Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Alphonse Areola

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At the start of the season PSG’s number 1 goalkeeper Alphonse Areola would have taken a look around and gulped nervously a little when he saw that his club had just brought in Gianluigi Buffon from Juventus. While Buffon was 40 years old he is still regarded as a goalkeeping legend and as it turned out Areola had every right to be worried.

True Areola started the majority of games in the league for PSG but only just. Areola played 21 games to Buffon’s 17. Still the return was very good from Areola who produced 11 clean sheets from his 21 played.

In terms of a successful season, it can’t get much better as PSG won the league with ease, and in theory started to wrap up the title by the Christmas period. They finished on 91 points a cool 16 points in front of Lille and it would have been much more had the team not faltered towards the end once the league was wrapped up.

Areola’s value coming into this season was 6.5m and he finished 3rd in the European Fantasy League rankings for Ligue 1 goalkeepers, 29 points behind Nice’s Walter Benitez. Areola finished on 62 points and conceded 17 goals, his disciplinary was excellent with just 1 yellow card all season.

Areola did not start scoring points until his 3rd game of the season because PSG even though they won his first two games they kept conceding. His fortunes swiftly changed though and he went on a 5 game run without conceding a goal starting against Saint Etienne in mid September and running through until mid November. He earned a huge 35 points in that period where the bulk of his total points came from.

His worst game of the season was when PSG needed just 1 more win to secure the Ligue 1 title. Of course because of their massive lead in the league it was only a matter of time but it simply wasn’t coming. PSG had to play 2nd placed Lille away and Lille were up for a game that PSG didn’t really need to win, in the end and with full credit to Lille they inflicted PSG’s biggest loss of the season beating the champions 5-1. This in turn meant that Areola record -8 points for the game.

Just under 30% of his games ended where he didn’t score a point and his last game was the penultimate match of the season against Dijon where PSG ran out 4-0 winners and for that he got 7 points. He did not play in PSG’s final game of the season against Reims where Buffon was chosen instead, in a game that PSG eventually lost.

In the 2017/18 season Areola scored 103 points so this is a comedown for the goalkeeper although he will argue and rightly so that he wasn’t given enough games to prove his worth. Next season will be interesting. Will PSG stay with him in goal as their number 1 or will they opt to invest in another player?

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers In 2018/19: Nicolas Pepe

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You only have to look at the latest transfer stories to see that Nicolas Pepe is heading the way in terms of young brilliant players being linked to some of the biggest clubs in the world, and this should sum up the season Pepe has just had for Lille.

Pepe starred up front in a season that saw Lille finish in 2nd place to PSG and qualify automatically for next seasons Champions League.

Only two strikers in Ligue 1 were able to achieve 100 points in European Fantasy League, Kylian Mbappe and Pepe. Pepe scored 22 goals and assisted in another 11 meaning that he was involved in 33 goals for Lille this season out of their total of 68 goals, that’s almost 50%.

Pepe is 24 and did not show the promise of a player like Mbappe early on but his move to Lille in 2017 meant that he got to work with coach Christophe Galtier who also joined the club then and the two of them have connected in a way where Pepe respects Galtier and Galtier can see where Pepe’s game needed to be improved. Think of when Arsene Wenger converted Thierry Henry from a winger to a centre forward- and the rest is history.

Pepe started the season by scoring a goal and making an assist as Lille won their first game of the campaign 3-1 against Rennes. His best points tally came in September when Lille beat Amiens 3-2 away from home and he scored a hat-trick which also earned him 2 bonus points and he collected 14 points from one game.

Between early February and early March Pepe scored zero points from 4 games and it is evident that the one problem with his season is that the second half was not as strong as the first. From his last 15 games he only scored points in 5 of those, still because of a strong start that was good enough to amass 109 points for the season.

Pepe made a huge impact this season and finished in 5th place for strikers in the major league which is a massive improvement on previous years. Take the season before where Pepe finished on 55 points scoring 13 goals. He has managed 9 more this season and the sky looks the limit for a player who some would have thought missed the boat in his early years.

Pepe started the season with a value of 8m if you wanted him for your team. Whether the future lies with Lille or elsewhere his value is sure to go up next season. The good news is with Lille in the Champions League which is a rare sight for the club Pepe may just be tempted to stay with them.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Mike Maignan

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What has been PSG’s loss has been Lille’s gain and if anything is to be said of this season it’s that Mike Maignan has a bright future ahead of him.

