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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PSG march on in Ligue 1 and it’s all change at Monaco

The Ligue 1 season has reached the half way point and it is no surprise to see that PSG are in 1st place. They have 45 points and have indeed not even reached their own personal half way stage as they have a game in hand. Continue this type of form and the club could finish the season with 96 points.

Ever since Neymar came back from injury at the beginning of December PSG have really stepped it up and before the Christmas break the club were playing their best most confident football of the campaign so far.

They have scored 11 goals in their last 3 matches and along with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe is finding his shooting boots. Mbappe has 11 goals and 4 assists so far.He is in 2nd place in the Ligue 1 fantasy rankings.

PSG currently have a 7 point lead over Marseille and in effect that could be 10 points with their game in hand to play. As for Marseille they have been solid and none of their ‘circus’ football and unpredictability which has dogged the side over the past few seasons has been seen. The club have no losses in their last five games picking up 13 points in the process and their last match ended in a 3-1 win over Nimes.

It’s possible that Marseille have one eye on the title though PSG would really need to collapse but the club are thinking 100% about 2nd place which would give them a Champions League place for next season. Lille at the moment are the real threat to that and they have been impressive given the personnel they have lost last season.

Lille are 5 points behind and indeed lost 5-1 away to Monaco in their last game but they have won 9 games this season and remain a threat. Rennes have also been a major surprise in 3rd place with M’Baye Niang sticking in the goals for the club, he currently has 8 goals so far this campaign.and Rennes are one of the best teams in the league for pure form having won their last five games. From 2nd to 4th it really does look exciting in the league.

Nantes and Reims have blown hot and cold this season and if only they could have a little more consistency they could be challenging Marseille for 2nd place but they have fallen 9 points and 10 points respectively behind. Both sides and especially Reims have shown mean defences in the first part of the season.

Monaco have been brilliant and look almost back to their best. They are unbeaten in 4 games won their last match 5-1 against Lille, also knocked Reims out of the French Cup and are in 7th place. But that was enough for Leonardo Jardim who was sacked for the 2nd time in 12 months. The new coach has been named as Roberto Moreno who managed the Spanish national side for some time. Oh and Monaco have the leading scorer in the league in their ranks in Wissam Ben Yedder who has scored 13 goals, he has turned out to be a superb buy.

It’s incredible to think that from 8th to 13th only two points separates the teams and it is Angers who are clinging on to that 8th position. A derby win against Nantes 2-1 last time out propped them up the table.

So Ligue 1 is really fighting on all fronts and for once PSG are not completely clear in the distance. Can Marseille catch them and can Marseille hang on to 2nd place? Watch this space as the 2nd half of the campaign gets under way.

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Marseille emerge as the only hope to stop PSG in Ligue 1

The end of the year is here for Ligue 1 and PSG as expected are in 1st position. Perhaps the surprise is seeing Marseille in 2nd place. Marseille who will always be the great rival to PSG and one of the biggest clubs in France have been up and down and had a yo-yo decade in the league, but they seem on the ball and focused for this one. Can Marseille stop PSG’s dominance this season?

The only club to upset PSG’s apple cart since 2012 has been Monaco when they won the league in 2017 in stunning fashion with a barrage of goals, led by Kylian Mbappe who is now at PSG and a brilliant defence. But Monaco has fallen so far since that being the league champions just 2 and a half years ago seems a long way off. Fast forward to now and PSG lead the league by 7 points over Marseille. That in itself is a healthy lead, but add the fact that PSG have an extra game to play and it makes the situation much worse for Marseille.

PSG were tipped to struggle this season because of the Neymar transfer saga. The Brazilian was all set to leave the club in the summer but deals fell through and he stayed, then he got injured and returned and then injured again and has returned just this month. There has been niggling injuries to their other stars including Edinson Cavani and Mbappe, but the club have kept their chins up and coach Thomas Tuchel signed Mauro Icardi to get the goals instead. Despite a shaky start PSG are having a good season.

