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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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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Lille set for runners up spot as Saint Etienne close the gap on Lyon

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PSG remained 16 points clear of Lille as the champions continue their poor form to wrap up the end of the season. The club could only draw at home against Nice in a match that ended 1-1. Neymar who has been in the headlines for all of the wrong reason recently after getting into an altercation with a fan scored PSG’s goal after he converted a penalty. That goal cancelled out Nice’s opener.

The champions form has been almost alien to them where from the last 5 games they have just 1 win, although they have scored 98 goals this season in the league and with 3 matches left to play the team should certainly pass the 100 mark. Last season the club managed 108 goals.

But all of the excitement was not for PSG who simply want the season to end but for the race for 2nd place and an automatic Champions League qualification. So what better than 2nd playing 3rd, and that is what we witnessed at the weekend. Lyon were at home to Lille who have occupied 2nd place for most of the season and it does look like Lille will finish in that position after this encounter ended 2-2.

Martin Terrier opened the scoring for Lyon who came into this game 6 points behind Lille. But Lille took hold of the game and sped into a 2-1 lead only for Lyon to find the equaliser with 15 minutes to go through Leo Dubois. The draw was a great result for Lille who remain 6 points clear with just 9 points left on the board.

However the pressure was increased for Lyon because Saint Etienne in 4th beat Monaco in a five goal thriller that finished 3-2 to the Verts. Saint Etienne have won 4 games in a row and on form they are the 2nd best team in the league. They are just one point behind Lyon hoping to not only snatch 3rd place but also the final Champions League place.

Montpellier’s poor 1-1 draw at home against Amiens that their chances of a Europa League finish are almost over as they have slipped 7 points behind 4th place. However the draw was enough to move past Marseille on goal difference. Both teams are on 55 points after L’OM could draw against Strasbourg in a match they could have lost given that Strasbourg missed a penalty to go 2-1 up.

One of the biggest success stories of the weekend though was seeing Nimes enter the top 8 as they went to Reims and comprehensively beat them 3-0. Reims form since a European place became unavailable has been back to their early season poor run, but Nimes have been one of the best pound for pound teams in Ligue 1 this season after their promotion from Ligue 2.

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Nimes- the business model team of Ligue 1 this season

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Nimes will not be finishing in a European place this season but the club have every possibility of ending up in the top 10 which would be a fantastic achievement given where they have come from.

Let’s start at the beginning of the season where they were promoted back to Ligue 1 after securing qualification from Ligue 2. Nimes were back in the top flight for the first time since 1993.

A lot of the teams progression is down to coach Bernard Blaquart who joined as head coach in 2015 when the team were struggling in Ligue 2. Blaquart implanted a  more attacking style to the team and while it took time for his initial players to adapt to their new style it paid off in the end and after 3 years Nimes defied the odds to make it back to Ligue 1.

What has been impressive about Blaquart has been that the majority of his managerial career has been based in the lower leagues in France but he has struck up a chemistry with his players here and is now a well respected figure. The fans adore him too because win, lose or draw they know they will be entertained. Take the clubs 4-2 loss to PSG earlier in the season at home. The players were applauded from the pitch- they had taken the game to the French champions, had lead in it too, before succumbing to some naïve play and tiredness, but they didn’t just lie down and take the defeat like some clubs would have.

It’s incredible to think that Nimes spent just 2.7m euros on players before the season started and all of that went on one player- Denis Bouanga from Lorient. Bouanga has played just 15 times this season scoring 4 goals but injury and fitness has set him back in his debut season for the club.

But where Nimes have been clever has been loaning players from bigger clubs such as Lyon’s Jordan Ferri and Faitout Maouassa from Rennes. Nimes best performing player has been Rachid Alioui the forward who has amassed just 19 points this season in Ligue 1 Fantasy Football- but points have been deducted for most of the players due to yellow cards and a lack of clean sheets.

Nimes have still been able to win 13 of their games overall, which isn’t a great record but at the beginning of the season finishing 17th would have been seen as a success or at the very least a building block for the next one. Nimes have done superbly well, although it is important that they have the funds and spend them to be able to remain in Ligue 1 for the following season.

For now Nimes are one of the best success stories in Ligue 1 following promotion. If anything even when they lose they do it well.

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Controversy in Ligue 1 as Rennes get game delayed

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There has been some controversy in Ligue 1 this past weekend when Rennes were able to get their game against Nimes postponed until a later date. This was only confirmed a few days before the game as the club requested permission from the LFP- which accepted, but why did Rennes want their game postponed?

The reason was that they could prepare and have more time to get ready for their crucial Europa League last 16 match with Premier League team Arsenal. Whilst this has worked out perfectly for the club, it has also caused some problems in the league as well as elsewhere.

Take PSG who constantly are involved in the Champions League- PSG have never had the benefit of having a game postponed, instead the LFP have usually let the club play on a Saturday afternoon if the game is on Wednesday or a Friday night if the game is on Tuesday, but getting a postponement, never. Has the LFP just opened up a can of worms? If they allow one team in Rennes to have their game called off then surely other teams can claim for the same treatment?

Of course from Rennes point of view this is good news and the extra preparation and rest could well be beneficial to them. Take Arsenal their opponents in the Europa League who were not given the same luxury as they had to play at the weekend in a North London derby no less against Tottenham which they drew 1-1. But it was yet another game for Unai Emery’s men who remain competitive in the league where they are chasing a top 4 spot.

No official complaint has come from Arsenal but Rennes will get a massive 8 day rest and Arsenal fans have vented their anger and what looks like a clear disadvantage for the Gunners coming into the game.

Should the buck therefore not stop at the LFP but instead be referred to UEFA? After all if there is a postponement , delay or crowd trouble it is usually UEFA that has final say. With the Europa League being a UEFA competition, wouldn’t they want more clarity and fairness?

It will be interesting to see if Rennes can get past Arsenal, and if so will they require Ligue 1 to stop again for them for the quarter finals? And surely PSG will now look at this and start requesting delays to their games.

What the LFP has done only feels acceptable if other leagues with their top teams allow them the same gesture, as it stands, this simply feels unfair not only to Arsenal but of course to Nimes, whose fans had already bought tickets to travel from the south of France to the North west for this match and now will be turned away.

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PSG’s Mbappe returns to action and breaks Ligue 1 record

mbappe4A couple of weeks back we reported about how Kylian Mbappe would serve a third match suspended following his sending off against Nimes last month, having previously hoped to get away with two matches on the sidelines. That suspension is now over of course, and this past weekend Mbappe lined up for his first home game since returning to the team with Lyon as the guests. The first half was a fairly run of the mill 45 minutes, with PSG going into the interval holding a 1-0 lead thanks to a first half penalty from Neymar. The second half, however, produced the type of football that fans in attendance could one day look back and say “I was there”. In just 13 second half minutes, Mbappe set the world alight once again – and made history while doing so.

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Mbappe loses appeal and will miss PSG clash with Reims

mbappe3France international Kylian Mbappe has lost his appeal against the red card he received at the start of September and will now sit out a third game, ruling him out of Paris Saint-Germain’s clash with Reims this week. The Ligue 1 leaders – already five points clear at the top, ahead of Lille – will likely stick with a front three of Edinson Cavani, Neymar  and Julian Draxler in the 19-year-old’s absence. Mbappe had been sent off in PSG’s 4-2 win over Nimes on September 1, after lashing out at Teji Sevanier. Sevanier was also banned – for four games in his instance – for his part in the fracas. Mbappe has begun the season in scintillating form, scoring four goals from his opening three appearances.

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