 3rd place with 41 points. With Lille losing too it means that Monaco have shortened the gap and they made  a big splash into 5th place after beating Montpellier 1-0. It was the club’s 3rd win in a row and Islam Slimani scored again. The pressure now looks off coach Robert Moreno and the club have climbed onto 38 points and are just three points from 3rd place. It has been quite a season for the club so far but it could end up on a positive note.

Strasbourg’s good form continued as they drew 1-1 away to Lyon to keep 7th place and Reims are back into the top 8 with a 1-0 win over Rennes. A penalty by El Toure settled the game.

European spots are still up for grabs in Ligue 1 and it is interesting to see how close the league has been this year. Marseille also will not give up on a league title even if it does seem unlikely, but if PSG keep progressing in the Champions League whose to say that they will lose some focus in the league? You never quite know in football.

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PSG fans must back up Neymar now after 2 goals in 2 games as PSG beat Lyon

Neymar the magician who is Brazilian did it again, didn’t he? After a summer where he has spoken negatively about his club PSG and wanting a move away to Barcelona, he has come straight back into the team and earned the club 6 points straight off the bat.

He is turning into an enigma someone that is hard to figure out. It is easy to throw negative criticism at him too. His lack of passion and loyalty seemed fairly evident, like a baby throwing out his toys he wanted out of one of the most successful teams in world football to play for another. His feelings were clear. One could think of the endless run of kids in and around Paris dreaming to play for the club and the youths who have been rejected at the final hurdle- the commitment, the passion and the loyalty. And then look over at Neymar who was playing with his career at the club and seemingly didn’t care.

But what Neymar has, which the other hopefuls don’t is sheer and utter quality. It is why he can want a move away with his career feeling like it is coming to an end in France and then come back and produce wonder goals, each time saving his club and winning the game.

A few weeks ago he scored an outrageous bicycle kick in injury time against Strasbourg with the tie at 0-0. And then this past weekend PSG travelled to a direct league rival in Lyon. Again the score tied at 0-0 before Neymar went on a mazy solo run and scored with the winner with just two minutes remaining.

Neymar is an unbelievable player and in a generation where Brazilian football has stalled on produced attacking greats, he is one of them and perhaps the only genuine one. The heir apparent to the likes of Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho before him.

The hardcore PSG fans known as the ultras put out a statement upon Neymar’s return that they won’t easily forgive the player, and to be fair it did seem understandable. But after these 2 games, that’s 2 return goals and more than that it is clear without the player that they would have drawn those games and had 4 less points as a result. That would mean PSG would have 11 points now and Angers would in fact be top, with PSG resigned down to 4th place and that is the reality of the situation.

It might be hard for the ultra fans or even regular PSG fans to admit this, but the team can’t afford to be without Neymar, he is simply that good a player.

 

 

Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Andy Delort

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It’s incredible to think that Andy Delort is only 27 years old when we see the amount of clubs he has played for. So far it stands at 9, with his career being made up of quite a few loan deals. Indeed his current club Montpellier started off as a loan before his move was made more permanent this past season.

Delort’s efforts means that he finished in the top 5 strikers in Ligue 1 and his value coming into the season was 7m, given that he produced 66 points the return seems worthwhile.

Whilst Montpellier did not make Europe the team played some very good football and had some wonderful spells during the season becoming difficult to beat at their home ground Stade de la Mosson.

Delort was an integral part of the team and played 36 times from 38 games he scored an impressive 14 goals and assisted in another 7. His disciplinary was good too as he received only four yellow cards for the whole season. Only six other players scored more goals than Delort in Ligue 1 and his overall striker ranking when we take into account all of the major European leagues would be 30th.

Even though Montpellier lost their first game of the season, at home to Dijon 2-1, Delort assisted in his teams goal and so he earned 2 points from his first game. He then went the  next 5 games earning no points at all as he couldn’t find the back of the net.

His form took an upswing at the end of September and throughout October where he scored points in each of his next five games. This included scoring a goal in everyone of those games and he quickly was taken into the hearts of the fans of the team.

His best moments of the season included scoring both goals as Montpellier drew 2-2 with Rennes and netting two goals as Montpellier beat Strasbourg 3-1, on each occasion he earned 8 points.

