Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Ismaila Sarr

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Ismaila Sarr may not come first to your mind when you think of brilliant midfielders plying their trade in France’s Ligue 1 but Sarr had a very solid season at Rennes to end up being the 5th best midfielder of the season.

Sarr who is from Senegal is widely unknown even in the league- although his performances this season should change that view. One has to remember that Sarr is still only 21. Sarr had played for Metz before being snapped up by Rennes in 2017 and has since fit into the team without any problems.

The Rennes midfielder would have cost you 7.5m to have in your team- that could go up next season after his performances in this one. He gained a total of 60 points, just 10 points shy of Reims’ Remi Oudin. His goal scoring feats were impressive as he netted 8 times and assisted in a further 6 goals and was part of a team that kept 11 clean sheets.

Sarr’s season started by picking up points in 3 of his first four matches as his play and his team gained momentum. However that was stopped soon after as Rennes went through a bad period of form that begun in mid September. As a consequence Sarr picked up no points for 5 games in a row.

His best form started at the beginning of December where he scored points in five consecutive games totalling 18 altogether. His best game of the season actually came down to two matches. The early season win over Angers in which he scored a goal and kept a clean sheet and the terrific 2-0 win at Lyon where he assisted in both goals and of course kept a clean sheet. For the player the Lyon victory might be the best moment of his season league wise.

Sarr picked up 6 bookings but otherwise never finished a game below -1 points which is an impressive sign at his age that he is maturing well. This is his highest ever points total and he will be looking to keep that momentum going for next season.

As for Rennes season they had a memorable one. True they could only finish in 10th place with 52 points and finished 14 points from a European place, but that is only the beginning of the story. Rennes qualified for the Europa League after winning their first major trophy in a generation when they stunned PSG in the Coupe de France final and beat them. It was one of the biggest shocks in French football history. The club won on penalties after a 2-2 draw and Sarr was on hand to score one of his to crown a very special season indeed.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Remi Oudin

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In Reims, Remi Oudin is known as a superstar, the one golden light in the club who from his position planted in attacking midfield gave Reims the hope of European football for a long time. That he is a local only adds to the lure and respect the fans give him.

Reims did not start the season well, but rarely lost instead they kept piling up draws, but by winter they had established themselves and flirted with the top 5 positions. A Europa League place or dare we say it a Champions League one still felt realistic even in February. Had they made it to the Champions League that would have been emotional enough given that this famous and historic team are linked to the beginnings of the European Cup. In the end the club ran out of steam and energy and so did Oudin.

However it’s worth congratulating both player and club, we have to remember that they finished in the top 10 after being promoted as champions of Ligue 2 last season.

As for Oudin he finished the season in the European Fantasy League rankings in 4th place for midfielders, 29th for midfielders in major leagues and 82nd for overall performance including every player. That’s not bad going for a player that was plying his trade in Ligue 2 last season.

Oudin finished with 70 points just 4 behind Wahbi Khazri of Saint Etienne and he started 32 games for Reims. He was impressive in front of goal too scoring 10 times and also assisted in another four goals. He didn’t see red all season and was booked just 4 times.

The player started the season by earning 6 points from his first two games as Reims kept two clean sheets in their victories over both Nice and Lyon, in the latter game he also provided the assist for the winner.

His best game of the season came on October 28th when Reims played Rennes away from home and won a normally tough fixture 2-0. Oudin was the definite hero of the day scoring both goals and getting extra points for a clean sheet. The only sour note was losing points for being booked but he still earned 9 points that day.

If any criticism could be pointed at Oudin it’s that he lacked consistency throughout the season and would appear brilliant in one match and average in the next, however in the month of February he was certainly one of the best in form players in Ligue 1.

In the 3 games that took place he earned 18 points as Reims had victories over Rennes and Montpellier and drew against Toulouse and Oudin scored against Rennes again. He also scored a brace against Montpellier.

Oudin finished the season quietly though earning a points total of 3 points from his last seven games as Reims came to the conclusion that their European hopes had faded for this season.