Good in that they are leading the league with a gap, have qualified for the knock out stages of the Champions League and are in the quarter finals of the Coupe de la Ligue. All really is good. And PSG are having a great month, all 3 of their deadly strikers are available and are scoring goals. The club have netted 13 times this month and conceded just 2 goals.

So what can Marseille do about this and is 2nd even an option? Marseille coach Andre Villas-Boas is being praised at the club because they are heading in the right direction at least. They are unbeaten in 5 games and have lost just 3 this season – the same as PSG, it is just the many draws that have been the difference between the sides.

PSG will drop more points this season, the problem is just how many? with the game in hand PSG are in theory 10 points clear, so that is basically 4 games difference before Marseille could surpass them. On top of that there has to be another 6 games at least added to that because we aren’t going to see the situation where PSG face a massive meltdown whist Marseille turn into world beaters, it can happen, but we don’t expect it. So for Marseille to go past them they will need 10 very good games. That would take the league up to 29 games and we could have a very close run in.

Close run ins are great but it would take a massive effort from Marseille nonetheless. They will have to beat PSG when they face them again and they have a terrible recent record over their eternal rivals. Marseille can get 95 points and PSG could get 108 points. In short, yes Marseille could win the league but it would need a massive loss of form from PSG and that simply seems unlikely, because Marseille even in great form won’t likely reach 90 points which is what they will need to aim for.

Rennes and Lille are the other problems for Marseille, they are 5 points and 7 points behind respectively. They could nab 2nd place which would mean no Champions League football next season for Marseille, if anything the clubs objective has to be 2nd place, and that means they will need to find a consistent method to winning.

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Ligue 1 Round Up: PSG roar on as Lyon’s bus is attacked in Marseille

The 13th week in Ligue 1 saw champions PSG reinstate their 8 point advantage at the top of the standings.

PSG were impressive away to Brest who had not lost at home this season and they came out 2-1 winners at a tough ground. Angel Di Maria opened the scoring and the impressive Mauro Icardi grabbed the winner. Icardi has been one of the most important signings made up PSG coach Thomas Tuchel as the club have repeatedly had injuries to their famed front three. This game was no different as both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were missing, but it was another 3 points for the club in the end.

Marseille have roared into 2nd place mostly because other clubs keep dropping points but they have won 3 of their last four games. At the weekend the club played a grudge match against Lyon, and these two famous rivals served up a treat which Marseille won 2-1. That stopped Lyon’s revival under new coach Rudi Garcia. Although Lyon’s team bus was attacked before the game and the club would have been shaken by that. One is reminded of when the same thing happened to Manchester City’s bus when they took on Liverpool in the Champions League.

Whilst the result leaves Lyon in 14th place with 16 points they are just six points behind 2nd placed Marseille, and there is a lot still to play for in the league.

Angers could have remained 2nd but slipped up to Reims and could only draw 0-0. They also ended the game with 10 men and the club have only won 1 game from their past five. One of the best form teams at the moment is Saint Etienne who have picked up 13 points from their last available 15. The club gained their 6th victory of the season when they beat Nantes 3-2 away from home. As for Nantes who were 2nd just a few weeks ago they are going through their worst form of the season and have now dropped to 9th place after losing 4 games in a row.

The bottom of the league remains tight. Nimes are last with 11 points and yet one win would take them into safety, but those wins will have to start coming soon. The club lost to Strasbourg 4-1. The worst form side of the league Toulouse are in 19th after losing 3-0 at Montpellier and Dijon remain in 18th after a close 1-0 defeat at the hands of Monaco.

Ligue 1 football resumes from the weekend of 22nd November where PSG will be at home against 5th place Lille. Marseille will take on Toulouse and be favourites to win that game. Can PSG’s 8 point lead be caught up? Probably not but that is the question on every French football fans’ mind. Only time will tell.