The 23 year old from French Guiana has been superb this season and at one point it looked like he would be PSG’s number 1 goalkeeper. Coming up through their ranks he was instead overlooked as PSG spent big money dispensing with youth and Lille took the player under their wings, first in the B team and now the senior. He has been Lille’s first choice goalkeeper for the last 3 seasons, but has really broken through in the last two.

In the Ligue 1 football fantasy rankings Maignan finished in 2nd place with 84 points and just 7 shy of first place held by Walter Benitez. His value for this season was just 5m and that is sure to rise for the beginning of next season.

Lille of course had a successful season and while they did not win any trophies they finished 2nd and runner up to PSG which was no mean feat with Lyon chasing them until the final weeks of the season. In Ligue 1 only the first two places are guaranteed a Champions League group stage place with 3rd having to play in a qualifying round, so it was important for Lille to finish 2nd and now they have automatically qualified for Europe’s greatest prize.

Maignan was a huge part of this Lille side as he kept an impressive 15 clean sheets during the season. His overall ranking with all players would be 44th but his overall ranking with all goalkeepers in the major leagues would be an impressive 8th, that’s great going for such a young goalkeeper.

Maignan had many good highlights of the season, gaining what has become the maximum points for a goalkeeper unless they score a goal by achieving 7 points. One of his best periods was the final 16 games of the season when Lille and Lyon were battling each other in a Champions League run in that saw Maignan keep 9 clean sheets from the last 16 games.

With Maignan in such great form towards the end of the season it was ironic that on the very final game he earned the least points of his entire season as Lille lost 3-1 to Rennes and he ended up with -4 points.

It wasn’t all easy going for Maignan whose worst month was January when he earned 0 points but he was able to bounce back and in the end Walter Benitez and Mike Maignan were head and shoulders above any other goalkeeper in Ligue 1.

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Top Ligue 1 Defenders in 2018/19: Jose Fonte

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When we think of some of the best defenders in Ligue 1, we may think of the likes of Dani Alves at champions PSG or his team mate Marquinhos who have already underlined their status as great tacklers of the game in the modern era. But neither of those players came out on top in the Fantasy Football rankings in Ligue 1- that honour went to a Lille player by the name of Jose Fonte.

Fonte is not young at 35 but has had a superb season with Lille who ended up finishing runners up to inevitable champions PSG this season. Fonte has been around and played for no less than 11 different teams, having spells in his native Portugal and playing for clubs such as Benfica, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Ham.

Fonte moved to Lille last summer and coming out on top as the best defender in France is no mean feat in his debut year. Fonte scored 3 goals for the club this season and assisted in 1 goal but Fonte was never bought to be scoring goals and he has proved over this year his qualities as a defender in his preferred position as a centre back. This has included helping to keep 15 clean sheets as Lille won 22 of their 38 games.

If he was in your team then you certainly reaped the awards of only having to pay 7.5m for his services and he has turned out to be a fantastic bargain. Even by sole position in major leagues for defenders he would rank 16th so his purchase was good value for money.

Fonte had already earned 9 points within the first two weeks when Lille drew 0-0 against Monaco and then beat Guingamp 3-0. Indeed in Lille’s first 7 games of the season Fonte managed to help his side keep five clean sheets.

The defender’s best point of the season came in matchday 5 when Lille beat Nantes 2-1, he scored a rare goal but also assisted in another to gain 6 points. What was interesting about Fonte’s points this season is that he never had one major outstanding points total instead it was garnered bit by bit and what that showed was consistency. Fonte finished the season with a total points haul of 73 beating second placed Malang Sarr of Nice by 3 points. Only 3 defenders ended the Ligue 1 season with 70 or more points which underlines his achievements this season.

Fonte signed a 2 year contract and with Lille making the Champions League for next season he is sure to be in the amongst the back four come the start of the season. The question will be if the player the wrong side of 30 can have another solid season, for now the Portuguese seems like a massive asset for the club.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Walter Benitez

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Nice may have finished 7th and a huge 35 points adrift of champions PSG but they still had the best goalkeeper statistically in the league in 26 year old Walter Benitez. The Argentinian is still very much unknown so much so that he has never played for the senior national side and if you go to his Wikipedia page you get the following: ‘Walter Daniel Benítez is an Argentine footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Nice’. That is all the information on the world’s leading encyclopaedia on the internet.

