Coupe de France round up: PSG squeeze through, Bordeaux shocked

The round of 32 in the France’s main cup, the Coupe de France was the main focus this past weekend as Ligue 1 took a rest.

All eyes were on league champions PSG who had to travel to Lorient. Lorient are currently in 1st place in Ligue 2 and PSG of course top the standings in Ligue 1, so it made for an interesting match up. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel decided to have star players Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the bench and he didn’t use them. The game was a very tight one which in the end PSG won 1-0 through a Pablo Sarabia header with just 10 minutes to go to break Lorient’s hearts. PSG will now face Pau FC in the last 16.

This will be a dream for Pau FC who are in the 3rd tier of French football, to be able to play against the mighty PSG for a chance in the quarter finals. It is everything Pau FC deserved after shocking another Ligue 1 team as they knocked out Bordeaux, winning 3-2 in what many have called one of the games of the round.

The match finished 2-2 and Pau FC won the game in extra time, there were 15,000 fans to see it and they have been drawn again at home to face PSG- put this in your calendars, the game takes place on January 29th.

Perhaps the game of the round though took place in Nantes where Lyon came to town and won an enthralling match 4-3. Lyon had found themselves 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes and at half time they were 3-1 up. Both teams revised their normal line ups but it was Lyon that showed more hunger in the end. Moussa Dembele who has arguably been one of Lyon’s better players this season seemingly put the game away when he made it 4-1. But Nantes were not completely done and a comeback looked on the cards after goals from Louza and Simon one in the 83rd minute and then another three minutes later. It was a very nervous last five minutes as Nantes pushed for a fourth goal but they couldn’t find it.

Elsewhere Strasbourg beat Angouleme 5-1 with Ludovic Ajorque getting on the score sheet once again though this was a penalty. Saint Etienne were involved in a very good game eventually beating Paris FC 3-2 away. Angers beat Rouen 4-1, Montpellier easily beat 5-0 with star striker Gaetan Laborde getting on the score sheet. Rennes won and Dijon put 5 goals past Nimes and Monaco squeezed through too.

Only the Bordeaux game was seen as a shock result, the last 16 games take place at the end of the month.

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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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Sacking season in Ligue 1 as Jardim and Kombouare lose their jobs

The Ligue 1 season wasn’t showing many managerial changes so far but we have had two very recent ones.

The major one was Monaco sacking Leonardo Jardim. You’ve read that right. The club sacked him last year as got Thierry Henry as their coach and that was a stuff of nightmares before Jardim was brought back to the club. He was able to steer Monaco clear of relegation last season which they looked like they would be heading for.

This season Monaco had vastly improved and are sitting in 7th place. This is a near miracle when we compare how poor the side have been for the past few seasons. Form has also been good with 3 wins in their last four games and unbeaten in the league since the end of November. Indeed the club are just 3 points from a top 4 position. They also knocked out Reims 2-1 at the weekend in the French Cup.

Jardim’s sacking seems odd when the club were in good fortunes and one suspects that he has either had a falling out with the board or players. Maybe we won’t know the full extent of what happened for some time. Monaco have wasted very little time and already have Jardim’s successor in Roberto Moreno the former Spanish coach, whose first game in the dugout will be away to PSG, ouch!

Also sacked is Antoine Kombouare from Toulouse. This news came as no shock given that the club are bottom of the league. They are 5 points from safety and have lost 13 of their 19 games so far this season. The club had many problems in defence which was underlined by conceding 39 goals this season alone.

To add more misery to the clubs fortunes they managed to lose 10 games in a row which is a record for them. At the weekend as if to rub salt in the wounds the club were knocked out of the French Cup. What made it worse was that they lost to a non league side.

Toulouse will now be looking for their third manager this season alone, in a campaign where relegation to Ligue 2 looks destined.

The two sackings close together bring the sack race in Ligue 1 to four this season after Sylvinho was given his marching orders from Lyon and Ghislain Printant was sacked from Saint Etienne. We could well count on a few more sackings in the next few weeks as owners look at the current positions in the league and look towards their options.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers of 2018/19: Kylian Mbappe

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Kylian Mbappe had another fantastic season as he scored 33 goals and topped the lead goal scorers list in France as a result. His goals were the primary cause for PSG winning another Ligue 1 title as Mbappe underlined his reputation as one of the best strikers in Europe.

