Ligue 1- 11 Player Picks for the Weekend

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There is a full fixture list for Ligue 1 this weekend and whilst PSG will win the league this season there is still so much to be proven, won and lost from now until May. Who will get the other 2 places for the Champions League? And on Sunday night we will witness one of the grandest fixtures in European football when PSG take on in form Marseille. Below is our list of players to watch out for this weekend that you may want to add to your Ligue 1 Fantasy team.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Steve Mandanda 8.5m

Mandanda hasn’t always had it easy this season and that is why he is in 7th place in Ligue 1 fantasy standings. But his current form has been terrific where he has shipped just 2 goals in the past month or Marseille. He picked up 7pts last weekend and a good performance this weekend would see him into the top 5.

Defender: Yunis Abdelhamid 6m

The Reims defender has been in good form in the back four who have been able to keep a few clean sheets already in 2019 as the club are now in the top 5. Reims play Nantes at home, and we could well expect them to achieve another clean sheet against a side who are in 14th place.

Defender: Kenny Lala 5m

Lala has been an unsung hero of the defence of the Strasbourg team. While it is true that his defenders conceded 2 goals last weekend that was against Lyon. But they have a good chance to keep a clean sheet as they play newly promoted Nimes at the weekend and Lala who has 43pts already should be looked into.

Defender: Dante Costa 6.5m

Dante Costa won’t ‘costa’ you a lot and the Nice defender has already garnered 36pts this season. Nice are at home against Toulouse on Friday night where they will be the favourites to win and could well keep a clean sheet, helping Costa’s cause.

Defender: Thiago Silva 9.5m

The PSG talisman has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in Ligue 1. PSG play Marseille at the weekend in a game which could go either way when we look at recent form. At the same time history tells us this might be a very difficult match for Marseille and PSG may be able to keep a clean sheet. Silva is 9.5m but has scored a massive 61pts so far.

Midfielder: Maxime Lopez 5m

Maxime Lopez has just got on with what he needs to do at Marseille and whilst he only has 29pts in midfield, he remains a luxury player at a good price of 5m that can change a game. Marseille do have a difficult match against PSG but they will be 100% focused as they try to reach 3rd place in the standings. He is more adept at assists than scoring goals.

Midfielder: Thiago Mendes 7m

Mendes has been very solid for Lille this season in the middle of the football pitch and Lille will be taking on Monaco who have struggled this season even though they are playing much better now. But Lille at home should be able to ease to victory and Mendes could be a key player.

Midfielder: Xavier Chavalerin 6m

Chavalerin is just 6m and has done very well for his team Reims this season starting 26 games. Reims have been a revelation and remain a strong contender for European football and are playing an average form team in Nantes this weekend. In recent months the player has scored a few goals and assisted well. He could be worth a pick this weekend for his price.

Midfielder: Younousse Sankhare 8m

Looking at his season the Bordeaux midfielder Sankhare looks overpriced but he is the type of player that can make teams of the weekend and he might be able to help his club when they will be at home to Rennes. Rennes will be tired after the Arsenal game in the Europa League and Bordeaux could take advantage of that. Plus Sankhare has assisted in 3 goals this season.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe 8m

Pepe is excellent value to add to your team as he has been one of the best strikers in Ligue 1 this season. We will pick him because he is in form and will face the defence of Monaco who have been less than impressive this season. He has 84pts and has scored 17 goals this season and assisted in 8.

Striker: Gaetan Laborde 5m

Laborde is just 5m and the Montpellier striker has scored 10 goals this season and is always a danger and attacking player. Montpellier play play Lyon but Lyon have been shipping goals lately which could work out for Laborde and he should be looked into.

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How Lille’s ownership spent wisely in Ligue 1 for Champions League football

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One of the biggest success stories in France’s Ligue 1 this season has to be Lille. The club are no strangers to success this decade after they won the league and cup double in 2011, but that was their first league success in 57 years. But this season has been the clubs strongest since then and they have dabbled in the transfer market last summer spending 1/10th what many European superpowers spend to get into the top 4 and Champions League.

