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 Saint Etienne lose the plot against league rivals Lille

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The match between Saint Etienne and Lille was billed as match of the weekend in Ligue 1 given the teams standings. It was 5th v 2nd and 2nd one.

Saint Etienne have really punched above their weight this season and looked odds on for a European place and maybe even a Champions League one, but recent form had dipped before having to meet Lille who have been a revelation this season. Though Lille will not win the league as they are 14 points behind PSG and have played two games more they are eyeing 2nd place.

The game was a frantic one but was littered with 6 yellow cards and then Lille grabbed the game just as it looked like it was heading for a 0-0. Tensions had already been strong beforehand but when one of the starlets of the season Nicolas Pepe scored for Lille with just three minutes remaining you could have heard a pin drop in the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.

With only one team realistically going to win from there on, the problems started. And it felt like the Argentina team level problems from the 1990 World Cup final when a few Saint Etienne players simply lost the plot.

Not one but two players would be sent off and the chaos of course simply played into Lille’s hands. The first to go was Mathieu Debauchy whose frustrations were taken out through un sport man like conduct and he wen 250 seconds after Pepe’s goal for a second bookable offence. But the embarrassment wasn’t over for the home side yet.

Striker Wahbi Khazri lost the plot in the 4th minute of injury time as his side had a chance to score and level everything up. He ended up receiving a straight red which will be a massive miss for his club who rely on his goals, and now he is set to miss at least 3 games in a row as the club try to home on in a European finish.

Despite this setback Saint Etienne coach Jean-Louis Gasset tried to remain optimistic. “We knew Lille were a stronger and faster team on the break. We were lucky not to take a hiding in the first half, but then at the end we were pushing for a winner and lost it on the counterattack with three minutes left. The two sendings-off will handicap our squad which is already affected by injuries.”

Gasset continued: “We wanted to get back on track after the match at Marseille. We tried, but we were clumsy and not good enough technically. There was a bit of frustration after the goal. Our European hopes are not over. We have lost to the three teams – Paris, Lyon and Lille – who are fighting for the Champions League. We have lost to teams who are stronger than us. Now we will try to remobilise everyone. Not everything is to be thrown away, even if we have not been playing as well since January now.”

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Topical: Ligue 1 from leaders PSG to the chasing pack of Lyon and Marseille

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The 27th round of Ligue 1 took place this past weekend and it was a week that saw PSG maintain their 17 point lead at the top of the league with the top 4 clubs all winning their respective games.

It’s a question of when and not if PSG pick up their 8th Ligue 1 title (6 wins in the last 7 years) as the French champions beat Caen 2-1. Man of the moment Kylian Mbappe who has stepped up to another level since Neymar and Edinson Cavani were struck down by injuries scored both goals and leads the goal scoring charts with 24 so far. If PSG can win their game in hand they could go 20 points clear at the top as coach Thomas Tuchel, in his debut season, looks to break every domestic record en route.

Lille are still in 2nd place but Lyon will not give up the chase for the runner up spot. They currently lead Lyon by 5 points and have lost just 1 game at home all season. But have Lyon made a statement of intent? Their 5-1 demolishing of Toulouse suggests they have. Lyon currently in 3rd are also sitting in the final Champions League qualification spot with no less than 3 other teams vying for that position.

Marseille coach Rudi Garcia looked to be on the ropes a few months ago when Marseille literally couldn’t buy a win and the fans started to protest. But 4 wins in their last five games has sent L’OM up the table where the objective now has to be to finish in at least 3rd place. They have only conceded 3 goals in their last 6 games and new signing Mario Balotelli has been superb, scoring 4 goals in his first six games with the club.

If any of the top 8 clubs are going to fall away a candidate could be Saint Etienne who have been solid overall but have found a run of inconsistency which has seen them lose 3 of their last five games. On form the club would be in 12th place.

Attention has been turned to Reims who are having their best season in the top flight in over 40 years. Reims are one of the most historical teams in Europe after reaching the very first European Cup final, a trick they repeated the following year in the mid 1950′s and the club have forever been linked to the European Cup/Champions League. Can they make it back there? It seems unlikely but they will give it a go and currently sit in 6th place and 7 points behind 3rd position. The teams two game winning run came to an end against Amiens when they could only draw 2-2, however they were losing that match before making a final comeback near the end of time.

