Ligue 1: Weekend Picks for Matchday 21

Cup competitions have dominated French football this month as they usually do in January but the league returns this weekend as Marseille will be trying to close the 8 point gap to PSG at the top. They will also be trying to fend off the threat from Rennes. The top 4 then is up for grabs still and the relegation battle, well take your pick from the bottom 8 teams. If anything Ligue 1 is a super close contest.

Below we pick the players who could make an impact at the weekend, based on form and also the teams that they will be up against, maybe you will fancy having some of them in your team?

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Steve Mandanda- Marseille

Steve Mandanda has conceded just 3 goals in the last 5 Marseille games and the club will be at home to Angers at the weekend where they will start as the favourites. Mandanda has 33 points and has 7 clean sheets so far, he is valued at 8.5m.

Defender: Hiroki Sakai- Marseille

Hiroki Sakai has been in brilliant defensive form for Marseille who should get all three points at the weekend when they play Angers. Sakai has been involved in games where he has kept 6 clean sheets. He has 21 points and is valued at 7.5m.

Defender: Joris Gnagnon- Rennes

Joris Gnagnon has 21 points and Rennes have been very impressive lately in not conceding goals, just 2 in their last five games. On Friday night the club will play Nice away from home and on the road they have not conceded a goal for their last 3 matches. Gnagnon can be yours for 8m.

Defender: Damien Da Silva-Rennes

Da Silva alongside Gnagnon has built a very good partnership and the player has started 18 games for the club. With 33 points so far he is ranked as the best defender for his club. He has kept 7 clean sheets and can be bought for a bargain 5m.

Defender: Axel Disasi- Reims

Reims have a really good defensive record in the league and it is even better at home. The club have conceded just 5 goals all season and Axel Disasi has been involved in 10 clean sheets. He has earned 48 points and Reims will be at home this weekend against Metz who are in 17th place.

Midfielder: Yoann Court- Brest

Yoann Court has started 13 games and has acquired 32 points. He has been involved in 10 goals with 7 assists. Brest are at home to Amiens and they have a very solid record at home losing just one game this season and that was to PSG. Court could make an impression here and he is valued at 6m.

Midfielder: Aleksandr Golovin- Monaco

Golovin has scored 3 goals and been involved in a further 3 and has really spearheaded Monaco’s season which has been a massive improvement on the last one. He is always involved in attacks and Monaco will be the favourites and be at home against Strasbourg.

Midfielder: Jason Denayer-Lyon

Denayer has had 17 starts but has just 12 points. He has faced a few problems this season and can be bought for just 3.5m. He isn’t always picked so this could be a risk including him but Lyon are at home to the bottom side Toulouse and will be big favourites not just to beat them but to do it convincingly.

Midfielder: Xavier Chavalerin- Reims

Reims will be big favourites to score goals and win when they take on Metz at the weekend. Chavalerin has only scored 1 goal and assisted in one but he is due more and Metz could be the perfect opponent for him to impress. He can be bought for 6m.

Striker: Wissam Ben Yedder- Monaco

Ben Yedder has been brilliant since Monaco signed him, and he is the top goalscorer in Ligue 1 with 14 goals. Monaco will be at home to Strasbourg and who would bet against him scoring at the weekend? He is valued at 7m which is simply a bargain and he has 62 points so far.

Striker: Andy Delort- Montpellier

Andy Delort performed well in the Coupe de France and he scored 2 goals as Montpellier sailed into the round of 16, after beating Caen 5-0. Delort will have a ton of confidence coming into this game and could be a good pick. He has 27 points so far this season and can be brought in for 7m.

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Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Stephy Mavididi

With Ligue 1 taking a break last weekend it was back to the Coupe de France. There were not many shocks and most of the Ligue 1 sides that you would expect to go through to the last 16 did so. Although one of the stand out shocks was Pau FC beating Bordeaux 3-2.

