Ligue 1: Player of the Weekend: Maxwell Cornet

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With a few clean sheets this past weekend in Ligue 1 goal keepers ruled the roost with plenty earning 7 points, but the overall winner is Lyon’s Maxwell Cornet who earned 8 points as his side overcame Marseille at Stade Velodrome winning 3-0.

Cornet opened the scoring from close range and it was an important strike as at that time Marseille were applying pressure and asking many questions from the visitors. Cornet struck again to get his 2nd and Lyon’s 3rd goal of the night with just four minutes remaining. The player has proven to score goals and be reliable even if he isn’t always Lyon’s number 1 choice, he is a classic ‘fox in the box’ type of player and is usually in the right place at the right time. Cornet could have had a hat-trick but he had one goal ruled out for offside.

Cornet’s goals at the weekend ended Marseille’s European hopes for next season and strengthened his sides chances of finishing in a Champions League position. Lyon remain 3rd which means they would have to partake in a play-off to get to the competition proper but they are 6 points adrift of 2nd placed Lille. This win was still huge though as Saint Etienne who were threatening to take 3rd from them lost and that gap is now 4 points with just 2 games to play, so Lyon are almost at the finish line.

Lyon’s coach Bruno Genesio had this to say about the match and the possibility of playing Champions League football next season: ”Are we in the Champions League yet? No. There are two games left, six points, and we must win next Saturday to be certain of a third-place finish and possibly qualify directly depending on the Europa League final. The score was a bit harsh but we could’ve led 2-0 at half-time. We had a lull in the second half and Marseille pushed, but I think on the whole we deserved to win. We had two goals at the start of the season. The first was to get to the knockout stage of the Champions League, which we achieved, and the second was to qualify for next season’s competition, which is nearly done.”

As for Cornet from only his 10th start of the season after appearing from the bench no less than 15 times he has scored 4 goals and assisted in another 3. That means that Cornet has been involved in 11% of Lyon’s total output of goals this season. He has a total of 21 points in Ligue 1 Fantasy football rankings and is valued at 6m. With Lyon pushing in their final 2 games of the season and Cornet on obvious form he might be worth adding to your team.

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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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Remy Cabella sent off as Saint Etienne’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread

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Saint Etienne didn’t need this type of controversy, indeed all they needed to do was keep their heads, but against Montpellier at the weekend it went all wrong.

The club had been in such great form coming into this game winning their last 4 matches in a row and had put real pressure on Lyon in 3rd place for that final Champions League position. Indeed the Verts as they are known entered the game which was played on Friday night just 1 point behind Lyon. Playing at home they were expected to win given that they have the third best home record in the league but Montpellier were not reading the script.

In the end it took one goal, scored by Gaetan Laborde to settle matters and Saint Etienne lost the game and ended up losing their minds, borne out of frustration of course.

The game had no less than 7 yellow cards and 2 reds. First to go was Daniel Congre from Montpellier who received his marching orders on the 53rd minute for roughing. This seemed to play into Saint Etienne’s hands and yet roughly 10 minutes later they themselves would be down to 10 players and it wasn’t just any player seeing red by Remy Cabella, who has shone recently for the club and really stepped up. Well at the weekend he stepped down and took an early shower to go with it.

Two minutes later Laborde scored just to rub salt in the wounds, and for Saint Etienne they dominated every statistic but the one that counted and lost the game.

Saint Etienne’s coach Jean-Louis Gasset believes the game should have ended in a draw he said: ”Given how we ended the game, with all these balls passing in front of Montpellier’s goal, a draw would’ve been fair. We weren’t focused enough after Montpellier went down to 10 men. We rushed things trying to score immediately. Montpellier scored at a fateful moment. We gave everything, we had chances, but we lacked a cutting edge. We missed the chance to confirm our Europa League place, but we have two games left.”

Lyon played on Sunday and beat Marseille 3-0 which means that they have pulled 4 points clear from 4th with just 2 games remaining and look like the massive favourites now to go on and get 3rd.

As for Saint Etienne they now have Montpellier in their rear view mirror for 4th, although there is a four point gap and Saint Etienne’s consolation looks like a Europa League place.

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Ligue 1: Week 36: Player Picks for the Weekend

Julian Draxler

There is just 3 games to go in Ligue 1 and we will be taking  a look at the fixtures at the weekend and try to pick out who we think will be the best performing players to add to your team at the weekend. We will be using a formation of 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Maxime Dupe- Nantes

Maxime Dupe has been drafted into the Nantes squad with first choice goal keeper injured and in his last game he was able to keep a clean sheet. Nantes are the best team in France based on recent form and they will play Nice who are not prolific goal scorers. Dupe is a bargain at just 1.5m to add to your team.