This season in particular was a massive step up for Mbappe when we consider his previous seasons. Before the start of 2018/19 season the most league goals Mbappe had scored in one season was 15, for Monaco, in season 2016/17. This season he managed 18 more goals and the plaudits need to be lauded on the player for the following reason; he was able to step up after PSG lost the services of both Edinson Cavani and Neymar and Mbappe then became the main player and forward for the club.

Let’s analyse his season. Mbappe started off with a bang when he scored a brace against Guingamp in a fairly routine win and all of this happened despite him only playing 50 minutes of the game. Within the first 2 games of the season he had acquired 14 points and never really looked back.

His best game of the season happened in matchday 5 when PSG destroyed league rivals Lyon 5-0 in Paris. Mbappe was heavily involved and scored an incredible 4 goals, he also picked up bonus points for getting a hat-trick and ended the game with 18 points. Other highlights of the season included scoring a hat-trick and making an assist in PSG’s 9-0 victory over Guingamp, that earned him 16 points and he earned another 14 with another hat-trick against Monaco later in the season.

There were only 4 games when Mbappe failed to record any points and he remained consistent throughout the season. One such instance of this was at the beginning of the season where Mbappe scored points in the first 8 weeks of the season.

Mbappe finished on a huge 144 points in Ligue 1 Fantasy Football rankings and finished 35 points ahead of Nicolas Pepe. His value going into last season was 10.5m and perhaps after having such a great season his value may go up next season. Overall Mbappe would rank 2nd in the strikers list with only Lionel Messi at Barcelona having gained more points.

It is still incredible to think that he is only 20 years old and he has already won 6 major trophies including a World Cup and 3 Ligue 1 titles with PSG and Monaco.

As for his future it looks destined to be away from Ligue 1, but he looks like he will stay with PSG for the foreseeable future and will remain the main focus point of Ligue 1 football. He is arguably the most special talent in classic centre forward style since the Brazilian Ronaldo.

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Kylian Mbappe makes demands to PSG in front of stunned crowd at awards show

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The French have a saying for when you put your foot in it, it’s called faux pas and PSG striker Kylian Mbappe did just that at the French football awards at the weekend. Mbappe received the highest award with winning the player of the season in France and then hinted in front of a packed audience that included PSG’s owners and PSG manager Thomas Tuchel that his future may lie elsewhere, it was a stunning moment.

Mbappe took his award and then told everyone listening: “It’s a very important moment for me, I come to a turning point in my career. I have discovered a lot here, and I feel it is maybe the moment to have more responsibility.I hope that can perhaps be at Paris St Germain, that would be a great pleasure. Or maybe elsewhere with a new project.”

Mbappe’s statement is one of intent and he is clearly not happy at PSG. This in part may be to do with the fact that the club keep blowing up at the knockout rounds of the Champions League but at the same time there is a strong feeling that Real Madrid have approached PSG and offered upwards of 250 million euros for the player.

The 20 year old joined the club in 2017 after guiding Monaco to a Ligue 1 title, initially this was on a loan deal before he joined for a transfer fee in the region of £160m becoming the 2nd most expensive player in history behind Neymar his PSG teammate.

While Mbappe has had a fantastic season scoring 32 goals in just 28 games and 38 overall this season his speech will strike some as shocking. At just 20 he wants to rule the roost and have his say, and while he undoubtedly has the talent to be remembered as one of the greats one could wonder if he isn’t getting too ahead of himself. Or could it be that Real Madrid have already made contact and Mbappe was asked to stoke the fires somewhat- to do that in this company, well he has got a reaction that is for sure.

So what can PSG do to keep the player happy? First will be a wage rise, next could be that Mbappe wants more say, what exactly that extends to is anyone’s guess, but he has now laid down a marker and it feels that it is only a question of when and not if Mbappe leaves the club. The destination looks set for Madrid, rare has any player in the past turned the club down, why should that stop at Mbappe?