Currently Lille are in 2nd place and while they are 17 points behind league leaders PSG they are also 5 points ahead of Lyon. But how have Lille improved over recent seasons?

Lille brought in 16 players in the transfer window spending £48m doing so, that is an average of 3m per player, incredible business in 2018/19 and to further that they were clever as the average age of the players is 25, not too old or young and just in their prime.

And the club made a profit this season on players as they sold on 20 players and got £54m making a clear profit of £6m. Their highest sale was Yves Bissouma who went to Premier League side Brighton for £17m. And the clubs biggest spend was Jonathan Ikone who came from PSG for less than £5m. Lille have been incredibly business minded, spotting talent but refusing to pay through the nose for it.

Many players for Lille came back on loan but some of their best buys have been Jose Fonte who has been terrific in defence this season and was bought from China, sure he was 34 and a possible risk but for less than £2m he has brought with him bags of experience. Jonathan Bamba came on a free transfer from Saint Etienne at just 22 and has been another integral part of the squad.

Manager Christophe Galtier has been able to identify who he needed and in what position and has made the most of it with a tight budget in only his 2nd season with the club. Owner Gerard Lopez has been clever enough to give Galtier a chance at coaching Lille, not because his resume is brimming with trophies or that he has years of experience but because Galtier was a former player who played almost 100 times for the club in the 1990s. This project is about bringing a togetherness to the club and rooting it in older players having a chance to come back and prove themselves.

Lopez bought Lille in 2016 with a project of getting to the Champions League, which the club are now on course to do 3 years later. The key has been how they have sold for more and bought for less. On a lower scale Lille have played the market much like Monaco and it is bringing with it much success.

Can Lille get a  Champions League place this season? The odds look good. Not only are they 5 points clear of Lyon, but even if they slipped to 3rd that would still be good to qualify for the qualifiers. But it is all about getting that automatic place. Lille have been 2nd for most of the season and it would seem cruel if Lyon swallowed up that chance in the final straight.

For now Lille look good for 2nd- a great ownership that has blossomed in just a few seasons and a tight way of working on limited budgets has actually brought the team together, and pound for pound Lille have proven to be the most improved team in France this season.

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Three Players Juventus Should Sign in The Summer

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With Juventus on the brink of Champions League elimination after a number of unimpressive performances, it’s time for a squad overhaul. While Aaron Ramsey is a good start at addressing their woeful midfield, the Welshman alone will not be enough to propel the bianconeri to European glory. In defence, Juventus’ core is getting old with Leonardo Bonucci showing signs of wear and tear. Daniele Rugani, by contrast, has frankly not lived up to the hype and has proven to be nothing more than a luxury option off the bench. Up top, on the other hand, it’s time Juventus sign a young, link-up target man, as Dybala, Ronaldo and Mandzukic have been an awkward fit for one another. Here are three players Paratici should have at the top of his wish-list.

1) Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

Matthijs de Ligt needs no introduction and is without a doubt Europe’s top young defender at the moment. If you look up the definition of leader in the dictionary, the young Dutchman’s face will pop up. After having won the Golden Boy award in 2018, becoming the first defender to ever win the award, de Ligt has gone from strength to strength.

Right now, de Ligt is Ajax’s rock at the back, and is captaining the side deep into the Champions League, past European supergiants and reigning champions Real Madrid. Just last month, the 19-year-old became the youngest ever player to captain his side in a Champions League knockout clash, and has not looked one bit out of place.

While competition for the defender’s signature will be at an all-time high, Paratici and co. must go all out and sign de Ligt. If it takes 80 million euros, then so be it. With Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli on the wrong side of 30, it’s time to refresh their backline, and what better place to start than with de Ligt. Despite his age, the Dutchman is arguably already in the top ten defenders in the world, and must emerge as a priority for the bianconeri. Otherwise, Juventus’ elite defence of the past will become nothing but a distant memory.

2) Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

For the past two seasons, Juventus’ midfield has held the side back in Europe’s elite competition and cannot be ignored come summertime. With Ramsey already on his way on a bosman transfer, Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele would be an ideal fit alongside Juventus’ current options.

NDombele is a one-man midfield, and has consistently proven he can cut it at the highest level, especially in Lyon’s most recent clash against Barcelona. Much like de Ligt,the Lyon midfielder does not let his inexperience seep into his play, and largely dominates proceedings as if he’s a seasoned veteran in the middle of the park.

Alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, the Frenchman would be able to express himself freely and offer some much needed creativity without sacrificing industry. Right now, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can have looked out of place in Allegri’s setup, and have proven to be far too limited for elite football.

Considering Paratici will have to deal with notorious negotiator, Lyon president and French businessman Jean-Michel Aulas, it won’t be easy. In any case, NDombele is Juventus’ best option to rebuild their midfield, both in the short-term and in the long-run.

3) Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) 

This one is a bit trickier for Paratici. Safe to say, Ronaldo hasn’t yet blended in with Mandzukic and Dybala, despite his impressive goalscoring record, and Juventus require an all-round support striker to get the best out of him. At Real Madrid, Benzema acted as the Portuguese superstar’s foil.

With Mandzukic showing signs of slowing down, it may be time for Juventus to start looking at younger options up top. Since making the switch to Germany, Jovic has improved all aspects of his game and has developed into a real force to be reckoned with, scoring 21 goals and registering five assists in all competitions.

With Jovic alongside Ronaldo and Dybala behind them, whoever’s at the helm of Juventus, could recreate Zidane’s blueprint at Real Madrid and get the side scoring freely again. While it may not be an immediate need, Juventus will not have Ronaldo forever and must make the most of his presence while he’s in Turin. Jovic would go a long way in this respect.

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Ligue 1- 11 Player Picks for the Weekend

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Ligue 1 is back at the weekend although instead of the usual 10 fixtures there will only be 9 with Nantes and PSG’s game being postponed for the following week. Below we will look at players that you should look into and add for your fantasy Ligue 1 team.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Mike Maignan- 5m

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan has been solid throughout the season but is experiencing arguably his best form, the shot stopper has conceded just 1 goal in the club’s past five matches as they look to hold onto 2nd place in Ligue 1.

Defender: Malang Sarr- 5.5m

Sarr has been one of the outstanding players to come out of Ligue 1 this season. The Nice defender picked up 5pts last weekend and is in the top 4 as his club have got back to winning ways.

Defender: Jose Fonte -7.5m

Fonte has been part of the Lille side to concede just 1 goal in their past five games that goes back to the beginning of February, he has been instrumental and with his value under 8m is a real steal.

Defender: Hiroki Sakai- 7.5m

Sakai has been part of a Marseille defence that has grown stronger since the turn of the year and part of a back four that has conceded just 2 goals in their last five games. He currently has 33pts and if form continues could break into the top 10 standings in Ligue 1 fantasy for defenders.

Defender: Dante Costa- 6.5m

Solid at the back for Nice in the teams last game, the club needed a win and will hope to improve on that this weekend. Plus he picked up a massive 5pts last weekend and the confidence seems to have returned for the player.

Midfielder: Florian Thauvin- 11m

Probably the best out and out midfielder this season in France, he is also experiencing great form as his club Marseille have bounced back into contention, and he picked up 8pts last time out.

Midfielder: Bertrand Traore-8.5m

The Lyon midfielder has put in a shift this season with his great passing abilities and he has scored 7 times, his 8.5m looks like a snip and last weekend he picked up 5pts as Lyon try to chase down Lille for 2nd place.

Midfielder: Flavien Tait-7.5m

Angers have no problems to stay up this season and much of that is down to Tait who is in great form and picked up 8pts over the week. He continues to be a threat for opposing players and has made an incredible 6 assists so far this season.