Oudin is currently valued at 10m and he proved this season why- it will be interesting to see what the 22 year old will produce next season and also interesting to see how long on this form Reims will be able to keep their man.

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Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers 2018/19: Edouard Mendy

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Edouard Mendy might not be a household name even in France but the goalkeeper who keeps command for Reims in Ligue 1 has, by his standards, had an interesting season after finally breaking through to first team football in the last couple of years.

Mendy had spent time in the lower national leagues of France and then was taken on for Marseille’s B team but at age 24 it seemed that Mendy’s career was in trouble, that is when Reims decided to take a chance on the shot stopper who hails from Normandy.

Mendy helped Reims win Ligue 2 and was rewarded when the team decided to keep him, mostly because of his chemistry with the back four. He has rewarded Reims by being statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the league this season.

In the fantasy rankings Mendy ranks as 4th finishing on 59 points and only 3 behind PSG’s goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Mendy would have cost 8m to add to your team. What has been terrific about Mendy’s season is he went the whole 9 months without missing a game in the league and played all 38. Though he conceded 42 goals he also kept  a highly impressive 14 clean sheets- that’s the 3rd best record in the league. He was booked 3 times which is easily the most from the top 10 keepers in the league.

Overall Mendy finished in 16th place if we take into account all goalkeepers in the major European leagues. So what went well for the goalkeeper during the season, and not so well?

Mendy started the season in terrific form picking up 14 points from his first two games as Reims beat Nice and Lyon and kept clean sheets on both occasions. However in his 3rd game Amiens shocked Reims by beating them 4-1 and that earned Mendy -6 points and this was repeated a further two times during the season. Less goals conceded would have seen Mendy easily finish in third place.

His best period was from the end of September until the beginning of December where from 5 games he scored points in four of them and walked away in that time frame with 28 points.

Mendy and Reims started to fall away from springtime after having a decent shout at finishing in an European place. His final 7 games were average indeed, this despite earning a couple of clean sheets those games earned him -3 points.

In the end Reims blew their European chance and finished in 8th place on 55 points and 11 points behind European qualification.

However Mendy proved himself in Ligue 1 and has really come up the ranks and it will be interesting to see next season if he continues to grow as a footballer after a tough start to his career.

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Top Ligue 1 Strikers in 2018/19: Edinson Cavani

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Edinson Cavani has had a great career at PSG where he has been with the club for 6 seasons, playing 279 games and scoring 193 times, and even at 32 he has been good enough to be recognised as one of the best strikers in France’s Ligue 1.

Of course his season was dealt many blows- being knocked out of the two domestic cups seemed a step backwards given how PSG have dominated in France. But they did win the league and won it in style with several games to go. Cavani missed big games including some in the Champions League when PSG lost over 2 legs against Manchester United.

For Cavani though this was another personal successful season that saw the Uruguayan forward score 18 goals only Kylian Mbappe and Nicolas Pepe were able to score more this season. Cavani also assisted in a further 5 goals and when he played which was 20 games in the league for 50% of that time with him in the team PSG kept a clean sheet. Cavani’s cards records were great too where he received just 1 yellow card from the 20 games played.

Cavani ended the season in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 records with a points total of 83. Whilst that was 26 points shy of Nicolas Pepe in 2nd place Pepe had the advantage of playing 17 more games than Cavani who totalled 83 points to finish in 3rd place. Overall with all strikers combined in all the major European leagues Cavani finished in 15th place.

Cavani’s season started brightly as he scored a goal in each of his first three games. He only really had one bad spell which was in October when he failed to score in back to back games when PSG played Lyon and Amiens. Ironically the French champions won both games 5-0 but Cavani failed to register a goal or an assist.

The striker’s best game of the season came in January when PSG were playing Guingamp in Paris. The score was an incredible one which ended 9-0 to them. Cavani obliged with a hat trick and 2 assists, in a special game for him, it’s fair to say he kept the ball that evening.

Another memorable game occurred against Monaco earlier in the season when PSG beat the troubled 2017 champions at the Stade Louis III winning 4-0. Cavani helped himself to a hat trick and bonus points to go with that to get a total of 14 points.

