Ligue 1 Player of the Weekend: Florian Thauvin

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It was the penultimate league game of the season in Ligue 1 this past weekend and the player of the weekend goes to Marseille midfielder Florian Thauvin.

Marseille were playing Toulouse away from home and losing the game 1-0 when Thauvin set up Morgan Sanson to equalise just three minutes later. But the influential player would save the best until last.

Marseille were winning a thrilling and very open game 3-2 in the final stages when Toulouse had a chance to try and equalise and that is when Thauvin showed his best qualities. He made it 4-2 in the 90th minute which effectively at that point killed the game after Clinton N’Jie had assisted him crossing from the left and on first look it seemed that Toulouse had scored an own goal but Thauvin got the credit. Around 60 seconds later Thauvin put the icing on the cake, again a pass from N’Jie and this time the World Cup winner sent a fantastic shot from his right boot sailing into the Toulouse net. Now it was 5-2.

Marseille celebrated well and embraced Thauvin even if the club have come up short this season and won’t be playing European football. This kind of result is what the club needed after a start stop last few weeks and on top of that Mario Balotelli who has started so well for the club since his move in January was injured for this game.

It has been a great week for Thauvin who has also been called up to the France national squad for their next three games.

As for his overall stats. well Thauvin added another 2 goals at the weekend which means he has 15 this season. It hasn’t been a great 2019 for Thauvin in terms of scoring goals. He has netted only 4 times this year, and 2 of those came in this game. But he showed hunger the whole game in trying to score and it just shows a football game is never really over until the final whistle.

In the Ligue 1 fantasy rankings Thauvin is 4th overall as the best player in the league and for his position he is 2nd behind PSG’s Angel Di Maria, just 7 points separates the players. Thauvin has 89 points and with a good game at home against Montpellier who could well surpass Di Maria in the table rankings. Scoring 15 goals this season and also assisting in a further 8 just underlines that the player has had a successful personal season once again.

However with no European football to play for next season one wonders if Thauvin will want a move away from the club, all will be revealed in the summer.

Thauvin is available to purchase here if you want him in your team for the final round of Ligue 1 games this weekend.

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Race for Champions League places hots up in Ligue 1 between Lille, Lyon and Saint Etienne

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Champions PSG had the weekend off in Ligue 1 as they were playing in the Coupe de France final which they sensationally lost on penalties against Rennes after the match finished 2-2 at full time. With PSG not playing it also meant that Montpellier skipped the weekend and they will take on PSG later today in their rescheduled match.

But concentrating on the battle for Champions League places was the main focus of the weekend. Lille in 2nd place reaffirmed their position in style as they beat Nimes 5-0 at Stade Pierry- Mauroy. There was five different scores including man of the moment Nicolas Pepe. Lille’s fans have now seen their club score 10 goals in their last two home matches.

The win ensures that Lille stay 6 points ahead of Lyon with just 4 games remaining and only the top two places in Ligue 1 are assured of automatic qualification for next seasons Champions League.

Lyon who were expected to catch Lille, remain in 3rd after beating Bordeaux 3-2 in a thrilling match. The club were losing 2-1 at half time. Moussa Dembele scored the winning goal for Lyon with just five minutes remaining. It was a very important result for the club because Saint Etienne also won. They beat Toulouse 2-0 at the weekend to remain 3 points behind Lyon for the final Champions League place.

Saint Etienne have been in brilliant form and would in fact based on the last five games be top of the league. They have gained 13 points from their last 15 and have not lost a game in over 6 weeks.

Is a European finish finally over for Marseille? That was the feeling after the club lost 2-1 to in form Nantes at Stade Velodrome. Mario Balotelli came back from injury to score but the club had just 2 shots on target to Nantes 6 the whole game in what was seen as surprise result. It leaves Marseille trailing 4th place by 5 points and while they still have a chance for a possible Europa League place, those hopes are fading fast.

