Topical: Ligue 1 Lille continue to make strides as Reims edge into Europe

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The 28th week of Ligue 1 was another exciting one and we should start with league leaders PSG who gladly had the weekend off after they were knocked out of the Champions League against Manchester United. Their game against Nantes was postponed to a later date.

That gave Lille an opportunity to close the gap on the French champions which they did with a hard fought 1-0 win over Saint Etienne. For many this was the game of the weekend as the two top 5 teams went head to head. It ended with Nicolas Pepe grabbing the winner for Lille with just three minutes left and then Saint Etienne ended the game with 9 players as frustrations took over the game. Despite the win Lille are still 14 points behind PSG and PSG have 2 games in hand.

Lyon maintained 3rd position but it was not a good weekend for the club who slipped 7 points behind Lille and an automatic qualification for the Champions League. They could only draw 2-2 away to Strasbourg. The draw also means that Marseille have caught up to Lyon as they try and take the last remaining Champions League place away.

Marseille were involved in a South of France derby as they took on Nice and it was inevitable who was going to get the winning goal. The one and only Mario Balotelli. The Italian who moved from Nice to Marseille in January has been in great form for the home side. Nice manager Patrick Vieira was humble in defeat and even had time to give Balotelli a warm hug, but the defeat would have hurt the former Arsenal player. As for Marseille they have won 4 games from their past 5.

With Saint Etienne losing to Lille it means that Reims entered dizzying heights and moved into the top 5. This position would be enough to secure a Europa League place if PSG win the Coupe de France. Though there is a long way to go it was a moment of clarity for such an historic team in France and it would be special to see the team in a European competition once again. They drew 1-1 away to Dijon, and have drawn their last two games and if they are starting to dream big they will have to start winning games more consistently.

The feel good factor continued at Rennes this past weekend. After the club beat Arsenal 3-1 in the last 16 of the Europa League they repeated that trick and won by the same score line against Caen to move past Nice and into 8th place.

The race for Europe is hotting up with a possible 5 places at stake and at least 9 teams in with a shout, the final straight of Ligue 1 is upon us and it should be very exciting indeed. PSG play their game in hand against Dijon on Tuesday, March 12th.

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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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Barcelona do and don’t need Ousmane Dembele

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So the story goes like this, Ousmane Dembele Barcelona’s 100m euro signing missed training. He had a stomach bug and needed to rest at home. The problem just like any other normal job is that Dembele did not call his employers to tell them of his absence immediately and with everyone wondering where he was he finally phoned a reported 90 minutes later. Further more when Barcelona sent their doctor over to Dembele’s house he had dramatically recovered from his bug- Dembele had not only been found out he had also shown his grave immaturity.

Dembele who is just 21 has been criticised this season after his big money move from Borussia Dortmund last year. A move that only came about because Antoine Griezmann rejected Barca’s advances and stayed with Atletico Madrid. The criticism of Dembele on the pitch does seem harsh. One has to be reminded that he is only 21, and has had injuries that have stopped him from having frequent games. He has scored some goals- not enough for a forward but his goals have either been important ones or spectacular ones. And anyway it is clear that Dembele won’t be a 25 goal a man goal scorer, he’s a luxury player that will put in more assists than goals.

The finger has been pointed at Dembele because of the money involved in his transfer fee from Dortmund to Barcelona, which was indeed insane. Dembele at that point considering the market value should have been half of what Barcelona paid to the Bundesliga club. But they believed, he was worth it and went ahead.

Dembele on the pitch despite the critics is doing a calm and calculated job, he’s certainly not the finished product but neither was Lionel Messi at 21. If he is given the time in 2-3 years Dembele could be a solid regular in this side. But that’s if he is still at the Catalan giants.

Respect goes a long way at any huge club, because there are millions of kids not in Dembele’s position who would give everything to be there and who would not have missed training without a valid excuse. It’s a real shame this new state of affairs and it has been reported that Dembele has now been given an ultimatum by the club- any more mishaps and he will be sold.

And Barcelona would do that just, the problem of course is that they will lose a lot of  money on the player who actually has a buyout clause of 400 million euros. That would of course be waived and the reality is that Barcelona would be hard pressed to get 50m for him, a massive loss of around 55m in just 18 months.

Hopefully Dembele can see the error of his ways. For now Barcelona are ready to forgive him and put it down to the stress of being at a high profile club for a 21 year old. The media pressure on Dembele can’t be easy, granted. One hopes that he realises the unique position he is in, if he doesn’t then he deserves to be discarded no matter how good he is on the pitch.

Ligue 1 Fantasy Picks – Round 5

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We are only four weeks into the new season and standing champions Paris Saint-Germain have taken no time in asserting their dominance in the league.

After four rounds of games, PSG tops the league with a perfect record and expect some of their players in our best eleven picks. In standout fixtures this weekend, PSG and Marseille have easy home ties while Monaco have a tricky trip to Toulouse.
Continue reading

Round 38 – Ligue 1 player picks

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With an intriguing Ligue 1 season set to  draw to a close, we look at the players we believe could make an impact on the final round of games.

Anthony Lopes, Lyon – 63 points

Lopes has had a strong season over the 2017/18 campaign and he will be disappointed to have conceded three last time out.

The French-born Portuguese keeper will be hoping to add to a haul of 14 clean sheets across the campaign as his side target second place.

Kamil Glik, Monaco – 60 points

Glik has secured an impressive 13 clean sheets this season for a Monaco side that Continue reading

This weekend’s Ligue 1 picks

Nabil Fekir Lyon

Check out our picks ahead of the weekends Ligue 1 action!

Alphonse Areola, PSG – 93 point

The academy product has grown into a key member of the PSG squad, having spend time on loan at the likes of Villarreal.