Cavani’s last home game saw him get a goal against Dijon and in the last game of the season away to Reims, PSG lost 3-1 but he scored points by assisting Mbappe for PSG’s consolation goal.

Cavani’s total points of 83 is one of his worst under PSG but at the same time he only played just over half of the season due to injuries and in that respect he actually had a very solid season.

The player has talked about a move away from PSG and France and could be eyeing a Premier League club, if so Cavani will be very much missed in Ligue 1, he scored some fantastic goals and has been a big part of PSG’s fantastic success in the 2010′s. He remains one of the very best strikers in Europe.

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Ligue 1: Week 38: Player Picks for the Weekend

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Almost everything has been settled in Ligue 1, we know the champions, the teams who will participate in the Champions League and Europa League. The only real football up for debate is who will be the final team to be relegated and/or have to play in a play-off with a Ligue 2 side, which is what the team finishing in 18th place will have to do.

That battle is between Caen and Amiens, and Amiens has a 2 point advantage over Caen. Monaco could still finish in the bottom three but that looks very distant and they should be safe, however they will have a tough final game as it is the derby v Nice.

Below we pick out 11 players in a formation of 4-4-2 who could pick up points at the weekend in the final games of the Ligue 1 season.

Goalkeeper: Brice Samba-Caen

Brice Samba has kept 3 clean sheets in the past five games for Caen who need to beat Bordeaux to have a chance to stay up. Bordeaux have been very poor and Caen are at home. Samba is only 3m to buy which is fantastic value.

Defender: Alexander Djiku- Caen

Staying with Caen Djiku has played the most games for the club in defence and even though he has a poor points tally, and the club let in 4 goals v Lyon in their last game. It is this one that counts. Caen will be favourites to beat Bordeaux and Djiku could keep another clean sheet. He is valued at 7m.

Defender: Diego Carlos- Nantes

Diego Carlos has been Nantes best defender stats wise and has 23 points. He is valued at 6m. Nantes will play their last game of the season at home and they will host Strasbourg, for us this is a home win and Nantes also have a good chance to keep a clean sheet.

Defender: Mathieu Debuchy- Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne celebrated Europa League qualification as they sealed fourth place last weekend. They will play Angers away and this could be a low scoring game or at least a win for the away side. Debuchy could pick up points for a clean sheet, but he also likes to come forward for the Verts and scores too. He can be bought for 7.5m.

Defender: Wesley Lautoa- Dijon

Dijon are still not down and if they win at the weekend and Caen do not get the right result they could finish 18th and have the play off. Dijon have conceded goals lately but they will play Toulouse at the weekend a side who are in general poor. Plus Lautoa costs just 3m and this could be a steal.

Midfielder: Remi Oudin- Reims

Reims will play PSG and they will be the underdogs to win. But at the same time Reims have been able to surprise them in recent years and will want to give a good performance with their final home game of the season. Oudin has scored 10 goals which makes him a dangerous player and he is valued at 10m.

Midfielder: Florian Thauvin- Marseille

Florian Thauvin is one of the best players in the league and he loves to get forward and score goals. He won the player of the weekend this past weekend. But he has just 4 goals in 2019, he will be determined to add more like he was in the last game when he scored a brace. Thauvin has 89 points and would cost 11m.

Midfielder: Valentin Rongier- Nantes

Rongier has had a great second half to the season much like his club Nantes. They play at home against Strasbourg and will be the favourites to win the match. Rongier has scored 4 goals and assisted in 5 so there is points in him and he is valued at 4.5m.

Midfielder: Jordan Ferri- Nimes

Picking Jordan Ferri is all about value and he is just 3m to bring into your team. Yes Nimes will play Lyon at the weekend but they will be at home and Lyon will feel more relaxed given that they have secured 3rd place. Nimes have played some good football and have goals in them.

Striker: M’baye Niang- Rennes

Rennes will be at home in their final game and will play on form Lille. But this pick is based on scoring goals and Niang will be a constant threat. He has scored 9 goals and assisted in another four and he could be a shrewd pick at just 4.5m.