As mentioned above Montpellier will play PSG on Tuesday and if they win they would join Marseille on 54 points. Nice ended a 2 game period without a win and easily swatted aside bottom club Guingamp 3-0. As a result they moved up to 7th place on 51 points, but their best hope for this season would be to finish in the top six.

Finally Reims continued their dismal form with yet another draw- this time 1-1 against Angers which didn’t help either team. The club have not won in their last five games, drawing 3 of their last four and have now slipped a massive 10 points from a European place with just 12 left on the board, and their European dream is now finished.

Next week will see a mouth watering clash between 2nd and 3rd when Lyon take on Lille in what could be a defining moment for who will play in the Champions League next season.

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Ligue 1: Player of the Weekend: Mario Balotelli

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Since leaving the Premier League and joining the French Ligue 1 Mario Balotelli has been able to reinvent himself. Perhaps he has found a level where he can consistently shine but the Italian international has been superb, first with Nice and now with Marseille.

Balotelli joined Marseille only in the January transfer window when it was made clear to him that he would not be part of Nice coach Patrick Vieira’s plans. And since joining Marseille Balotelli has consistently been one of the best strikers in the league.

At the weekend he earned 8pts in Ligue 1 fantasy standings amongst the very best performance of all players in all positions. He earned these points as Marseille drew 2-2 with Angers, but Balotelli scored both of Marseille’s goals. On a personal level Balotelli had a fantastic game but given that his side with his goals were leading the game 2-0 and at home the match ended in disappointment for the former Inter Milan player.

Balotelli has really struck up a friendship and a connection on the pitch with Lucas Ocampos and it was Ocampos who assisted for both of Balotelli’s goals on Saturday at Stade Velodrome. Both classic style Balotelli finishes even if they weren’t his best ever. The two goals took Balotelli’s total to 7 from just 17 starts this season but the bulk of his goals have come from playing with Marseille in the past 8 weeks.

In the Ligue 1 fantasy rankings Balotelli is ranked 20th but this is mostly due to his non starts as a Nice player. He has 23pts so far but if he continues his form he could easily reach the 40pts marker and perhaps squeeze into the top 10 players. And he may be worth bringing into your team because he needs to keep scoring and helping his team as they try to qualify for the Champions League. He can be bought for 7m.

Marseille coach Rudi Garcia had this to stay after his teams 2-2 draw, bizarrely not praising Balotelli for his goals in this statement, it could be down to the fact that he was angered that his side did not win the game being 2-0 up. “As long as it’s mathematically possible we’ll still believe we can qualify for the Champions League. Of course we believe but we still have to win matches, and tonight we had the opportunity given we were leading 2-0. It’s a bump in the road, getting held at home. We’ll have to recover points on the road. We have to be solid for the whole game. We lost balls that we shouldn’t be losing and Angers took advantage. We played well for the first half-hour and then stopped attacking. We can’t blame refereeing decisions for this”.

Balotelli is richly deserving to be named Ligue 1 player of the week.

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Ligue 1- 11 Player Picks for the Weekend: Week 30

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Ligue 1 football is back after the international break and we will be looking at the players you may want to add to your team ahead of the weekend fixtures. We will use a 4-4-2 formation of the players likely to score points based on week 30′s fixtures.

Goalkeeper: Danijel Subasic

Monaco will be at home to Caen at the weekend and they have a great chance to keep a clean sheet. Monaco have kept 3 clean sheets in their last five games and if Subasic also kept a clean sheet in Monaco’s last game. He can be bought for 9m.

Defender: Kamil Glik

Keeping with the Monaco theme, picking any of the clubs defenders this season may not have been the best idea. But the club have vastly improved in the last few months and picking Kamil Glik could be a good idea as Monaco take on Caen. Not only could he keep a clean sheet but he is partial to come forward and score. Glik is 7.5m.

Defender: Hiroki Sakai

Sakai has picked up points lately and the Marseille defender is tipped to do the same at the weekend given that the club will be at home against Angers, a club who come into the game with no motivation, as Marseille are going for a top 4 spot. Marseille have kept 4 clean sheets in a row at home and Sakai could be worth picking for your team at 7.5m.