Midfielder: Nabil Fekir- 10m

One of the best players in Ligue 1 last season is continuing that in this one and he has been instrumental for Marseille’s return of form in the last few months. He is in form and usually takes the penalties for the club, so could gain you more points this weekend.

Striker: Moussa Dembele- 5m

An absolute steal this season for 5m, Dembele has been very solid as a forward for Lyon and scored a brace last time out. He is on form and has scored 9 goals over the past few months and could well get on the score sheet again this weekend.

Striker: Radamel Falcao- 7.5m

There have been some injuries and a lack of form mostly for his club Monaco. But since Leonardo Jardim came back to the coaching job there has been a fire ignited in Falcao once again and he is back on form. Last week he earned 7pts and has scored 11 goals this season despite Monaco’s troubled campaign.

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Topical: Ligue 1 from leaders PSG to the chasing pack of Lyon and Marseille

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The 27th round of Ligue 1 took place this past weekend and it was a week that saw PSG maintain their 17 point lead at the top of the league with the top 4 clubs all winning their respective games.

It’s a question of when and not if PSG pick up their 8th Ligue 1 title (6 wins in the last 7 years) as the French champions beat Caen 2-1. Man of the moment Kylian Mbappe who has stepped up to another level since Neymar and Edinson Cavani were struck down by injuries scored both goals and leads the goal scoring charts with 24 so far. If PSG can win their game in hand they could go 20 points clear at the top as coach Thomas Tuchel, in his debut season, looks to break every domestic record en route.

Lille are still in 2nd place but Lyon will not give up the chase for the runner up spot. They currently lead Lyon by 5 points and have lost just 1 game at home all season. But have Lyon made a statement of intent? Their 5-1 demolishing of Toulouse suggests they have. Lyon currently in 3rd are also sitting in the final Champions League qualification spot with no less than 3 other teams vying for that position.

Marseille coach Rudi Garcia looked to be on the ropes a few months ago when Marseille literally couldn’t buy a win and the fans started to protest. But 4 wins in their last five games has sent L’OM up the table where the objective now has to be to finish in at least 3rd place. They have only conceded 3 goals in their last 6 games and new signing Mario Balotelli has been superb, scoring 4 goals in his first six games with the club.

If any of the top 8 clubs are going to fall away a candidate could be Saint Etienne who have been solid overall but have found a run of inconsistency which has seen them lose 3 of their last five games. On form the club would be in 12th place.

Attention has been turned to Reims who are having their best season in the top flight in over 40 years. Reims are one of the most historical teams in Europe after reaching the very first European Cup final, a trick they repeated the following year in the mid 1950′s and the club have forever been linked to the European Cup/Champions League. Can they make it back there? It seems unlikely but they will give it a go and currently sit in 6th place and 7 points behind 3rd position. The teams two game winning run came to an end against Amiens when they could only draw 2-2, however they were losing that match before making a final comeback near the end of time.

Nice ended their poor form with a 1-0 win over Strasbourg but both teams ended up with 10 players apiece as tempers flared towards the end of the game. It was a significant win for Patrick Vieira, whose has guided the team brilliantly this season, however there has been an implosion of such in the last month and he will be hoping that the teams fortunes can change with a much needed 3 points.

One club whose fortunes need to change is Montpellier who keep slipping down the table and are now in 8th place having gone the last 5 games without victory. They are 6 points behind 4th place and have picked up just 3 points from their last available 15, and are in real danger of missing out on a European place after such a good first half of the season. The club did not play at the weekend though and will instead play tonight against Bordeaux. Win that and they could climb to 7th place and hopefully for them have a new found belief, because if any team in the top half of the league needs a win it is La Paillade who are consequently celebrating their 100th anniversary as a club.

