Top Ligue 1 Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Stephane Ruffier

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Saint Etienne played some wonderful football this past season, so good in fact that some media compared them to the great side of the 1970s that somehow made a nation fall in love with them for a few years. In the end their hard work paid off and they qualified for the Europa League and goalkeeper Stephan Ruffier was a key component to the clubs success this season.

Ruffier collected 58 points and finished in 5th place in the European Fantasy League Ligue 1 rankings for goalkeepers. In fact only 4 points separated him from finishing in 3rd.

The 32 year old has been at Saint Etienne for 8 years and made almost 300 appearances for the club, making 37 starts from 38 in the league this past season. While the club did concede 40 goals under Ruffier he also made 13 clean sheets the 4th best in the league. Disciplinary was good too with just one yellow card all season and his value going into the season was 7.5m which looks to have been a bargain.

It’s interesting to note that Ruffier picked up his one booking of the season in the first game of the campaign, but because he did so and because Saint Etienne conceded in both of their opening games he started matchday 3 with -1 points.

His season really kicked off against Montpellier when the teams played out a 0-0 draw at Stade de la Mosson but that earned Ruffier a clean sheets total of 7 points.

Ruffier’s most consistent period came just at the right time when Saint Etienne also known as the Verts (greens because of their shirts) went 3 games in a row without conceding a goal in April. And this form was key to the club making a European place and fighting off the likes of Marseille and Montpellier and for a time Reims.

The games came thick and fast and started with a 3-0 win over Bordeaux. Nobody gave Saint Etienne much chance away to Reims in their next game but they went there and won 2-0 and finished off their trilogy of matches with a 2-0 win over Toulouse and Ruffier earned a whopping 21 points in those three matches.

Ruffier’s worst points total was inevitably in Paris when PSG the reigning champions beat them 4-0 and as a result he ended up with -6 points.

His last two seasons have seen him earn much less than he did in this one, and he has improved significantly showing signs of perhaps getting back to his 2014 season best. His value looks sure to rise as he nears completing 10 years with the club that is clearly in his heart and now he will be back in European football for next season.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Wahbi Khazri

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Wahbi Khazri was one of the delights of Ligue 1 football this past season and his quality in midfield helped fire his club Saint Etienne into a Europa League finish. He also finished with his highest points tally in European Fantasy League thus far with 74 points, and joined only four other players in midfield in Ligue 1 who were able to score 70 or more points.

Khazri has played for five clubs over an 11 year career which started at Bastia, to date playing for Bastia is still his longest stint at one club which lasted for five years. After that spell he switched to Bordeaux for two seasons and then made the move to the Premier League signing for Sunderland. Despite having a decent season in the north of England he wasn’t scoring enough goals for the club, just 3 in 38 league games plus he was obviously missing being in France and was loaned out to Rennes before Saint Etienne spotted his talents and bought him.

In his debut season for Saint Etienne Khazri has done well scoring 13 goals and assisting in another six meaning that he has been involved in 19 of the clubs 59 goals.

Khazri started the season by picking up 4 points as he scored a goal in Saint Etienne’s 2-1 win over Guingamp. The midfielder’s best game was against Monaco when his club won 2-0. Not only did he score both goals but because a clean sheet was obtained too he picked up 10 points.

Khazri’s most consistent and best period begun at the end of November when Saint Etienne were paired with Nantes and ended in mid January. In this time frame Khazri played in five games and gained points in every one of those matches. It was a fine period for the player that saw him score goals and make crucial assists as Saint Etienne started to believe that they could chase a European place. In that time he got 28 points.

The one problem for the 28 year old was his short temper which landed him with 10 yellow cards throughout the season and 1 red card. With better discipline he could have ended up earning easily another 10-15 points.

In the end Khazri helped Saint Etienne to reach the Europa League and it will be interesting to see if he stays around. He should do but his career suggests that he will be on the move soon. At the same time he has just had his personal best season as a football player so the thinking is that he will be fine at this club.

His value this season started at 7.5m, and that could be set to rise for the beginning of next season after his impressive return from midfield.

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Top 4 all win in Ligue 1 as relegation battle boils down to Caen and Amiens

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That was more like it from PSG who have been a shadow of themselves since winning the league in April. They beat Dijon 4-0 which included a brace from Kylian Mbappe who ends the season as top goal scorer. Perhaps the real story was that PSG were 2-0 up within the first ten minutes and Edinson Cavani scored. It looks increasingly likely that Cavani will leave the club in the summer and if so, then this is his last match in Paris. He crowned it well.

Neymar was missing as he has been suspended for the last 2 games of the season and of course there is speculation that he will not be at PSG next season. Lille finally confirmed 2nd place and the runners-up spot with a fantastic 5-0 win over Angers and yet again Nicolas Pepe starred for the team and scored a couple of goals. Like others Pepe’s name is now being talked about, could he make a Premier League move next season?

Lyon confirmed 3rd place and the final Champions League spot, although they will have to qualify for the competition proper. They beat Caen 4-0 which was significant given that Caen are fighting relegation. It is now between Caen and Amiens to see who stays up as Monaco look safe. Amiens have a 2 point advantage over Caen.

Saint Etienne won with a great 3-0 victory over Nice to confirm their Europa League participation next season. They have pulled 5 points clear of fifth place, and the European spot was well deserved after such brilliant form especially in the second half of the season.

Montpellier’s draw with Nantes ended their slim hopes of European football next season and the result also let in Marseille who have closed the gap over them to just 1 point. That is because Marseille beat Toulouse in a thrilling match that ended 5-2 to the L’OM. The score was 3-2 in the 90th minute but Florian Thauvin scored 2 goals in a matter of 60 seconds to give the final score more of a gloss.

Nimes drew 2-2 against bottom team Guingamp, but this wasn’t seen as a disappointing result given that both teams were not playing for anything and the season has clearly wound down and both sets of players enjoyed the game, which was entertaining for the fans. Nimes will have to win next weekend or could lose their 7th place to Nice, and as mentioned before Nice’s good form went out the window with a 0-3 loss at Saint Etienne.

If Reims win their last game and Nice and Nimes lose the club could leapfrog both of them. The final round of games will take place this weekend.

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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

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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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