Defender: Jemerson

Another Monaco defender, Jemerson was part of a back four that went to 2nd place Lille and came away with not only a victory but a keep clean in a 1-0 win, last time out. With Monaco back at home against Caen Jemerson should be looked into and can be bought for 6.5m which looks like a bargain on current form.

Defender: Jose Fonte

Lille’s Jose Fonte did concede a goal in their shock 1-0 loss against Monaco in week 29 and did get booked, losing more points. However we have to respect the fact that he has been part of a defence which has conceded just 2 goals in Lille’s last five games. Lille will travel to Nantes, and keeping a clean sheet there is very possible.

Midfielder: Angel Di Maria

Di Maria has been one of the best players in Ligue 1 in recent months. Scoring plenty of goals and making assists. If he is not in your side then splashing out 9m looks like a bargain as he looks to end the season on a high for PSG.

Midfielder: Xavier Chavalerin

The Reims midfielder has had a solid season and it is partly his link up play as to why Reims have had such a solid season so far. He has scored 2 goals this season and assisted in 2, and at 6m may be worth bringing in as Reims face Strasbourg.

Midfielder: Wahbi Khazri

Wahbi Khazri has had a fantastic season with Saint Etienne and has scored 12 goals and assisted in 2. He is 7.5m and is rated as the 3rd best midfielder in Ligue 1 on form. Saint Etienne will be favourites to win the match at the weekend when they play Nimes at home.

Midfielder: Romain Amalfitano

Amalfitano the Dijon midfielder has not had the best season, but at the same time Dijon will be at home against Nice and there is every chance that the home side can claim something in this game. He has had 21 starts and can be snapped up for 5.5m.

Striker: Mario Balotelli

Balotelli is in brilliant form for his new club Marseille and the fact that his side will be at home against Angers, we expect a few goals. Balotelli has every chance to be on the end of that and have a good weekend. He is 7m.

Striker: Radamel Falcao 

Falcao missed Monaco’s last game as he was suspended for picking up too many yellow cards. He has scored 12 times this season mostly under coach Jardim and could well add to his tally at home v Caen. Falcao can be brought in for 7.5m.

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Mancini Makes Questionable Choices in The Final Third

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Since being appointed Italy boss after the World Cup debacle, Roberto Mancini has done well to implement a distinct style of play, and identify key players for his setup moving forward. With the defence and midfield all but set, barring a few adjustments, the attack remains Mancini’s last puzzle. While the former Inter tactician has introduced the likes of Federico Chiesa and Moise Kean into the fold, some of Mancini’s choices in the final third have been questionable, to say the least.

In Mancini’s latest selections, Vincenzo Grifo and Leonardo Pavoletti both got the call to represent their nation. The latter, a 30-year-old mid-table journeyman, won’t be on the international scene for much longer and failed at the only big club he was at, while Grifo has only played eight games in league action this season thus far for Freiburg and has never demonstrated to be anything more than a decent squad player.

After years of struggling for options in the final third, Mancini is finally blessed with various talents in the attacking department, be it with Bernardeschi, Chiesa, and Kean among others. Now is not the time to experiment with players who are on the wrong side of 30 or haven’t been consistent in front of goal.

Regardless of their form this season, neither Pavoletti or Grifo will represent Italy next summer, and neither deserves to take valuable experience away from the nation’s budding forwards. What is more puzzling is that the in-form Andrea Belotti was left home, despite his recent resurgence.

The Torino forward has lead the line exceptionally well, and has propelled I Granata into an unlikely race for European football. While he’s had better goal tallies in past seasons, Belotti has become a more well-rounded forward under Walter Mazzarri and is ready for another go on the international scene. At 25 years old, Il Gallo is about to enter the prime of his career, and is an excellent option for Mancini.

Another player who could have also gotten the call ahead of Pavoletti and Grifo was Mario Balotelli. Despite some previous attitude concerns, Supermario’s has been Italy’s most consistent forward over the years, and has done well in Marseille, scoring four goals in his last six games. Mancini had this to say about Balotelli’s exclusion.