Our player of the week though goes to a young Englishman who has started his trade in foreign waters. Stephy Mavididi is only 21 and has spent his time on loan at such diverse clubs like Charlton, Preston North End and Juventus. Whilst most of Mavididi’s career at the Italian giants was with the under 23s he did play one game for the senior side. He has been a player constantly on loan and now he is with Ligue 1 side Dijon. This past weekend Dijon were involved in the cup and played fellow Ligue 1 side Nimes. With two Ligue 1 teams clashing there was no guarantee that Dijon would advance.

However Nimes ended up being no match for Dijon even though the game was only 1-0 to the hosts for the majority of the game. An incredible 4 goals though were scored in the last quarter of an hour and the match ended up with Dijon winning 5-0.

Mavididi was the central part of winning the game as the 21 year old scored not one but two goals. It would have given his confidence a massive boost. There were some other players who stood out this week such as Montpellier’s Andy Delort who also scored 2 goals, but Delort is more of a veteran of the game compared to Mavididi and it felt more impressive for the youngster to help his team reach the last 16.

So far Mavididi does not appear in the fantasy rankings being a last minute loan switch to the Ligue 1 side. He has only made 6 appearances for the club in the league so far and scored one goal. His best season remains for Juventus Under 23 side in the season 2018/19 when he managed 6 goals from 32 games.

It is clear that the player is still learning- he is no Kylian Mbappe for example. But what is interesting is all of the very different clubs he has played for so young into his career and that could well bode well for the future. Whilst some players can peak between 24-26 it could be true of him that he peaks a little later and shows the world’s game how good he can be into his 30s. For now Dijon will be happy that they have Mavididi on their books and they may just become the first club to believe in the player and sign him up on a permanent deal.

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Edinson Cavani’s exit at PSG must be handled with care and respect

Finally it has happened, one of football’s most open secrets is now confirmed; PSG striker Edinson Cavani wants to leave the club.

The Uruguayan told PSG sporting director Leonardo on the eve of the clubs Coupe de France game against Lorient, which PSG won 1-0, although Cavani could not play because of injury.

In truth Cavani has wanted out of PSG for a few seasons now and maybe we can mark the moment he wanted to leave when Neymar joined from Barcelona. It took only a few games for the two players to be at logger heads with one another when in one game Cavani infamously took the ball from Neymar’s hands when PSG were awarded a penalty. After the incident the players played it all down, but really no one was fooled.

Before Neymar came, Cavani was the shark in the Paris waters, and then the Brazilian made the world record transfer fee. To add more insult to misery PSG also bought the brilliant Kylian Mbappe, and all of a sudden youth was taking over old. Because of recent set backs with injuries Cavani has gone down the pecking order with manager Thomas Tuchel and has found it hard to reclaim his place.

The problem is that Cavani now must displace what is being quickly known as the ‘fantastic four’. That is Neymar, Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria. Cavani sees no way out and simply wants to leave the club now. At the end of the day Cavani had done fantastic for PSG and has scored 198 goals in all competitions from 292 games. He is just two goals away from the magic 200. But if he gets his wish and is sold before the window on January 31st then he won’t make it.

At 32 Cavani still has another good couple of seasons in him if he stays fit and the rumours are that Atletico Madrid want him. Frank Lampard at Chelsea has also shown interest. Perhaps though Cavani’s future lies at Manchester United who have just lost the services of striker Marcus Rashford for at least the next two months.

What PSG do not want is Cavani’s inevitable exit to end with a bad taste in the mouth, after all the player should go down as a legend with the club having spent 7 seasons with the club. No body wants this to drag on and start to become controversial and it seems clear that the best result here would be to let Cavani leave the club. PSG do not need him now with the embarrassment of riches they have up front.

The question remains what will be Cavani’s next adventure and where will it take him?

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Nantes owner Waldemar Kita determined to make a big splash despite problems off the field

Nantes have been a staple team in Ligue 1 for many years and apart from the odd speedbump with relegation to Ligue 2, Nantes are a respected team who always try and aim for a European spot.