Striker: Gaetan Laborde- Montpellier

Gaetan Laborde has had a decent season and while Montpellier will be away to Marseille this is a game where anything can happen and we expect to see lots of chances and goals for both sides. Laborde has every chance to get on the end of something and he is valued at 5m, he has scored 11 goals this season.

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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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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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Kylian Mbappe scores a hat-trick as PSG win 8th Ligue 1 title and Champions League places are still up for grabs

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They say that things come in three’s but it took a 4th attempt for PSG to finally secure the league title in France, and in the end they didn’t even have to kick a ball.

The league was finally theirs, secured on the afternoon of Sunday when 2nd placed Lille could only draw 0-0 away against Toulouse. That draw meant that Lille could not catch PSG- not that they were ever going to anyway, but still it made it all mathematically impossible and PSG were the champions.

Whether PSG wanted it like that or not is open to debate but it was taken out of their hands given some of their surprising displays in weeks past which included folding against Lille 5-1, shocking misses in their 2-2 draw against Strasbourg and losing 3-2 to Nantes. As it was PSG played on Sunday evening and came out of their dressing rooms and onto the pitch to a party atmosphere to play Monaco, the only other team to have won a Ligue 1 title since 2013.

The game was a strange one in the fact that the PSG players really just wanted to party, they were now champions after all and Monaco seemed like the uninvited guest at a showpiece. In the end it was left to the outstanding Kylian Mbappe who scored a hat-trick to underline his greatness to the side. His 3rd goal marked his 30th in Ligue 1 and he easily tops the goal scorer charts and overall he has scored 36 goals this season which marks his finest ever.

Immediately after the game he had to predictably fend off questions that he was off to Real Madrid in the summer, denying that and confirming that he wanted to stay in Paris. Whether it’s true or not it was unfortunate he was asked such a question- if anyone deserved to be happy with a title win without distraction it was Mbappe. And there was to be more good news for PSG as Neymar and Edinson Cavani finally returned back to the squad and played some time in Paris.

Despite the league being over a race for the Champions League isn’t, and unlike, for example, the Premier League in England there is only 3 places up for grabs here. Lille in 2nd place could still in theory lose out but they won’t and at worst if a total collapse does happen they will get 3rd place and have to qualify. But with 5 games left and 15 points on the board they should finish as runners up as they are 6 points clear of Lyon.

The real excitement then is who will finish 3rd? Lyon are in pole position with 59 points but they have a genuine threat in the shape of Saint Etienne who have 56 points. The club went to Reims at the weekend and beat them 2-0 in an impressive result as Reims had not lost at home this year.

Lyon have five matches to play with only 2 at home and one of those games is a crunch match against 2nd place Lille in what should be a cracking game when the teams clash on May 5th- Lyon will be at home.

Marseille have not given up the chase for a Champions League spot as they beat Guingamp 3-1 away to put the side on 54 points and they have now won back to back games. The team remain outsiders but a Europa League spot should be secured, despite the absence of Mario Balotelli who has succumbed to injury.

Montpellier made light work of the inform Strasbourg and beat the team 3-1 to move up to 6th place. Strasbourg had just one shot on target which ended up being their goal in an otherwise disappointing game for the Coupe de la Ligue winners.

Reims poor form continued, and for a club that were in for a small chance of European football, that now looks like a distant dream after their 2-0 loss against a direct rival in Saint Etienne. Reims have now gone their last 4 games without a win and have fallen to 7th place and 8 points shy of a European finish. The famous club have recently unveiled a statue of former player Raymond Kopa- the Reims, Real Madrid and French legend is just what the club need right now.

Nice are in danger of losing their top 8 status to Nimes after Patrick Vieira’s club were shocked by 19th placed Caen as they lost 1-0 at home. It was a game that Nice dominated and Remi Walter missed a penalty early on which was clearly a sign of how the game would play out. Nimes are just 2 points behind Nice, who have to find their form, in a season that has ended prematurely for them.