“Balotelli still isn’t in peak condition, he’s improving but I expect a lot from him and he can improve further. In general, all of the technical players are improving and this is comforting for me.” (Source: Twitter – @Azzurri)

The reality is that, much like Balotelli, Grifo hasn’t played much for Freiburg, and yet still received a call-up. Had Mancini cited previous indiscipline as his reason, it would have made Balotelli’s exclusion understandable. Regardless, Supermario deserves one more run with the Nazionale, and will likely get the chance next time around.

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While Mancini has done relatively well at blending youth with experience, another player who should have, at the very least, been part of the training camp is Milan’s Patrick Cutrone. Since breaking onto the scene, the Milan forward has demonstrated all the raw abilities of a top forward, and has a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

At just 21 years old, Cutrone, alongside Juventus’ Moise Kean, are easily Mancini’s best long-term bets. Since Krzysztof Piatek’s arrival, however, Cutrone has found playing time hard to come by. Despite this, he deserves a shot with the national team, and could prove useful at the upcoming Euros if given consistent playing time.

Moving forward, Mancini can’t keep turning to the likes of Pavoletti and Grifo as they are taking away development time from Italy’s potential, long-term number nines. Let’s face it, neither will make the final squad while Belotti, Balotelli and Cutrone all have a great shot. The ball’s now in Mancini’s court.

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Mario Balotelli’s romance with Ligue 1 football is coming to an end

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The very talented and often misunderstood though egomaniac Mario Balotelli is set to leave Nice after spending almost 3 seasons with the club. It seems that there may have been a confrontation with new manager this season Patrick Vieira, although that has not been confirmed.

What we do know is that this season will very likely be Balotelli’s last in France and certainly last with Nice. The club are understood to want to sell the Italian player this month to cash in on him for small fee. Otherwise he will be free to leave in the summer for nothing.

Balotelli finally seemed to settle down in France where he had become a cult figure with Nice. The club had not only improved since his arrival in 2016 but he also scored goals. On his debut season in the league he scored 15 from just 23 games. In all competitions he has played 76 games and scored 43 goals which anyway you look at it is a terrific return. Balotelli proved that in Ligue 1 at least he still had the magic despite the usual baggage that comes with him.

Vieira and Nice have frozen the player out for much of this season where he has played just 10 games and has yet to score. Has there been a coming together between player and coach? One thing is for certain and that is the summer fiasco that Balotelli was involved in. Before the season started it looked like Marseille would buy Balotelli and he deal came very close but in the end never happened. The problem though was that as a result Balotelli missed most of pre season and training and did not come in fresh, this could be another reason that Vieira has been indifferent to the player.

So if Balotelli is to leave Nice and possibly France what could be next for a player who is 28 and still has a good 4-5 seasons ahead of him? A return to Italy could be out of the question, every time he has played their he has been sadly subjected to racist chants.

Perhaps he will come back to the Premier League He has divided a few fans since he has played for both Manchester City and Liverpool and getting a chance to play with some of the bigger teams will probably not be an option.

However a team near the bottom of the league could well do with Balotelli- as long as the coach strikes up a friendship with him, then Balotelli has proven that he can be a deadly striker and he could end up saving a team from relegation. If so a move could happen in the next few days. For now though it looks like au revoir to Balotelli’s career in France, which is slightly sad given that it seemed the French air and regime had indeed calmed the player down.

Patrick Vieira faces uncertain times in his new job

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Newly-appointed Nice manager Patrick Vieira has endured a terrible start to life in his new job in Ligue 1. Three games into the new season, Nice have picked up a solitary point and they currently sit 18th in the table. In the process, Nice have managed to score only one goal while they have managed to concede six goals.