This season has seen the club perform their best consistently in a few seasons and by the half way point they are in 4th place and heading for a Europa League finish. Indeed they are just four points behind Rennes in 3rd and that position would lead to playing in the Champions League qualifiers. It has been over 20 years now since Nantes last appeared in the elite competition.

Nantes want back in the big time, that much is clear and they may just succeed under club owner Waldemar Kita. The Polish multi millionaire bought the club in 2007 and seven years later France Football named him as the best executive in French football. But it hasn’t always been an easy ride for Kita.

Last year he was accused of fraud and some reports suggested that he tried to push Emiliano Sala out of the club when the player tragically died in a plane crash on his way to his new club Cardiff. It has got to the point where banners have gone up by fans wanting Kita out of the club and in the summer he rejected a 60m euro deal to sell the club. That would have meant a 50m profit for Kita, but sources suggest that if he does sell he would hold out for 100m euros.

So Kita has had his troubles, but he also has a vision. One that was rejected by Nantes council last year. His major plan was to build a new stadium where Nantes play. The project had been dubbed Yello Park and would have seen at least 200m euros pumped into the project or the same amount that PSG paid Barcelona for Neymar.

A few months back Kita said in a press statement: “The future stadium is important to football fans in Nantes. Beyond our personal commitments for this project, this stage will be, for the decades to come and for the benefit of several generations, in the continuity of more than half a century of Nantes’ love for football. Nantes and its supporters deserve this ambition and this vision of the future.”

Kita may have his detractors, being the city of Nantes and some fans, but he does have a vision for the club and future projects, and that seems like a positive step. But how bad do Nantes want this change? New stadiums don’t mean success just extra revenue, which in a perfect circle can lead to success.

The future is unwritten at Nantes but there is a scent of hope that the club can return back to their glory days.

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Ligue 1 Player of the Weekend: Gaetan Charbonnier

It’s very possible you haven’t heard much about the Ligue 1 player of the weekend Gaetan Charbonnier. The striker was in impressive form as his club Brest destroyed bottom of the table Toulouse this past weekend by 5 goals to 2.

Charbonnier who is 31 has been in spectacular form since joining Brest. When the team played Toulouse in their last game it was seen as a tough game given that this was an away match and even though Toulouse have been very poor this season this was supposed to be quite a test for Brest who themselves had fallen down the table into the bottom half and hadn’t won for the last 3 games.

Charbonnier went on to score 2 goals in the game and assist in the fifth and final goal. Indeed it was his goals number 2 and 3 which ended up settling the game in his teams favour. His 2nd goal was the pick of the bunch. A great build up play between players and then a direct cross led to Charbonnier turning brightly and slotting home, the goal was like a pin ball strike and it killed the game off for Toulouse.

It hasn’t been an easy season for the striker who despite starting 17 games has only scored 3 goals this season, with 2 coming just last weekend. Though he has assisted in a further five goals.

The Brest striker is valued at 5m and earned 10 points this weekend beating off competition from PSG’s star striker Neymar and he has a total of 15 points so far. He has been booked 3 times and so far has no red cards to his name. Charbonnier will be hoping that the game against Toulouse opens up more opportunities for him in front of goal, and whilst he has had a poor first half of the season by his standards, the second half could be completely different. He is certainly great value at 5m if his form was to change after his man of the match performance.

Last season Charbonnier scored 27 goals, his best tally in Ligue 1 football and that is why this season has felt underwhelming. His best days are with Brest no doubt where he has become a prolific scorer but at this time his career will be remembered for playing well over 100 games with Stade Reims.

It could be worth adding Charbonnier to your team. Brest will have the objective to move back up the table and try to finish in the top half of the table after scoring 5 goals in one game, Brest and Charbonnier are pointing in the right direction.

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PSG slip up, Marseille take steps forward and Lyon show their strengths

PSG rarely drop points at home, before the Monaco game at the weekend they had dropped 3 points since the beginning of the season, a surprise loss against Reims. They also love playing Monaco where they had scored 14 goals in their last 3 league meetings. But on Sunday evening there would be similar stories and different ones.