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Lille and Lyon to fight it out for 2nd place in Ligue 1 as PSG go clear

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The Ligue 1 title is heading back to PSG, that is a certainty as the club have shot into a 10 point lead at the top. Not only that but the current French champions have 2 games in hand of 2nd place. This league is done and dusted and there is nothing to see here, well almost nothing.

Not many pundits and fans would have expected Lille who have been threatened with relegation in recent years to be in 2nd place, but that is where they are. Yes the league has gone but 2nd place means qualifying directly to the Champions League which would be a fantastic achievement for the club.

Lille have been nothing short of spectacular this season in France. Their consistency has been champion material it’s just unfortunate for them that PSG have been able to build such a strong team at the same time.

Lille have won 15 games this season from 24 and at home they have lost just one game all season. The good news for the club is that there is only one other realistic team that can catch them and that is Lyon. The other good news is that Lyon lost 1-0 to Nice last weekend which means that Lille has opened up a 6 point gap to 3rd place. Could playing in the Champions League really be a reality for the club next season?

Ligue 1 really has become a little boring this season with PSG running away with the title and that is why so much focus has gone on to 2nd and 3rd place. After all it is Lyon who are usually the team right up there and being France’s next best team. Not so this season and it is the common man and fan that would love to see Lille pip Lyon to that 2nd place- for Lille it would feel like they have won the league, make no mistake in that.

And Lille have some great players too- most notably Nicolas Pepe, who has scored some great and important goals this season and he is tipped to make a big name in Europe and World football as his career progresses. He is certainly checking all of the right boxes for Lille.

For Lille to finish 2nd it could all come down to May 4th, that is when they will play a potentially massive game against Lyon which could decide both clubs fate this season. The catch for Lille is that Lyon will be at home.

This little battle has become the most interesting in Ligue 1 this season.

PSG lose first league game of the season- could this be the meltdown?

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There was just that feeling going into this weekend that Lyon had the players to beat PSG on Sunday night. And they did just that by coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 to inflict PSG’s first defeat of the league season.

PSG are going to win the league regardless, that just seems a given where they are 10 points clear and have a game in hand, but this defeat feels like a bitter blow to Thomas Tuchel and his team.

It is clear that when a club get to February unbeaten they are thinking about going the whole season that way, and it would have been the icing on the cake together with breaking numerous French Ligue 1 records, but it isn’t going to happen and after this defeat one could expect more will follow.

PSG haven’t been helped with the recent injury to Neymar where he could miss up to 2 months of the season. But is it all going wrong for the team at the wrong time of the season? It does seem so, a defeat here will feel like such a body blow to the players and Tuchel will need to pick them up given that the Champions League is just around the corner and they will be playing Manchester United and not just any United, a brilliant looking side since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The hierarchy at PSG are happy to win the league of course and it would have to take the mother of all meltdowns to let in Lyon or Lille, it shouldn’t happen. But at the same time now that PSG are feeling that they can lose big games it could well have a psychological effect on them for the Champions League. It is no secret that the team that really need it most are PSG and possibly Manchester City. But PSG have been called chokers in the past for not winning it, considering the amount of money they have spent trying too. This could be another frustrating season in that department.

PSG lost out in bringing in some quality in January to replace Neymar with his injury but even if they did they would have most likely been cup tied. They tried for Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil but that deal fell through. One wonders if all of this will count against Tuchel and how long he will keep his job.

Of course Tuchel has lost just 1 game in the league this season and fully deserves to keep his job, but in football questions arise very quickly and a lot of people will be keeping an eye on how the club performs over the next month.

 

Circus at Monaco continues as Jardim is back after Henry sacking

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105 days after being sacked from Monaco, Leonardo Jardim is back as coach after Thierry Henry was suspended and then sacked as head coach after a dismal three months in charge.

Nobody expected that Monaco would go back to Jardim though, and perhaps nobody believed that Jardim would be willing to go back after being unjustly sacked the first time but that is what has happened.

