Neymar must prove himself versus Atalanta

neymar

Expectations are on Paris Saint-Germain to at least reach the final of this season’s Champions League following the restart.

The French champions are set to take on Atalanta in their single-legged quarter-final on Wednesday, to setup a semi-final with either Atletico Madrid or RB Leipzig.

Diego Simeone’s side have not been their usual selves this season, though they did go unbeaten in La Liga following the restart, albeit only winning three of their 11 games by more than one goa.

As for RB Leipzig, they face an uphill task to get past the Spaniards in the quarter-finals, let alone PSG or Atalanta, solely because of the sale of Timo Werner to Chelsea following the end of the 2019-20 Bundesilga campaign.

The German hotshot had been responsible for 28 of their 81 league goals this past season and four of their 14 in the Champions League.

PSG’s first task though is to overcome an Atalanta side who themselves went their first 12 games unbeaten following the restart, winning nine, and finishing third to qualify for next season’s competition too.

The Italian side also kept four clean sheets during that run, a marked improvement to the first part of the season, also beating both Lazio and Napoli, and drawing 2-2 with champions Juventus, who relied on two penalties for their equalisers.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s are set to be without star midfielder Josip Ilicic due to depression though, but Paris Saint-Germain themselves don’t have a full bill of health.

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Will PSG progress past Atalanta?

The 2019-20 Champions League quarter-finals take place this week, kicking off with Atalanta against Paris Saint-Germain at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

With the remainder of the competition take place in a single-legged, World Cup-style format, the trophy is anyone’s from this stage. And the much-anticipated match between the French champions and entertaining Italians is between two teams who have never won the competition before.

Six of the remaining eight sides have never won the Champions League in its current format or its previous, the European Cup. The only two remaining teams that have, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, meet each other in the quarter-finals on Friday.

The winner of that tie will meet either Manchester City or Lyon in the semi-finals, whilst PSG could meet either Atletico Madrid or RB Leipzig in the semi-final if they get past Atalanta.

Thomas Tuchel’s side head into the match as the bookmakers’ favourites but many see an update on the cards in this one with the form of the Serie A side after the restart – winning nine of their 13 league games to finish third. They held champions Juventus to a 2-2 draw and recorded victories over Lazio and Napoli.

The Bergamo club reached the knockout stages of the Champions League despite picking up just one point from their first four group stage games, winning 3-0 away to Shakhtar Donetsk in their final game to leapfrog the Ukrainian Premier League side into second spot.

Atalanta then beat Valencia 8-4 in a thrilling Round of 16 tie before the disruption.

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Ronaldo wanted PSG move

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo was unhappy in Italy and wanted a move to Paris Saint-Germain prior to the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 35-year-old is only in his second season in Turin following his €100 million move from Real Madrid but reports today have come out saying that the Portuguese superstar wanted a move to PSG this summer.

Ronaldo’s global brand alone would have been a huge attraction for the French champions, and partnering him with the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in attack would have immediately put Thomas Tuchel’s side among the favourites to win the Champions League.

PSG could still accomplish that this season even without the five-time winner, as they are set to face Atalanta in the single-legged quarter-finals next week.

Despite their riches and domestic dominance over the past eight years, the Parisians are still to progress past the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite club cup competition this millennium. In fact, the only time they have accomplished this in their history was in 1994-95, when they were beaten 3-0 on aggregate by AC Milan in the semi-finals. Their sole European trophy to date came the following season when they beat Rapid Vienna in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored 31 goals in 33 Serie A appearances this past season, 12 of those coming from the penalty spot, as he helped Juventus win their ninth consecutive Scudetto. Maurizio Sarri’s side too remain in the Champions League, but they are looking to overturn a 0-1 deficit against Lyon in their Round of 16 second leg on Friday. However, Ronaldo has not tasted Coppa Italia success, with Juventus having previously won the domestic cup for each of the four seasons prior to his arrival.

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Ligue 1 to allow 5 substitutes in 2020/21

Clubs in France’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 will be allowed to make up to five substitutes per match for the 2020/21 campaign, the French League (LFP) confirmed on Friday.

 

This follows a string of top European leagues to have already made the announcement, after successes in the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and German Bundesliga among others following the restarts of their divisions this summer.

The additional substitution allowance was due to fixture congestion, with most teams playing two games each week to get their domestic campaigns finished and in order for the Champions League and Europa League’s to resume later this month.

However, teams will only be allowed to make these changes during three occasions during play, as well as at the half-time interval. Teams from France’s top two divisions will also be allowed to name up to nine substitutes in their matchday squads, compared to seven previously.

France cancelled their 20192/0 season indefinitely and awarded runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain the title on a points per game basis. The new season is set to start on Saturday 22 August, the day before the Champions League final, which PSG themselves could be involved in.

PSG are set to face Atalanta in the quarter-finals of the competition over in Lisbon Portugal on Wednesday 12 August.

 

How does this effect fantasy football?

This news, although no different from the other top European leagues, will likely make a huge difference in the 2020/21 fantasy football season.

Managers across the top divisions were able to rest their star players early in the second half after gaining a big lead, and essentially rest half of their outfield players with 20 or so minutes remaining at times.

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Could Icardi’s permanent PSG move mean Neymar is leaving for Barcelona?

It was to no one’s surprise that French league champions PSG decided to sign Mauro Icardi on a permanent deal in the last few days. Icardi will now join PSG as a full time member after the transfer went through for €50m. That looks like a bargain for PSG who before the Covid-19 pandemic were looking at €70m to get the players services.

Icardi has signed up to play in Paris until 2024 and the deal was a no-brainer given how the Italian had fared over the course of this season when brought in on loan. Icardi slipped right into the team and with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe missing chunks of games through injury Icardi stepped up and never looked out of the place in the team. In the league alone Icardi scored 12 goals from just 20 games and overall in all competitions he was able to find the back of the net 20 times from just 31 games. At only 27 Icardi has the best years of his football career ahead of him, and whilst this will be a loss to Inter it is a huge gain for PSG.

Though with the pandemic and football clubs losing millions over the last few months financially the deal to let Icardi leave the San Siro does make sense, and it is probably one that the Inter fans will be able to accept and understand.

As for PSG they now have 3 full time golden strikers in Icardi, Neymar and Mbappe but with them agreeing to take on Icardi full time the old story of Neymar leaving will surely rise once again. It does feel that Neymar’s return to Barcelona has been on the cards the very minute he signed a surprise deal at the time to join PSG which of course broke the transfer record and is still the highest at a reported €220m. That record looks like it will remain intact for some time after the pandemic has affected everyone from a financial standpoint.

Money is certainly a problem right now in football and huge transfers just don’t seem feasible. So if Neymar is to rejoin Barcelona one could suspect a few players swaps, a small ‘down payment’ fee and perhaps an initial loan deal back. At the end of the day PSG has the squad to win the next few French league titles and certainly next season will be the big odds on favourites, so in all honesty do they really need Neymar, who could well be dragging his feet next season?

Neymar has been brilliant for the club so far though has come up a little short in helping them in Europe and keeps getting niggling injuries. His departure would feel a little hollow looking at his achievements, but he has scored many goals and inspired so many extra points for the club, despite some of the circus that has surrounded him little can doubt his natural ability.

Whilst Ligue 1 ended early the Champions League has not and that is set to resume in August with PSG still in the competition- could Neymar take the club all the way and end his career at PSG on a high? That will be the question on everyone’s minds in Paris as it looks more and more inevitable that he will leave the club sooner rather than later.

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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

Ismaïla-Sarr(1)

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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