Similar in the fact that the goals still came from PSG, add another 3, to the increasing tally they have converted against Monaco. When PSG score 3 goals at home you don’t even think at that point that the away team got anything from the game. Wrong. Monaco scored 3 too in a game that ended 3-3. It has already been voted in France as the game of the season so far, and it was nice to see what many people consider PSG’s real rivals, at least of the past decade go toe to toe with them and not just curl up and give up like they have the past two seasons.

A lot of credit has to be given to new Monaco coach Robert Moreno, the Spaniard admitted that he had set up his team to attack. Striker Wissam Ben Yedder scored one of their goals and the former Sevilla man has been in brilliant form. Neymar scored 2 of PSG’s goals and he is turning out to be having quite a successful season despite his off the field problems at the beginning of the season and the fact he has missed two periods out with injuries.

The result left PSG with 46 points, five ahead of Marseille but PSG have a game in hand. That match is being played tomorrow against ironically Monaco at Stade Louis II.

Marseille will be looking for their first title in a decade and it would be a special one to usurp PSG. But L’OM did record a vital victory over the weekend beating 3rd placed Rennes, who could have reeled them in. Instead Marseille have gone 8 points clear of them through the only goal of the game scored by Kevin Strootman.

Nantes beat Saint Etienne 2-0 as they continue to fall but Nantes have bounced back from defeat in their last game before this one to record 3 wins from their past five games, a Europa League place looks on for the club.

Lille have lost two games in a row after an away defeat against Dijon. Lille’s away form is very poor and it is only their home results that mean that they are 5th in the league. Gaeten Laborde scored again for Montpellier as they beat Amiens 2-1, and the striker is in great form having scored 3 goals in his past two games and helped his side climb up to 6th place.

Lyon like Montpellier may just have found form at the right time in what has been a troubled season for them. They overcame Bordeaux 2-1 with goals from Maxwell Cornet and Moussa Dembele and have gone their last two games unbeaten. And despite Monaco’s heroics they actually dropped a place to 8th, but form is very good for the club who have collected 20 points from their last 30, only goal difference separates them from 9th place Angers though.

The league is tight and there is still plenty to play for, the surprise is that the title is not PSG’s yet and that can only be good for French football.

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Dijon and Lille both have players sent off as game turns ugly

There was certainly all manners of controversy in the Ligue 1 game against Dijon and Lille at the weekend when things really turned nasty as both teams ended up with 10 players each and it could have been much worse.

Indeed the amount of fouls, bookings and the two red cards felt like it overshadowed a game in which Dijon surprised their hosts and won 1-0.

Hamza Mendyl from Dijon set the tone of the game for roughing up his opponent with a terrible foul and the referee saw no option but to give the player a straight red card. This happened as early as the 11th minute and Mendyl at that point seemed like he would lose the game for Dijon as he went off.

With 20 minutes to go though Lille could not find the extra man advantage and then had one of their players sent off as Boubakary Soumare was booked twice and shown the red card for tripping.

The only goal of the game came just after the second half got under way when Julio Tavares latched on to a ball and struck well. Tavares is underrated in Europe and he has scored some very important goals for the club although that was only his 4th of the season.

Christophe Galtier the Lille manager said: “I’m mad. Once again, we lose against a team . Dijon wanted more, Dijon put the desire, the determination that we missed. We played the long ball at eleven against ten, without taking advantage of it, and we conceded a goal on a long touch, two minutes after the start of the second period. It is a problem of concentration, of investment. We also lack determination in the offensive field. We have goals in us but if we continue to lose so often away against teams that play defence, it will be difficult to reach them. The team has qualities, but it lacks character.”

Stephane Jobard was obviously the happier of the two coaches in a very heated match. “We made a good start, but the expulsion of Hamza Mendyl after twenty minutes changed things. We suffered, but the team was very selfless, and they managed to score and keep their advantage. We could have scored a second goal, the match could have turned to the advantage of Lille at the end of the match. We wanted to start 2020 with a win.”