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Lyon appoint Rudi Garcia after nightmare start to the Ligue 1 season

Lyon have had their worst start to a Ligue 1 campaign in an era and they have been swift to act. Before week 10 coach Sylvinho was dismissed and he has been replaced by Rudi Garcia but can Garcia improve the team and is he the right man?

That answer looks to be a yes and a yes. Appointing Garcia is the flipside of appointing Sylvinho, the ex-Arsenal man like for example Thierry Henry at Monaco had no top tier level experience and surely bringing him in to a club like Lyon at this early stage of his managerial career was as they say in French a faux pas.

Garcia though is a different cattle of fish and here we have a coach who has spent over 15 seasons managing teams in Ligue 1. His most recent job was with Marseille where the 55 year old spent 3 seasons and had his fair share of ups and downs but one must remember that the team stayed a consistent top 5 side.

His average career win rate is 47% which in managerial terms isn’t as bad as it looks and with Lille he hit 50%, he also hit 51% at his time with Roma. He has won 2 trophies, the Ligue 1 title and a cup both with Lille in 2011. So even though it has been some time he does have some trophies under his belt.

Make no mistake though with the start that Lyon have had where they are in the bottom half of the league with 9 points and a massive 12 points behind leaders PSG the objective for Lyon isn’t trophies but recovery. True a deep run in a cup competition will be welcomed, and the knockout stages of the Champions League too, but this season Lyon’s owners wanted to challenge PSG and give them a run for their money, and that will be the clear objective. If they can’t win the league, then come 2nd and get the club back on the map.

Lyon will host Dijon who are in 19th place and this seems to be the perfect opportunity for the club to bounce back even if Dijon have shown promise lately by winning two games in a row. Garcia has proven that he has what it takes, but it will be fascinating to see how he does it and how he deploys a team who have lost quality players including Nabil Fekir this season.

Don’t write off Lyon just yet will be the message from the south east of France, a sleeping giant may just have awoken.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Florian Thauvin

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It cannot be underestimated how important Florian Thauvin is to Marseille and it would be a strange day in Marseille’s history to not see the player in their line up, he has become part of the furniture at Stade Velodrome.

But after a successful personal season for Thauvin the rumour mill will start up once again and he could be linked with a move away from the club from the south of France. This is due in part to the fact that Marseille did not qualify for Europe, after an inconsistent season saw the club finish in 5th place a cool 30 points behind champions PSG and 5 points from a European finish.

Thauvin has spent five seasons with Marseille on and off and once left the club to join Newcastle United, but in England he only played 13 games before being loaned back to Marseille who eventually signed him permanently. Time is still on his side and at 26 he has his best years ahead of him. But despite winning the World Cup with France (he hardly played in the competition) he only has one other trophy which is the Ligue 2 championship with Bastia, and Marseille’s resolve may be tested again this summer to try and hang on to the player.

It should be no surprise if bigger clubs are looking at Thauvin after the season he has had. In the end Thauvin finished just 1 point behind Angel Di Maria to be crowned the best midfielder in France in the European fantasy rankings for Ligue 1. Thauvin finished on 95 points after scoring 16 goals and assisting in another 8. Both Thauvin and Di Maria were clearly the best midfielders this past season in Ligue 1 and both finished over 20 points above the next player in 3rd.

Thauvin’s best weekend occurred against Amiens when Marseille won 3-1. Thauvin scored a hat-trick which also earned him a bonus 2 points and from that one game he earned a whopping 14 points. There were other stand out moments too like when he earned 10 points against Guingamp and Toulouse, he also started the season with 10 points from his first two games.

One negative that could be pointed at the player was his disciplinary. Thauvin was booked 5 times during the season and was also sent off once. Take a few of those cards away and he would have finished top of the pile for Ligue 1 midfielders.

For now Ligue 1 is still graced by his presence but after having another superb season one wonders how long Thauvin will stay with Marseille and no European football for next season?

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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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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: 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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