Form did tail off towards the end of the season and Delort’s last 4 games came with no points as the clubs European hopes faded fast.

Delort has experienced his best season of his career consistency wise. When we look at his past two seasons before this one he earned just 18 and 23 points respectively. Delort’s career has always looked like one that refuses to settle down and stay a few seasons at the same club, after this successful campaign one would think that Montpellier would do everything to keep the player on their books for next season and perhaps beyond.

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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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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers 2018/19: Edouard Mendy

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Edouard Mendy might not be a household name even in France but the goalkeeper who keeps command for Reims in Ligue 1 has, by his standards, had an interesting season after finally breaking through to first team football in the last couple of years.

Mendy had spent time in the lower national leagues of France and then was taken on for Marseille’s B team but at age 24 it seemed that Mendy’s career was in trouble, that is when Reims decided to take a chance on the shot stopper who hails from Normandy.

Mendy helped Reims win Ligue 2 and was rewarded when the team decided to keep him, mostly because of his chemistry with the back four. He has rewarded Reims by being statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the league this season.

In the fantasy rankings Mendy ranks as 4th finishing on 59 points and only 3 behind PSG’s goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Mendy would have cost 8m to add to your team. What has been terrific about Mendy’s season is he went the whole 9 months without missing a game in the league and played all 38. Though he conceded 42 goals he also kept  a highly impressive 14 clean sheets- that’s the 3rd best record in the league. He was booked 3 times which is easily the most from the top 10 keepers in the league.

Overall Mendy finished in 16th place if we take into account all goalkeepers in the major European leagues. So what went well for the goalkeeper during the season, and not so well?

Mendy started the season in terrific form picking up 14 points from his first two games as Reims beat Nice and Lyon and kept clean sheets on both occasions. However in his 3rd game Amiens shocked Reims by beating them 4-1 and that earned Mendy -6 points and this was repeated a further two times during the season. Less goals conceded would have seen Mendy easily finish in third place.

His best period was from the end of September until the beginning of December where from 5 games he scored points in four of them and walked away in that time frame with 28 points.

Mendy and Reims started to fall away from springtime after having a decent shout at finishing in an European place. His final 7 games were average indeed, this despite earning a couple of clean sheets those games earned him -3 points.

In the end Reims blew their European chance and finished in 8th place on 55 points and 11 points behind European qualification.

However Mendy proved himself in Ligue 1 and has really come up the ranks and it will be interesting to see next season if he continues to grow as a footballer after a tough start to his career.

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Daniel Bravo, BeIN Sports & 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 BeIN 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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How Reims went from Ligue 2 to Top 6 in Ligue 1

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The Stade Auguste Delaune houses one of the most famous and certainly historical team in France in Stade Reims, also known as Reims. This is the club that was made most famous by their 1950s team which included Raymond Kopa and a team that got to 2 European Cup finals only to lose to the infamous Alfredo di Stefano Real Madrid team.

Since then it hasn’t been easy for the club who were promoted back to Ligue 1 in over 30 years in 2012. They spent a few seasons in Ligue 1 before being relegated again and this season marks the clubs first back in 3 years. They won Ligue 2 and then started this campaign off very slowly before hitting their stride in October, surging into the top 10 and quite frankly they haven’t looked back. So what has been the secret for Reims who as the season draws to a close are in the top six teams in France?

Let’s start with the coach first and Reims have had too many coaches in the past decade so it was a surprise when youth team coach David Guion was finally given the job in 2017 when the club were in Ligue 2. Guion has been with Reims in some capacity since 2012, coaching the youth team, the B team then acting as caretaker manager and then taking the job full time two years ago.

He has oversaw a team this season back in Ligue 1 who have lost just 6 games this season and have lost just 1 game in their last 10 matches. which came in midweek against Strasbourg.

But Reims are in 6th place and just 3 points behind 4th and what would be an automatic qualification for next seasons Europa League- there is no doubt that the club have taken massive strides this season. Club ownership should be applauded for giving someone from within the club the job as manager as preferred to an outsider and the decision made so much sense given that Guion has been with the club for so long.

The big money for Reims at the beginning of the season was spent on Ghislain Konan a left back who came from Vitoria in Portugal for £3.6m. The attacking winger Arber Zeneli came for the same fee from Dutch side Heernnveen, and both have had to make their impacts known.