With 15 clean sheets already registered, could he be an outsider for the World Cup?

Kamil Glik, Monaco – 52 points

Glik has secured an impressive 11 clean sheets this season for a Monaco side that have hit a rich vein of form and face Guingamp on the weekend.

The Polish centre back has been a stalwart of the Monaco team since his arrival at the club and will be a pivotal player in their upcoming tie.

Joris Gnagnon, Rennes – 39 points


Gnagnon  has kept nine clean sheets this campaign, as well as bagging a couple in the process.

His fifth placed side face Nantes this weekend as they pursue European football.

Presnel Kimpembe, PSG – 48 points

The Paris Saint-Germain academy player has continued to grow in stature for his side over 2017/18, becoming a regular performer for the super club.

Having secured 12 clean sheets for the champions-elect, the French centre back will be keen to add to that tally as his side travel to Saint-Etienne for some Friday football.

With his side traveling to Bordeaux, he will be hoping to add another as his side close in on the title.

Angel Di Maria, PSG – 83 points

The Argentine midfielder will be hoping for a big end of the season as the World Cup approaches and will be hoping to make an impact against a Bordeaux team that have won their last two matches.

With 11 goals and seven assists, the weekend’s game won’t be guaranteed but he’ll be a favourite to make a difference.

Florian Thauvin, Marseille – 108 points

The Frenchman’s exceptional campaign continues, with him now the highest scoring player in Ligue 1 – a formidable accomplishment.

With Marseille travelling to Lille, he will likely be confident of claiming a few more this weekend.

Nabil Fekir, Lyon – 80 points

Fekir has been the star of the campaign and will be hoping he can build upon his 16 goals in 2017/18.

He will likely look back at 2017/18 as a season that couldn’t have gone much better in a personal capacity in spite of his side’s shortcomings.

Marcos Lopes, Monaco – 83 points

Up against Guingamp, Lopes will be hoping to deliver the form that has seen him deliver 13 goals this season.

With a successful campaign under his belt, Lopes is finally showing he can fulfil the promise he showed at Manchester City.

Radamel Falcao, Monaco – 77 points

Falcao’s excellent season shows remains in the top bracket of world strikers.

With 18 goals this season, the iconic Columbian will be hoping to add to his tally.

Valere Germain, Marseille – 34 points

The former Monaco man’s side ace a struggling Lille and the 28-year-old will be keen to add to his eleven goals and five assists.

With Thauvin alongside him, the striker will be rightfully confident of achieving this.

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Ligue 1 picks of the week

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With plenty still to play for as we hit the Ligue 1 run in, here are the players we tip to make a splash in the 33rd round of action.

Anthony Lopes, Lyon – 51 points

The French-born Portuguese international sees his name in our picks for the weekend for the third consecutive week as his side face an inconsistent Amiens.

With 12 clean sheets to his name, Lopes could well be in line for some additional points come the weekend.

Joris Gnagnon, Rennes – 40 points

The Rennes academy product has been a valuable member of the Rennes defence in what has been an impressive campaign for the side.

With nine clean sheets to his name, the 21-year-old may well be a target for some of the league’s established top clubs come the summer. Continue reading

Malcom reaffirms desire to leave Bordeaux at end of the season

Malcom Bordeaux

Bordeaux star Malcom has once again made clear his intentions to depart from the Ligue 1 side come the end of the campaign, revealing that he intends to be at one of Europe’s ‘elite clubs’ come the turn of the next season.

Despite pledging to his club that he would remain loyal to them for the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign, the Brazilian has been increasingly vocal that of his intentions to leave Bordeaux when the summer transfer window comes around.

Having garnered attention from the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham in January, Malcolm has made it clear that he sees the French club as a launch-pad from which to hit loftier heights in the European game and not as a final destination. Continue reading

Why Ousmane Dembele is attracting the interest of European giants

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Rennes striker Ousmane Dembele has been making a real name for himself this season in the French Ligue 1, and could find himself in for a big-money move to a European giant in the summer as a result. The 18-year-old has risen to prominence quickly for Les Rouges et Noirs, averaging a goal scored or created every 91 minutes, and is ending the season in incredible form.

Dembele has scored six goals and has made three assists in his last seven league games, and will be fought over by a number of clubs at the end of the season. Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are some of the many clubs interested in his services, and Dembele is being regarded as the most-coveted 18-year-old in Europe.

The youngster’s asking price is reportedly around £25M which may prove too step for some clubs, and the player’s agent Badou Sambagué revealed it’s Dembele’s mother Fatimata who will decide the striker’s future. “She is who will decide Ousmane’s future. When he wanted to leave last summer, his mother told him she wanted him to stay at Rennes and sign his first professional contract. In the end he had no choice,” he said.

Boasting excessive pace, Dembele has a real penchant for running at defenders. He’s made more than 80 successful dribbles, and boasts a good conversion rate too. The youngster has scored nearly a third of his goals from outside the box this season, and is full of confidence on the ball. His agent is trying to keep his feet on the ground, however, and believes Dembele has to pin his focus on playing his football and impressing on the pitch.

“It’s very important for him to only think about playing football. My job is to protect him from all the speculation. There are plenty of good and bad examples for him to follow. I always explain to him that he has an opportunity to become a good example and make a good choice. It’s very important for a young player to have a good mentality to strive to maintain their best performances game after game.”

Dembele leads the line for Rennes, capable of collecting the ball from any position and having the confidence to beat his man. He possesses fantastic trickery and a real eye for goal. At times, Dembele can be greedy on the ball, but his individual brilliance more than makes up for it. He’s sure to be inundated with offers this summer, so where will he end up?