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Daniel Bravo, BeIN Sports & the forgiveness of Strasbourg’s Nuno da Costa

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It was a quiet week in France’s Ligue 1 as PSG retained the league title, but it is important not to forget the controversies involving racist chanting and racist ignorance which has engulfed Ligue 1 and indeed the rest of European football this season.

Of course racism has never gone away, neither in society as a whole or in the confines of a football stadium, it has simply turned the cheek and then waited for its moment to strike. We had Prince Gouano last week having to stop the Amiens-Dijon game because of racist slurs from a fan. One story that hardly got told was not of a fan or a football player being racist but of a TV commentator.

That commentator, Daniel Bravo was working for BeIN Sports one of the top Satellite pay per view TV stations in Europe if not the world and the game he was commentating on was Strasbourg’s 4-0 win over Reims. This is a story that should be brought to light given that it wasn’t the first time around.

The player attacked was Nuno da Costa who scored for Strasbourg, the player born in Cape Verde had scored his 8th goal of the season, but that fact didn’t matter to commentator Bravo. When da Costa scored he said, “not bad for a black guy.” Those six words should have ended his television career but it was da Costa himself who came to the pundits rescue.

Da Costa simply defended the former French international defender and put his comments down to a slip of the tongue and that perhaps he works too much given that this match was a midweek one. The Strasbourg player in one sense should be praised because he has tackled an obvious racist comment head on, but at the same time he has tried to diffuse the matter. Without saying it, da Costa is asking for him not to make a second slip of the tongue.

From an outside point of view though, it feels as if Bravo has got away with it- just imagine an English commentator doing the same thing with Sky Sports for example- could you imagine in your wildest dreams that person in a job 24 hours later?

There has to be a zero tolerance attitude to racism full stop- and it doesn’t feel that the issue was tackled correctly. If a fan can get a lifetime ban for being racist in the stands, how is it that pundits in France have immunity?

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Lille destroy PSG in stunning fashion as Lyon lose again

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For the second week in a row PSG have blown the chance to wrap up the league title and both have been in quite stunning fashion. The first was when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting missed the sitter of a century to the club in front against Strasbourg. That was one shock to take away and analyse. But it got worse at the weekend when Paris visited Lille, the 2nd best team in France this season and were soundly demolished 5-1.

It threw shockwaves around the league given that PSG had previously lost just 1 game all season and when, on the rare occasion, they do lose they don’t concede 5 goals. It was a strange game that actually started with a Thomas Meunier own goal to put Lille in front, but PSG were level on the 11th minute through a Juan Bernat effort, but he would later be sent off to compound the misery for the champions.

Both Meunier and then Tiago Silva were taken off early on through injuries and it was shortly after this point that Lille saved their best moments for the game. In 30 second half minutes Lille scored 4 goals, PSG were in shock and the game fell away. The club will put it down to a bad day at the office, but the party poppers just keep getting delayed for a side that are still 18 points clear with a game in hand.

PSG will play Nantes away from home next weekend when all they will need is a single point to win back to back league titles. The sticking point in that game could be that Nantes have just pulled off one of their finest results this season by beating Lyon in 3rd place 2-1. That means back to back defeats for Lyon and with it they look like to have conceded runners up spot to Lille. The gap between the two teams is now 8 points with 18 remaining to be played.

Saint Etienne beat Bordeaux 3-0 and they are now just 3 points behind Lyon for a final Champions League position. In short Lyon simply have not been good enough this past month and could miss out on participating in next seasons competition. Marseille beat Nimes 2-1 in an enjoyable but nervy encounter for the home side which puts them on 51 points and five points behind Lyon just to add the pressure.

Montpellier beat Toulouse 2-1 which was good enough to move up to 6th place. But it was disappointment for France’s most historical club Reims who have had a superb season back in Ligue 1 when they could only 0-0 with Monaco, they are on the same points as Montpellier with 48 but their succession of draws is damaging their chances of finishing in a European position.

Finally Nice make the top 8 and while they remain undefeated in their last 4 games, it was another dour 0-0 draw away to Rennes that doesn’t raise much interest in how the team will finish up this season.

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