The majority of Guion’s buys though were centred on defence, be it the back four or holding midfielders and he has been able to correctly identify where Reims weakness would be entering Ligue 1 again, for that he should be applauded, plus a total expenditure of just under £14m for what amounts to bringing 8 new players in is very good business in this day and age.

Reims did take a £4m loss in the transfer market, but their buys last summer have been evidently beneficial and they have a game in hand in the league which could see them take 4th place if they can stay consistent. The dream for Champions League football is a little distant right now as they are 10 points from that milestone but at the same time if the club keep on this trajectory then they have every chance to realise that dream.

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Controversy in Ligue 1: Nantes manager Vahid Halilhodzic goes into meltdown after defeat to Lille

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Frustration would have been at the heart of it as Nantes manager Vahid Halilhodzic just can’t see a way that his side are going to keep on picking up points and get out of the mess that they are currently in.

Nantes latest defeat came in spectacular fashion at the weekend when they lost at home to 2nd placed Lille 3-2. It was a game that had plenty of twists and turns and excitement but also another game for Nantes and another loss and after it Halilhodzic was close to tears with frustration and kind of put his players through the wringer so to speak and did it through the press.

Halilhodzic in his press conference said: “Did we lose our nerve? I’m not sure, but you have to ask this question because it’s not the first time this has happened. It may be a psychological problem, maybe they’re afraid to win. It’s inexplicable, it’s really a total nightmare. Because I also think they played a good match! We worked so hard for this game and everything fell apart in seven minutes.”

The opposition manager Christophe Gaultier agreed that the game had been a crazy one but was obviously much more happier than Halilhodzic and commented: It was a crazy game, it must have been fun for the spectators. There were a lot of twists and suspense but the most important thing is that we won. At this time, only points are important. We had the wind at our backs and we have the same advantage (this is four points) over Lyon. We have to focus the players but without curbing their attacking instincts.”

This latest defeat has left a once proud Nantes side in 15th place. The good news is that they should be safe from relegation given that they are 8 points from the drop. Having said that there are still 24 points on the board. But Nantes have won just 1 game in their past five matches and have not tasted victory since beating Bordeaux at the end of February. This loss also means back to back defeats and their next game will be away to Toulouse.

We have seen in the Premier League for example what it means when a coach criticises his players through the media and it will be interesting to note if Nantes players will dig deep or not dig at all. The question will be have they just lost respect for their manager after his controversial comments?

Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Romain Hamouma

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Our player of the week in Ligue 1 football fantasy is Saint Etienne’s midfielder Romain Hamouma who picked up the most points from any players position as he earned 10 points this past weekend.

Saint Etienne climbed to fifth place as they beat Caen 5-0 away from home in an enthralling game of football which saw Hamouma open up the scoring with a superb finish. But the midfielder was not finished at that point when he assisted in the next two goals to give his side a 3-0 lead. Soon afterwards he was substituted but was applauded from the bench and the bigger surprise was that he was even applauded by the home supporters, the Caen fans knew that they had seen a special performance as it was clear that he had had his best game of the season for the club.

Let’s look at Hamouma’s performance in the Ligue 1 Fantasy Football rankings. This season he has played 19 times, though he hasn’t always started as a regular for the club and has come off from the bench 7 times. He has scored 3 goals this season and the two assists he made at the weekend was his first of the season.

Hamouma has an overall points tally of 21 and would be ranked as 38th in the midfielder rankings. Whilst that is low down it might be worth considering taking Hamouma on for your side given that he has found some real form and the fact that his club are in a great position to challenge for a good finish and a possible European place.

If you want to buy Hamouma he is available at 6.5m. What we have to consider is the player’s performance which his manager Jean-Louis Gasset was highly impressed with, it’s why Hamouma should see more games as a starter than from the bench. After the game Gasset said, “We needed to win again after Marseille and Lille where we had been found wanting. We dominated the game, we started really well. We were clinical at the back and up front. It went perfectly. We were disciplined against a side that is full of doubt.”

Hamouma has been at Saint Etienne since 2012 and has played over 150 games for the club and this season could finish in a European one for a player that has also scored 28 times for the club.

As far as the rankings go Hamouma who used to play for Caen only needs 7 more points to move into the top 25 rankings and could still make a real impact on the rankings.

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