The result leaves Dijon in 16th place with 21 points and Lille are in 5th with 31 points but the latest defeat means they have slipped 10 points behind 2nd place Marseille.

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Ligue 1 Weekend player picks for Matchday 20

It is time to study the form for all you Ligue 1 fantasy league players out there. The following in a formation of 4-4-2 will take a look at which players in Ligue 1 could perform and earn you extra points if you bring them into your team. This is all based on current form and the teams fixtures giving your players perhaps an extra edge to get those points in.

Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy- Rennes

Edouard Mendy has been great between the sticks for Rennes of late. So great the goalkeeper has let in just 2 goals in the last five games. He has accumalated 28 points so far and would cost 8m, which looks a steal given the form he is in. Rennes are playing Marseille but they are in great form and they need to win the game to close the gap on them.

Defender: Yunis Abdelhamid- Reims

Yunis Abdelhamid is in terrific form and he is a big reason that Reims have had such an excellent defence this season. He was the hero for the club in the Coupe de la Ligue in midweek scoring the deciding penalty shoot out. He is currently ranked as the 2nd best defender in the league with 52 points and is only 6m. Reims are away to Nimes.

Defender: Axel Disasi- Reims

Keeping with Reims we have picked Axel Disasi who has formed a great partnership with Abdelhamid in defence. Reims have conceded just 6 goals in their past 10 games and these players will be picking up points for you with so many clean sheets. He is only 5m to bring in.

Defender: Kenny Tete- Lyon

Kenny Tete might be carrying a minor knock but is being tipped to play at the weekend. The youngster has only earned 19 points this season however that is good enough to make him Lyon’s best defender points wise and he would cost 6.5m. Overall Lyon has shored up at the back only conceding 4 goals in their last five games.

Defender: John Boye- Metz

John Boye doesn’t have many points at all with just 6, but that is the nature of being a defender for 17th placed Metz who are going to concede many goals. However the club need to push on and they will be playing Strasbourg at the weekend. Metz have a very good record at home to them and also Strasbourg had to play in midweek in the cup whilst Metz could rest, could a clean sheet be on the cards? Boye is valued at 3.5m.

Midfielder: Florent Mollet- Montpellier

Florent Mollet has had an excellent season so far and already has 30 points. He scored in Montpellier’s last game and has 5 goals this season and two assists. He gets himself involved and could be a good buy for 7m. Montpellier are away to lowly Amiens.

Midfielder: Angel Di Maria- PSG

It might be too obvious to pick out a PSG player but bear with us. Di Maria is on great form and has 57 points. He is 9m which seems like a fair price for a PSG player and PSG are at home to Monaco this weekend. Usually PSG score for fun and create many chances against them, so if you don’t have him in your team you might want to consider it.

Midfielder: Morgan Sanson- Marseille

Morgan Sanson has been a big player for Marseille this season and they are in 2nd place in the league and on fine form. He is just 7m to bring in and has acquired 22 points already. The club has a hard game but probably an open one away to Rennes.

Midfielder: Pierrick Capelle- Angers

Angers are back in decent form and looked strong in the derby when they beat Nantes last time out. Capelle is 6m and has struggled at times but has 16 points and Angers could pick up something at home to Nice at the weekend.

Striker: Habib Diallo-Metz

We will go with Habib Diallo as one of our strikers, because Metz usually do very well at home to Strasbourg, plus the away side will be tired from having to play in midweek. Diallo has 10 goals and one assist already and could well add to that tally at the weekend. Diallo is valued at 7m and also has a very impressive 38 points.

Striker: Ludovic Ajorque- Strasbourg

It’s true that we have tipped Metz to give Strasbourg a hard time but that doesn’t mean that Strasbourg can’t score and their striker Ludovic Ajorque is quite a handful. He has scored 7 goals and assisted in 3 more so far this season and he has 31 points and is a massive bargain at just 4m.