Nice ended their poor form with a 1-0 win over Strasbourg but both teams ended up with 10 players apiece as tempers flared towards the end of the game. It was a significant win for Patrick Vieira, whose has guided the team brilliantly this season, however there has been an implosion of such in the last month and he will be hoping that the teams fortunes can change with a much needed 3 points.

One club whose fortunes need to change is Montpellier who keep slipping down the table and are now in 8th place having gone the last 5 games without victory. They are 6 points behind 4th place and have picked up just 3 points from their last available 15, and are in real danger of missing out on a European place after such a good first half of the season. The club did not play at the weekend though and will instead play tonight against Bordeaux. Win that and they could climb to 7th place and hopefully for them have a new found belief, because if any team in the top half of the league needs a win it is La Paillade who are consequently celebrating their 100th anniversary as a club.

Think you know all about Ligue 1 players and the French League? Play the most popular Fantasy Ligue 1 game https://ligue1fantasy.com

 

Ligue 1 Player of the Week – Romain Hamouma (Saint-Etienne)

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Another day, another Ligue 1 season in the bag. Paris Saint-Germain may have wrapped the title up a good while ago, but there was still plenty of entertainment on display as teams battled for, well….fairly little really. Save for the battle for second and third place between Marseille, Lyon and Monaco, there was little left undecided going into the final round of games. Monaco won that race, incidentally – though for them to finish fourth would have taken a disastrous afternoon indeed. Lyon snuck into third, with Marseille settling for the Europa League spot, despite scoring more and conceding less than the two sides immediately above them. The best show in France, however, was staged at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, where 33,665 people turned out to watch hosts Saint-Etienne hammer struggling Lille 5-0.

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Ligue 1 picks for the weekend ahead

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The 2017-18 Ligue 1 season is drawing to a close and there are still battles to be won across the division – especially in the battle for a European place.

With that in mind, we look at the players that are favourites to pick up some big points this time around.

Anthony Lopes, Lyon – 63 points

The Portuguese international sees his name in our picks thanks to his contribution to his side’s immense form.

With 14 clean sheets to his name, Lopes could well be in line for some additional points come the weekend. Continue reading

Weekend Preview – Players To Watch This Weekend

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Ahead of the weekend’s action, it’s now time to take a look at some of the players our prospective fantasy managers may want to take a look at and throw into their squads as a last minute addition.

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Four horse race for the French Ligue 1 title

AS Monaco drew with Saint-Etienne in a French Ligue 1 fixture on Friday night, which means only five points separate the top-four sides in the league with only eight games to go. For most fans of Ligue 1, the title race cannot be any closer, and it seems no side can hold their nerves long enough to pull away from the rest of the pack.

Paris Saint-Germain (59) are currently sitting at the summit, just one point clear of Olympique Lyonnais (58). Third-placed Olympique Marseilles (57) are one point behind Lyon, while Monaco (54) are three points adrift of Marseilles. The top-three sides have all been beaten in their last four games in the league, which makes it an open affair at the business end of the campaign.

The four clubs have rotated positions all throughout the season, and with few points separating them, the table could change even further before the campaign comes to a close. European competition has seen the French league gain some credibility and notoriety, with Paris Saint-Germain knocking Chelsea out of the Champions League last-16, while AS Monaco eliminated Arsenal from the same stage.

Last season, PSG and Monaco finished 1st and 2nd in the table respectively, and unsurprisingly the Parisians are favourites to win a third consecutive title. They haven’t had it all their way this season, yet they are currently ahead as the season edges closer to a dramatic finish.

Before PSG, currently managed by former French international Laurent Blanc, rose to the summit of French football, it was an open league for a number of years. Montpellier (2011/12), Lille (2010/11), Marseilles (2009/10) and Bordeaux (2008/09) were the past winners, with Lyon winning the league between 2001/02 and 2007/08. However, this season hangs in the balance. Paris Saint-Germain stormed to the title in the last two seasons, but are having to deal with strong competition in 2014/15. The Parisians have only been top of the table for a combined duration of a month this season, with Lyon and Marseilles having some spells at the top earlier in the campaign.

PSG still have Marseilles to face before the end of the season, as do Monaco, so there’s every chance of the league changing shape once more in the coming weeks. The holders are the favourites to finish above the rest of the competition, but with mere points between the sides, and recent form of all the contenders showing some vulnerability, the race for the French Ligue 1 title is certainly between the top three clubs along with, to a lesser extent, Monaco.

The next round of games could see the table start to take some shape, and given how many twists and turns there have been so far, it is going to be too close to call.