Defender: Diego Carlos

Keeping with Nantes it is true that even though they have been winning games they have been conceding, but that changed last weekend with a 3-0 win over Dijon. Diego Carlos is their best performing defender and he could put in another good shift against Nice. He is valued at 6m.

Defender: Mathieu Debuchy- Saint Etienne

We named Debucy player of the week a few weeks ago and he has had a terrific season so far. Saint Etienne play Montpellier at home in a must win game and the player is sure to be on top form and motivated for this game. He is rated at 7.5m.

Defender: Faitout Maouassa- Nimes

Maouassa was one of the best players last week in Ligue 1 as Nimes went to Reims and won 3-0 and kept a clean sheet in the process. Maouassa is listed as a midfielder but Nimes have been playing him in defence in recent matches and he is valued at 5m. Nimes will be at home against Monaco where they will fancy their chances.

Defender: Damien Da Silva- Rennes

It’s true that Rennes have only kept one clean sheet in their last four games but they will be at home to one of the poorest performing teams all season in Guingamp and they have the chance to win to nil in this game. Da Silva is the best defender Rennes have and he can be part of your team for just 5m.

Midfielder: Leo Dubois- Lyon

There are better midfielders at Lyon that is for sure but Leo Dubois could be worth picking at the weekend. He is a player that doesn’t mind coming forward in the game and he has already assisted in 5 times from just 18 starts. He looks good to include in your team for just 6.5m as Lyon take on Marseille to try and reach 2nd place.

Midfielder: Julien Draxler -PSG

Draxler still keeps needing to prove himself and he should be able to get more and more game time now that PSG have won the league. Form is poor for the club but they have the opportunity to turn this around at the weekend when they play Angers away from home. Draxler is valued at 6m which is a great price for a PSG player and remember he has assisted 6 times this season and scored 3 goals.

Midfielder: Frederic Guilbert-Caen

Caen might be 18th but they have been terrific going their last 3 games unbeaten and keeping clean sheets. Guilbert has been the rock in midfield this season starting 30 games and making a couple of assists. Caen are ready to survive in Ligue 1 and he is valued at 6m as the club take on Reims at home.

Midfielder: Ibrahima Sissoko- Strasbourg

Strasbourg are drawing games and becoming very hard to beat and they should have enough to cause 19th place Dijon problems at the weekend. Sissoko is one of the teams best midfielders assisting 2 times this season and could be worth snapping up for 4.5m.

Striker: Remy Cabella – Saint Etienne

Remy Cabella is established and shouldn’t be a surprise to be here but if you don’t have him you should invest in him. He has his goal scoring boots on but also his team are going for 3rd place and are in brilliant form plus they are at home against Montpellier who can’t get a European place. Cabella can be in your side for 7m.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe- Lille

Nicolas Pepe has been outstanding this season and is still a great price to buy at just 8m. Next season he is sure to be higher as he has scored 20 times this season and assisted in 11 other goals. Lille are at home to underperforming Bordeaux and could seal their Champions League place with a win at the weekend. We expect Pepe to be involved in goals.

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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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Ligue 1 Player of the Weekend: Robert Beric

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Only one player in Ligue 1 was able to earn 8 points this weekend and he did it in style and Ligue 1 player of the weekend goes to Saint Etienne’s Robert Beric.

Beric was on hand last weekend to score both of Saint Etienne’s goals as they beat Toulouse 2-0. He was the difference between the two teams and he has been on great form in the past few months.

When we consider that Beric has only started 9 games this season then his statistics are fantastic for the club. He has scored 10 goals and assisted another 7 times and has become known as the super sub for a club who are chasing a Champions League place.

Beric’s form has meant that Saint Etienne have 59 points and are just 3 points behind Lyon for 3rd place.

At the weekend Beric opened the scoring after just 2 minutes when he was teed up by Pierre-Yves Polomat to give the club the best possible start. After that there was only one team in the game and then Beric added a 2nd goal on the 10th minute after a great assist by the inform Whabi Khazri. The only disappointment for the club and for Beric is that with the majority of the game still to play they didn’t add more goals and Beric was not able to get his hat-trick.

Jean Louis Gasset the Saint Etienne coach said of the game at the weekend, “We started really well. We needed to get the ball wide, put the pressure on and try to score a goal or two – and that’s what we did. After that it was more difficult as Toulouse changed their system and put more impact into midfield. We defended well. We’re on a run of five wins and a draw and in the last three games we have not conceded a goal. Even if there was a penalty, we have an extraordinary goalkeeper and (Stephane) Ruffier was great today.”