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Reims owners looking for a bright future in Ligue 1 for France’s most historic team

It has been quite a decade for Reims, arguably the most historic side in Ligue 1. But their star went out after their glorious European cup runs of the 1950s and soon enough they were playing Ligue 2 football.

Finally Reims were promoted to Ligue 1 in the 2011/12 season, and even though they were relegated a few seasons after, they have bounced back and seem to be a staple team in France’s top tier.

This season has seen the club flirt with the top half of the table and currently they are in 6th place with 28 points. It would be incredibly emotional for the city and club and owners of course to play European football again. A Europa League place looks like it could be a reality, but of course the club would love to play Europe’s finest teams and that would mean reaching the Champions League.  The bad news is that they are 10 points from making that happen, the good news is that they are 5 points from making the Champions League qualifiers.

The club received great news this week as they qualified for the semi-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue after they beat Strasbourg in a penalty shoot out. The Coupe de la Ligue is the secondary cup competition in France and it will be the final time the cup will be played to reduce congested fixtures, vote was made last September. Winning the cup would be a route into Europe of course.

So how have Reims gone from Ligue 2 to possibly qualifying for European football next season? There has been something brewing at the club for quite some time. Take club president Jean-Pierre Caillot who has been been president for less than 10 years but has been involved in the infrastructure and sponsorship deals connecting the club since the early 1990s.

He was the one that helped hire current manager David Guion and again it is all about longevity. Guion joined the set up at Reims in 2012 managing the youth team, then the B team. When he took charge as caretaker manager in 2017 he did such an impressive job that he was kept on full time and Reims are now enjoying the fruit of their labour, having the best season they have had in a generation so far.

It is no wonder at the heart of Reims success has been in defence given that Guion was a defender in his playing days. Guion has siged a few key players with the help of the owner and one of those who has turned out to be outstanding is Yunis Abdelhamid, he is 2nd ranked in EFL fantasy points for Ligue 1 as a defender.

Reims have conceded just 10 goals this season, the best alongside PSG, and the club seem to be in the best ownership for an era.

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Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Arnaud Nordin

With Ligue 1 taking a break for a week it was time to concentrate on the cup matches. At the weekend in France the focus changed to the Coupe de France and in midweek the Coupe de la Ligue entered the quarter finals and that will be the final edition of that cup competition as it is being phased out to ease the amount of games on players.

But back to the Coupe de France where Saint Etienne has a famous history and they were playing a third tier side in FC Bastia-Borgo. Obviously Etienne were the massive odds on favourites to win and they duly obliged with a 3-0 victory that took place away from home.

The hero of the hour was Arnaud Nordin, the Saint Etienne midfielder rose to the challenge and scored 2 of his clubs three goals in a match where it could well have turned into a ‘banana skin’ for the club. The home side produced some good chances but Nordin’s goals ended up being the difference.

Saint Etienne have now moved into the round of 32 where they will play another away match this time to Paris FC and will again begin as the big favourites to get through to the last 16.

As for Nordin that match highlighted what has been an average season so far for the midfielder. He joined the club in 2015 but even last season was being loaned out to Nancy but his progress has improved well enough to make the first team again and at 21 he has plenty of time on his hands.

In the fantasy rankings he is the 4th best midfielder for Saint Etienne and he has 10 points so far 14 behind Romain Hamouma. He has been used more as a substitute this season where he has started 7 games but came off of the bench on 8 occasions. Whilst he hasn’t made any assists yet which is poor from his point of view he has scored a goal in the league and has been involved in the team when they have kept 4 clean sheets this season.

He has picked up 2 yellows and he can be included in your fantasy team for just 4m although you would have to bear in mind that he seems to start games from the bench more.

Nordin’s goals in the cup were crucial, they opened and closed the game and he could be one to include in your Ligue 1 fantasy team. After all those goals would have given him plenty of confidence. Saint Etienne play Nantes at home at the weekend, and returning to play in front of his home fans is another reason that could spur on the player.

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