It has been a circus season for Monaco, the 2017 champions who are 19th in the league table, the result not down to coaches but down to constantly selling their best players, and that is why it is a surprise that Jardim is back. Let’s remember whilst Jardim is ten times the coach of Henry he was still struggling with the club this season.

Perhaps Jardim has been promised that his best players will stay and that the tactic of selling half the team come each summer will stop. Evidently it hasn’t got the club anywhere and they may well still end up in Ligue 2. Perhaps the players were informed too and they voted to have Jardim back, if this is the case then we should expect to see an upturn in the clubs fortunes. One wonders what new signing and established international Cesc Fabregas thinks of it all- has he jumped ship from the Premier League too soon?

And what of Henry? Where does he go from here? One remembers Gary Neville’s poor stint at Valencia which seemingly finished him as a coach and it could be that Henry returns to punditry. Having said that he seems like a determined person and the Monaco job could have been a case of taking such a project too soon in his career. Henry won just 4 games from the 20 he was in charge of.

For Jardim the work must start immediately. His side lost at the weekend to Dijon 2-0 however he wasn’t in the dug out and his first game back will be the home match against Toulouse next Saturday.

The month of February looks like a tough one for Monaco with tricky fixtures against the likes of Montpellier and Lyon, so this will be no easy ride for Jardim. However despite how poor the club have been this season they are still only 3 points from safety and if the club were to get a winning run together they could still finish in midtable.

Jardim’s job is simple and that is to keep the club up, one senses, he will do just that.

A look at Barca’s possible UCL opponents

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Lionel Messi issued a clarion call at the very beginning of the season where the Champions League was concerned.

That was the priority for Barcelona. No messing about, a stated aim to take home the trophy once again.

Drawn in the ‘group of death,’ the Blaugrana sailed through it, but now the real business begins.

Barcelona have six possible opponents they could draw in the Round of 16… Continue reading

Thierry Henry gets first win with Monaco but a testing month awaits

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Thierry Henry finally achieved his first win as Monaco coach after his side beat Caen 1-0 at the weekend. It was a deserved victory too and means that Henry could celebrate for the first time in 7 games.

Monaco are still in the bottom three but there was a huge sense of relief after the win from the players and Henry. It meant so much and means that Henry’s win rate leaped up to 14%. After the game Henry said: “I am happy for the team and the supporters. We needed that, even if we were not completely in control of the match. We could have been out of sight sooner, and in football you don’t know what can happen. Caen like to get crosses in quickly, they fight, and we knew what to expect. The manner in which we get results is important, but we will worry about that later. (Radamel) Falcao showed that he is Falcao. He is the captain, he is there to score goals.”

Henry also realised what lies ahead for the club in the coming weeks. “We went out and got this victory, and it can help bring us some peace. It is always better when you win, but we are not getting carried away. This is just the beginning. There are still lots of matches and battles to come. I am especially happy for the squad, for all the work they have put in and not been rewarded, but we are still in the relegation zone.”

Henry talked about battles ahead and he is exactly right on that point. It all commences for Henry and Monaco this Wednesday when they must travel to Spain in the Champions League to face Atletico Madrid, Monaco can be quoted at 16/1 to win the game which pretty much says it all. There is some hope for a Europa League spot for the side but even those hopes may seem faint after this game.

After that Monaco return to Ligue 1 action against Montpellier who have been in fine form so far. They play Amiens away which could be a possible win and then come the 3 really hard fixtures. Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and Lyon. Monaco will also face Nice in what is always a special derby and this season will have the extra spice of Henry going head to head with his old Arsenal teammate Patrick Vieira, who is doing very well with Nice.

If Monaco can get something from these games then we will know if Henry can and has created some sort of turnaround miracle. The Caen win has given Henry reasons to be cheerful but he will want that momentum to continue. A defeat looks inevitable against Atletico in a few days but that game will be all about not getting stuffed for many goals and keeping the score predictable. The next 3 weeks will be a fascinating time at Monaco, that is for sure.