And yet Benitez has been outstanding for Nice this season who just missed out on a European spot under coach Patrick Vieira who is in his debut season with the club in Ligue 1.

Benitez finished top of the Fantasy Football rankings in Ligue 1 with 91 points, 7 more than Mike Maignan of Lille and interestingly 29 points more than PSG’s Alphonse Areola. Benitez kept 16 clean sheets the most for any goalkeeper in Ligue 1 and had a superb period in the season which we must talk about.

It started against Amiens in November when Nice beat them 1-0, and it was to be a superb run of games for Benitez where he went the next 5 games without conceding one goal. It was at this time that the 26 year old started to garner attention from other teams and then other leagues including the Premier League. It is true to say that Benitez’s performances this season are like a catch 22 for a club like Nice. Good in the fact that he has undoubtedly won the club many points 10-15 at least but at the same time bad in the fact that they will almost certainly have to sell him at one point and that could be as early as this summer.

Overall Benitez ranks as the 6th best goalkeeper in Europe’s major leagues this past season. If you had Benitez in your fantasy team then you would have picked up a bargain as he is just 6.5m. He is sure to rise next season. There is little doubt that he is arguably one of the most underrated goalkeepers playing in Europe today.

Benitez has impressed Vieira and has been one of the real breakthrough talents in Ligue 1 even with his age in consideration. His benefit is that in his position he can be a goalkeeper easily for another 10 years.

Surely after this season and being ranked No.1. in the Ligue 1 Fantasy Football rankings he will get his break to be the number 1 choice for the Argentina national team. He recently said that getting the chance would be like touching the sky, but surely that will simply be the beginning for him, the sky in his case will not be the limit.

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Ligue 1: Week 38: Player Picks for the Weekend

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Almost everything has been settled in Ligue 1, we know the champions, the teams who will participate in the Champions League and Europa League. The only real football up for debate is who will be the final team to be relegated and/or have to play in a play-off with a Ligue 2 side, which is what the team finishing in 18th place will have to do.

That battle is between Caen and Amiens, and Amiens has a 2 point advantage over Caen. Monaco could still finish in the bottom three but that looks very distant and they should be safe, however they will have a tough final game as it is the derby v Nice.

Below we pick out 11 players in a formation of 4-4-2 who could pick up points at the weekend in the final games of the Ligue 1 season.

Goalkeeper: Brice Samba-Caen

Brice Samba has kept 3 clean sheets in the past five games for Caen who need to beat Bordeaux to have a chance to stay up. Bordeaux have been very poor and Caen are at home. Samba is only 3m to buy which is fantastic value.

Defender: Alexander Djiku- Caen

Staying with Caen Djiku has played the most games for the club in defence and even though he has a poor points tally, and the club let in 4 goals v Lyon in their last game. It is this one that counts. Caen will be favourites to beat Bordeaux and Djiku could keep another clean sheet. He is valued at 7m.

Defender: Diego Carlos- Nantes

Diego Carlos has been Nantes best defender stats wise and has 23 points. He is valued at 6m. Nantes will play their last game of the season at home and they will host Strasbourg, for us this is a home win and Nantes also have a good chance to keep a clean sheet.

Defender: Mathieu Debuchy- Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne celebrated Europa League qualification as they sealed fourth place last weekend. They will play Angers away and this could be a low scoring game or at least a win for the away side. Debuchy could pick up points for a clean sheet, but he also likes to come forward for the Verts and scores too. He can be bought for 7.5m.

Defender: Wesley Lautoa- Dijon

Dijon are still not down and if they win at the weekend and Caen do not get the right result they could finish 18th and have the play off. Dijon have conceded goals lately but they will play Toulouse at the weekend a side who are in general poor. Plus Lautoa costs just 3m and this could be a steal.

Midfielder: Remi Oudin- Reims

Reims will play PSG and they will be the underdogs to win. But at the same time Reims have been able to surprise them in recent years and will want to give a good performance with their final home game of the season. Oudin has scored 10 goals which makes him a dangerous player and he is valued at 10m.

Midfielder: Florian Thauvin- Marseille

Florian Thauvin is one of the best players in the league and he loves to get forward and score goals. He won the player of the weekend this past weekend. But he has just 4 goals in 2019, he will be determined to add more like he was in the last game when he scored a brace. Thauvin has 89 points and would cost 11m.