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Thierry Henry sacked, Leonardo Jardim returns and yet Monaco could still be relegated from Ligue 1

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If anything at least it hasn’t been a quiet forgettable season for Monaco. The 2017 champions and the only team to stop PSG winning the league since 2012 are in 17th place and have a realistic chance of being relegated.

Thierry Henry infamously replaced Leonardo Jardim who had guided the club to their Ligue 1 win and had done pretty much nothing wrong to be sacked in the first place. This was proven just 4 months later when Henry couldn’t even buy a win and was sacked as Monaco lay in the bottom three. He was inevitably replaced by Jardim and Monaco’s fortune swiftly turned around, well at least, for a few weeks.

It seems though that Jardim and possibly even Henry were not the root of the problem and the real problem for the club is that for many seasons they have constantly sold their best players. Run as a business Monaco have been terrific one of the best clubs in Europe, buy cheap and sell large. Clubs such as Manchester City and PSG have spent hundreds of millions acquiring the talent pool from Monaco. That is all very well and good but was it worth it to be playing in Ligue 2?

Jardim has simply not been able to turn things around enough for a club who have slumped in the past month. Their latest defeat was against newly promoted Nimes losing 1-0 and Monaco are 17th. The problem for the club is that they are only in this position on goal difference. Caen have found excellent form and have the same number of points on them on 33. And that is not all, Dijon’s victory over Strasbourg at the weekend means that they have 31 and remain a threat and there is still 2 games to play in the league.

Monaco have lost 3 of their last four games and from their last 10 games they have won just once. Their last victory came 2 months ago when they beat Lille. Indeed that has been a sticking point with the club. Their last two wins came against Lille who are 2nd and Lyon who are 3rd, but they have had a hard time beating teams just above them and around them which could ultimately be their downfall.

Will Monaco survive? Well if they finish 18th that is no longer automatic relegation in France and instead they would partake in a play off against the 3rd place Ligue 2 side to see who would be promoted and relegated. Monaco’s last two games are at home to Amiens and then away in the derby against Nice. How ironic that it is Nice who could end up sending them down?

The Amiens game then is massive and win that and that should be enough to fend off the challenge from Dijon. Plus Dijon have to play PSG away from home next, and yes whilst PSG have been in poor form, no one is expecting them to lose that match. So Dijon do look down. As for Caen that is the real worry for Monaco, since Caen would be 6th in the league on form.

Caen have to play Lyon away which is going to be incredibly tough and then finish the season with a home game against Bordeaux. It’s going to be close and both Caen and Monaco could finish on 36 points.

While the excitement of who would win Ligue 1 felt done and dusted by Christmas the relegation battle is only just heating up with 2 games to go.

Ligue 1 Player of the Week: Kylian Mbappe

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Everything came together in Ligue 1 at the weekend as Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick on Sunday against his former team Monaco in Paris as PSG won the league title.

Mbappe’s 3 goals earned him more points than any other player in Ligue 1 Fantasy Football with 14. He is top of the rankings with an overall haul of 132 points and has a value of 10.5m. He is a cool 35 points in front of the next best player Nicolas Pepe who plays for Lille.

Mbappe is also the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 with 30 goals and one has to remind themselves that he is just 20 years old- oh and of course he has a World Cup already to his name. In a week where his team mate Dani Alves became the most decorated player in history with his 42nd trophy, one has to wonder if Mbappe will surpass this record. Alves is 15 years older than Mbappe and if we say that the French forward has at least another 15 years at the very top then he has plenty of time to catch him up, he currently has 7 trophies to his name.

The 20 year old has been not just the best player in Ligue 1 this week, or this season but the best player in world football in the past 12 months. One has to wonder if Ronaldo or Lionel Messi would have won world player of the year had they won a domestic treble and then the World Cup last season. Mbappe didn’t, FIFA seemed to back out of that decision based on his then age of 19. No matter it is only a question of time, perhaps this will be the year but then again PSG were knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16 and that could affect that vote.