In the Ligue 1 Fantasy football rankings Beric is in 18th place considering just the strikers. He hasn’t played many games and started just 9, so that is why he has just 30 points. But his stats are fantastic as mentioned above and when we combine his goals and assists tally he ends up with a final figure of 17.

Beric is worth 7m if you want to add him to your team which could be a good idea given that Saint Etienne are arguably in their best form of the season as they try and put the pressure on Lyon and nab that 3rd place.

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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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Saint Etienne and the dream of Champions League football as they take on Lyon for final place

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Mention Saint Etienne to a French football fan and if they are a genuine lover of the game their eyes will light up- even if they don’t support the team. Saint Etienne are well remembered in France for lightning up the game and playing football beyond their years especially in the 1970s when the club were at the pinnacle of their powers.

Though football has not been as kind to Saint Etienne from those glory years it is worth remembering that they still have the most Ligue 1 titles with 10 wins, not even PSG (yet) can claim that title.

This season the club have had a memorable one- first it seemed as though  top 10 place would be good enough, that turned into a top six place and possibly qualification for the Europa League and now the club are dreaming even higher- could they make the Champions League?

The club also known as The Verts- which means Green, as a reference to their striking tops are just 3 points behind Lyon with 56 points. Finishing 3rd doesn’t mean automatic qualification but it would ensure a play-off match to get to the group stages. It would be quite a coup for the club if they could press on.

Mathieu Debuchy who has been with the club for just over a year has brought a lot of experience, talent and calmness to the club- and he is good for goals too, he scored a hat trick just the other week.

The real push has been with the club pressing for the right players to come to the team. Wahbi Khazri has been a terrific player for the club, coming from English side Sunderland for just £6.3m he has scored 12 times this season and remains a huge threat and excellent and an excellent value transfer.

But perhaps the player that has been key to the clubs success has been the acquisition of Remi Cabella from Marseille. The attacking midfielder has scored 7 times this season and also created 3 other goals. But his presence in midfield has simply changed the dynamic of the club.

They have done great business too, because they have been a club often seen with a big squad and too much deadwood. Yet last summer they were able to make a hefty clear out that 16 players either sold or loaned out.

But the combination signings of Cabella and Khazri have really made a difference to a side who will surely be playing European football next season in one of the competitions, the dream is the Champions League and they have a realistic chance to do so. With just 3 points difference there is 15 left on the board, is this the time when Saint  Etienne will rewind the clock back to the 70s?

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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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Ligue 1 Player of the Week: Mathieu Debuchy

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Mathieu Debuchy is the Ligue 1 Fantasy player of the week after he collected a whopping 13 points at the weekend as his side Saint Etienne beat Bordeaux 3-0 in a one sided game.

Points were immediately earned for the 33 year old defender as Saint Etienne not only won the game but also kept a clean sheet. But that was just the cusp of things to come for the player who maximised his points tally at the weekend by scoring not one but two second half goals.

Debuchy has scored 4 goals this season but getting half of those goals in one game was obviously a special moment for the player. The former Arsenal player finally joined up with Saint Etienne at the beginning of 2018 and has been a rock in defence for the team. However because of injuries he has only been able to start 18 games this season and earn just 33 points in the process. His value is rated at 7.5m and at this moment he wouldn’t make the top 20 defenders in the league in Fantasy Ligue 1 but that could be set to change with another couple of performances like this for his club before the end of the season.

Saint Etienne still have the hope of Champions League football which would be a glorious return for Debuchy given that he has already had that experience with Arsenal. Saint Etienne are just 3 points behind 3rd placed Lyon to finish in a position where they would then have to participate in a play off to get to the competition proper. More realistically a Europa League spot should be for the club but they have given themselves a chance of appearing in Europe’s elite competition after securing 2 clean sheets in their last five games and remaining unbeaten in their last four.

As for the goals at the weekend, Debuchy’s first was set up by former Bordeaux player Wahbi Khazri whose cross was met by Debuchy’s head for a fine goal. Debuchy added his 2nd in the final minute after a cross from Pierre-Yves Polomat with the game already won.

Saint Etienne coach Jean-Louis Gasset praised Debuchy’s performance and said: “The players showed great spirit, led by Mathieu Debuchy. I saw him limping and suffering, and then he came back on and scored twice. We do this job to work with people like him. There are still 18 points to play for, and if we continue playing like that we will keep moving forward. Let’s see where we are after that.”

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