Midfielder: Valentin Rongier- Nantes

Rongier has had a great second half to the season much like his club Nantes. They play at home against Strasbourg and will be the favourites to win the match. Rongier has scored 4 goals and assisted in 5 so there is points in him and he is valued at 4.5m.

Midfielder: Jordan Ferri- Nimes

Picking Jordan Ferri is all about value and he is just 3m to bring into your team. Yes Nimes will play Lyon at the weekend but they will be at home and Lyon will feel more relaxed given that they have secured 3rd place. Nimes have played some good football and have goals in them.

Striker: M’baye Niang- Rennes

Rennes will be at home in their final game and will play on form Lille. But this pick is based on scoring goals and Niang will be a constant threat. He has scored 9 goals and assisted in another four and he could be a shrewd pick at just 4.5m.

Striker: Gaetan Laborde- Montpellier

Gaetan Laborde has had a decent season and while Montpellier will be away to Marseille this is a game where anything can happen and we expect to see lots of chances and goals for both sides. Laborde has every chance to get on the end of something and he is valued at 5m, he has scored 11 goals this season.

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Top 4 all win in Ligue 1 as relegation battle boils down to Caen and Amiens

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That was more like it from PSG who have been a shadow of themselves since winning the league in April. They beat Dijon 4-0 which included a brace from Kylian Mbappe who ends the season as top goal scorer. Perhaps the real story was that PSG were 2-0 up within the first ten minutes and Edinson Cavani scored. It looks increasingly likely that Cavani will leave the club in the summer and if so, then this is his last match in Paris. He crowned it well.

Neymar was missing as he has been suspended for the last 2 games of the season and of course there is speculation that he will not be at PSG next season. Lille finally confirmed 2nd place and the runners-up spot with a fantastic 5-0 win over Angers and yet again Nicolas Pepe starred for the team and scored a couple of goals. Like others Pepe’s name is now being talked about, could he make a Premier League move next season?

Lyon confirmed 3rd place and the final Champions League spot, although they will have to qualify for the competition proper. They beat Caen 4-0 which was significant given that Caen are fighting relegation. It is now between Caen and Amiens to see who stays up as Monaco look safe. Amiens have a 2 point advantage over Caen.

Saint Etienne won with a great 3-0 victory over Nice to confirm their Europa League participation next season. They have pulled 5 points clear of fifth place, and the European spot was well deserved after such brilliant form especially in the second half of the season.

Montpellier’s draw with Nantes ended their slim hopes of European football next season and the result also let in Marseille who have closed the gap over them to just 1 point. That is because Marseille beat Toulouse in a thrilling match that ended 5-2 to the L’OM. The score was 3-2 in the 90th minute but Florian Thauvin scored 2 goals in a matter of 60 seconds to give the final score more of a gloss.

Nimes drew 2-2 against bottom team Guingamp, but this wasn’t seen as a disappointing result given that both teams were not playing for anything and the season has clearly wound down and both sets of players enjoyed the game, which was entertaining for the fans. Nimes will have to win next weekend or could lose their 7th place to Nice, and as mentioned before Nice’s good form went out the window with a 0-3 loss at Saint Etienne.

If Reims win their last game and Nice and Nimes lose the club could leapfrog both of them. The final round of games will take place this weekend.

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Ligue 1: Week 37: Player Picks for the Weekend

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Most of the major European leagues have finished but in France Ligue 1 doesn’t end until the end of the month. PSG are champions of course and Lille and Lyon look like they will get Champions League places. Relegation is still up for grabs though, could Caen really survive and take down the 2017 champions Monaco, it looks more likely as the season draws to a close.

Below we pick in a 4-4-2 formation the players that could be most likely to shine and earn you points this weekend.

Goalkeeper: Stephane Ruffier- Saint Etienne

Stephane Ruffier has been superb in goal for Saint Etienne and the club have conceded just 3 in the last 6 games. They will be at home to Nice and this is the clubs last roll of the dice. Ruffier can be added to your team for 7.5m.

Defender: Marcelo- Lyon

Marcelo has played 31 times and is ranked as the best Lyon defender this season. Lyon are at home and really need the win. They will have a tough game against Caen who are fighting to stay up, but Lyon possess more quality and Marcelo is just 8m.