Mbappe has recovered well in recent weeks too- the player was dropped from he defeat at Nantes after he criticised the teams commitment on the back of drawing 2-2 with Strasbourg and then the horrific 5-1 defeat at the hands of Lille. Of course it was just a stay of execution PSG were always going to win the league, in the end it simply dragged on more than they would have liked.

He has proven to be the ultimate striker and his pace is electrifying. Against Monaco one of his runs clocked in at an a average of 38km p/h that is quicker than 100m world record holder Usain Bolt.

For his hat-trick Mbappe was set up twice by Alves and he even hit the post meaning he could have ended the night with more goals. And there is more.

In scoring 30 goals in a single season Mbappe became the first French player to reach that feat in Ligue 1 since the great Jean- Pierre Papin.

Mbappe by light years wins the Ligue 1 player of the week in reality he should be winning every other personal competition he is involved in too. An absolute star to treasure with an even greater future ahead of him.

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When you invest in football at the right time & it pays off

Football is a strategy game and if you play your cards right you can keep your winning streak. Most clubs ensure that the managers and players just do that since it is a result-driven industry and business. With all the money that is at stake and all the investments made, no one can afford to let it go to waste.

But how do you put a winning strategy into place? Well, it encompasses more than just putting eleven men on a pitch. You have to think about the team's formation, select the right players for each game, make sure there is great chemistry within the team but also between the players and managers.

You make choices prior to starting the competition wishing it would just work fine. You select the best people available out there and aim for another successful season. Sometimes it does work perfectly and other times the contrary happens. And this is the time where you need to be smart and act fast if you want drastic changes. Being by acquiring new players or changing managers if needed.

We have seen it recently with the sacking of José Mourinho by Manchester United in mid-season. Following a bad start for the club, he has been replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer which has proven to be a successful decision. This type of change paid off in Premier League but some investments have been profitable in other European teams as well this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus is probably the most illustrating example. After 9 years with Real Madrid and more than 300 goals scored, he decided to take on a new challenge. In the 30 games he has played with the Bianconeri, he already scored 19 goals. The most notorious being the only goal against Milan allowing the team to win the Supercoppa final.

Another phenomenon of the Italian League is Krzysztof Piatek. The young Polish pistolero, is worth every penny the club spent during the winter transfer window. He replaced Gonzalo Higuaín that was not showing enough results for the club (8 goals in 22 games). It seems like the Argentine striker is doing a way better job at Chelsea where he already scored 2 goals in 3 games.

Piatek had already scored 19 goals for Genoa before his transfer. After only 3 games with his new club, he already showed tremendous skills and scored 3 goals. Not to mention that he scored twice for Milan against Napoli, a decisive win that sent them through the Coppa Italia semi-finals. According to Gattuso, Milan’s coach, he is a far better striker than Higuaín and the fans already adore him.

In the Bundesliga, Paco Alcácer is another impressive player. The Spanish striker had been loaned by Barcelona to Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the season. He made a great debut with the club on top of securing decisive wins in his early games. Management was so impressed by his amazing performances that it decided to sign him on a permanent basis. So far he has scored 12 goals in 15 games.

In Monaco, there has been a lot of drama going on lately with the dismissal of Thierry Henry and the return of Leonardo Jardim. Cesc Fàbregas joined the club in mid-January and already illustrated himself. The player scored the winning goal for Monaco against Toulouse. This was his first one but an important one. This gives Monaco its first win in seven league games and allowed them to get out of the relegation zone.

These few examples show the importance of investing in the right people at the right time. If a team is not performing well then someone has to ring the alarm and make the necessary adjustments. When done properly it can have a huge positive impact on the team’s success.

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.

Inter’s busy schedule should offer Dalbert chance to prove his worth

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“Thanks to God, I scored my first goal in the Inter shirt today. I’ve worked hard to experience moments like this, and I also want to thank my family. I did feel some fatigue this evening, but I worked hard and am happy with my performance. Scoring two goals early on helped us a lot, and we did well in terms of approaching the match in the right way and getting the result that we wanted. The team are working hard and did so during the winter break too. We all came back in the same physical condition as before.” Those were the words of Brazilian full-back Dalbert in the aftermath of the Nerazzurri’s 6-2 victory over Benevento on last weekend. Continue reading