It’s still early days for Vieira at Nice, but his side’s 4-0 home defeat to Dijon last weekend has raised alarms at the club. Nice have also lost to Stade Reims in a home fixture this season. Continue reading

Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira’s nightmare in France continues

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French music legend Johnny Hallyday once sung ‘It’s a long way home, in the night alone’ which could well have reflected Patrick Vieira’s mood at the Allianz Riviera on Saturday evening. His players shattered, confused and outplayed had just been dished out a 4-0 defeat. But their opponents had not been PSG, Monaco or Lyon but Dijon who, a few seasons ago, were playing their football in Ligue 2.

Vieira who is usually very calm and upbeat looked like a broken man at the side lines as he witnessed another inept display that means he is still waiting for his first win as Nice manager. This result followed a shock loss at home against newly promoted Reims, then soon after his team were heading for defeat away to Caen before finding an equaliser in the final ten minutes of the game. But with this Dijon defeat the club are now in 17th place and have conceded 6 goals, on average 2 a game. Only Angers with 8 have shipped more and their currently bottom of the league.

Last season Nice won 15 games and finished in 8th place and Vieira was brought in after his 2 year tenure from MLS side New York City. It seemed like the perfect fit, Vieira a French football legend in charge of a French Ligue 1 club and it was also very refreshing to see that a top tier team were appointing a black manager. So what gives and why have Nice got off to such a terrible start in the league?

The first warning sign was when the club were willing to listen for offers for their forward Alessane Plea. A player who had scored 21 goals in all competitions last season including 16 in the league. The former Lyon player had also struck up a working relationship with fellow forward Mario Balotelli. In the end Plea rejected moving to the Premier League where West Ham and Newcastle were offering him a kings ransom in wages and instead chose the Bundesliga and signed for Borussia Monchengladbach for a reported 25m euros.

Plea’s sale was good business for a club like Nice, but only in monetary terms, and the sale on the face of it seemed like an odd one. And then we turn our attentions to Balotelli the other half of Nice’s strike force who scored 26 goals last season and has in some ways rejuvenated his career at Nice. If nothing else he has been at his most consistent in the south of France. The problem is that consistency for Balotelli is two sides of the coin and that means his negative side so for the third time at the club he was suspended. This meant missing the first 3 games of the new season.

For Vieira he has been able to play a front three at home which he prefers. However this includes pushing Allan Saint-Maximin up front but he’s in reality more suited to a midfield role. Vieira will be able to roll the dice once more next week when Balotelli will be available to him and surely he will pick the Italian.

Nice need a lift and goals, who thought that responsibility would fall to Balotelli who once when playing in England needed help to put a football bib on. But the truth is Balotelli would relish such a challenge to help his club and cheer up the fans who he has a special relationship with.

As for Vieira whether he can turn around the clubs negativity is yet to be seen. But in France there is talk that another French legend Thierry Henry is set to take over at Bordeaux and we could witness two ex Arsenal team mates coming head to head as managers in France. The thought seems mouth watering, the question is, will Vieira still be there to witness that himself?

 

 

Plea hits four as he secures Ligue 1 Player of the Week

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This week’s Ligue 1 player of the week award is bestowed upon Alassane Plea of Nice, whose blockbuster performance saw him bag four goals and 18 points as Les Aiglons breezes past a lacklustre Guingamp side on their journey to Stade de Roudourou.

With Mario Balotelli out of action, Plea was tasked with the duty of leading the Nice line and replacing a goal scorer that has netted an impressive 14 in 18 this season.

Any concerns that the Nice fans may have had prior to the Continue reading

Our picks ahead of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action

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The usual suspects star heavily in our picks of the week for the 26th round of Ligue 1 action – check out our top tips as you prepare your side for the next game day!

Steve Mandanda, Marseille

It’s testament to his mental strength that he’s returned from a mixed season at Crystal Palace and slotted straight back into the Marseille side.

With 45 points thanks in large to his 11 clean sheets, Mandanda will undoubtedly believe that his return to his homeland was an inspired decision.

Lucas Lima, Nantes

The pacey left back has been a revelation under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri and a key figure in the side’s excellent run.

His three assists and one goal have helped him onto an impressive 37 points this season and his attacking output could be critical if his side are to beat Nice. Continue reading