Defender: Dani Alves

Dani Alves for PSG could have a good game, this is PSG’s last home match of the season and it may well be Alves last game for PSG given his age. He will want to put in a good performance and they are playing Dijon who are really struggling, Alves could well earn some valuable points here.

Defender: Hilton- Montpellier

Hilton has played almost the whole season and Montpellier kept a clean sheet in their last game as they try and finish the season on a high. They are playing Nantes at the weekend but they are at home and every chance to get a good result, he is 6m.

Defender: Lamine Kone- Strasbourg

Kone has a had a decent season and has become a staple figure in the side. It is true that Strasbourg have just 1 clean sheet in their past five games however the club will feel confident that they can do so when they entertain Rennes at the weekend and Kone should be looked into.

Midfielder: Remi Oudin- Reims

Oudin is valued at 10m but he has had a great season for Reims even if the club are going through a difficult spell. He has assisted in 3 goals and scored a further 10 and with the season almost near the end he might be worth sticking in your team.

Midfielder: Arber Zeneli- Reims

Sticking with Reims, is Zeneli another player that can switch it on and create chances. Reims have not been in good form but have the quality to finish the season well and they will be playing Bordeaux who have been very poor this season so their luck could change. Zeneli can be yours for just 6.5m.

Midfielder: Ismaila Sarr-Rennes

Sarr has been in good form for Rennes as they take on Strasbourg away at the weekend it what could end up being quite a close game. Sarr has scored 7 goals and also assisted 6 times and he is valued at 7.5m.

Midfielder: Wylan Cyprien- Nice

Cyprien has so much quality but what tends to happen is that he goes through periods of the season quiet. The question is can he finish it on form and with a bang? He can be brought into your team for a bargain 5m and Nice will be playing Saint Etienne at the weekend.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe- Lille

Nicolas Pepe has been one of the best players in Ligue 1. This is Lille’s last game at home to secure 2nd place and it all looks set for Pepe to add to his goals this season. He should be taken on.

Striker: Edinson Cavani- PSG

This could be Cavani’s final game in Paris as he is set to leave the club. He has scored so many goals for the club. Kylian Mbappe is struggling with fitness and Neymar is banned from this game, so this should be Cavani’s time to step up and score a few goals. He is 13m which is expensive but at the same time the players will be creating many chances for him, that’s for sure.

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Ligue 1: Player of the Weekend: Maxwell Cornet

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With a few clean sheets this past weekend in Ligue 1 goal keepers ruled the roost with plenty earning 7 points, but the overall winner is Lyon’s Maxwell Cornet who earned 8 points as his side overcame Marseille at Stade Velodrome winning 3-0.

Cornet opened the scoring from close range and it was an important strike as at that time Marseille were applying pressure and asking many questions from the visitors. Cornet struck again to get his 2nd and Lyon’s 3rd goal of the night with just four minutes remaining. The player has proven to score goals and be reliable even if he isn’t always Lyon’s number 1 choice, he is a classic ‘fox in the box’ type of player and is usually in the right place at the right time. Cornet could have had a hat-trick but he had one goal ruled out for offside.

Cornet’s goals at the weekend ended Marseille’s European hopes for next season and strengthened his sides chances of finishing in a Champions League position. Lyon remain 3rd which means they would have to partake in a play-off to get to the competition proper but they are 6 points adrift of 2nd placed Lille. This win was still huge though as Saint Etienne who were threatening to take 3rd from them lost and that gap is now 4 points with just 2 games to play, so Lyon are almost at the finish line.

Lyon’s coach Bruno Genesio had this to say about the match and the possibility of playing Champions League football next season: ”Are we in the Champions League yet? No. There are two games left, six points, and we must win next Saturday to be certain of a third-place finish and possibly qualify directly depending on the Europa League final. The score was a bit harsh but we could’ve led 2-0 at half-time. We had a lull in the second half and Marseille pushed, but I think on the whole we deserved to win. We had two goals at the start of the season. The first was to get to the knockout stage of the Champions League, which we achieved, and the second was to qualify for next season’s competition, which is nearly done.”

As for Cornet from only his 10th start of the season after appearing from the bench no less than 15 times he has scored 4 goals and assisted in another 3. That means that Cornet has been involved in 11% of Lyon’s total output of goals this season. He has a total of 21 points in Ligue 1 Fantasy football rankings and is valued at 6m. With Lyon pushing in their final 2 games of the season and Cornet on obvious form he might be worth adding to your team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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