Ligue 1: Player of the Week: Alexander Djiku

Alexander Djiku who plays for Strasbourg picked up 9 points at the weekend and he is the player of the week in Ligue 1.

Although his team mate, Kenny Lala also got 9 points it was down to fine margins, simply put Djiku not only got the ball rolling by scoring from open play as Strasbourg beat Reims, but Lala scored a penalty.

For Djiku it was the perfect game, as Strasbourg beat Reims 3-0, with Djiku being a defender it meant that he picked up points for a clean sheet as well as his goal. It was a goal scored in the 50th minute with the tie still at 0-0, so very important and it was a fantastic header too by Djiku which would ultimately break the deadlock.

You could sense that both him and his team were extra happy with the victory over Reims given that Reims had knocked them out of the Coupe de la Ligue just a few weeks ago. That game ending 0-0 and Strasbourg being the better side but going out on a penalty shoot-out.

As for Djiku that goal was his first of the season from 22 starts, he has also assisted in a goal too. However the player’s main duty is keeping things tight at the back and this season he has been able to keep 7 clean sheets. For his team he ranks in at third with 30 points and is 8 behind Kenny Lala.

From a wider point of view Djiku is currently 19th for his position in the league. If you’re thinking of adding the player to your team he would cost you 7m.

It was a big win nonetheless for Strasbourg who have moved up to 6th place with 36 points and are just 4 points shy of the top four and five points from a possible Champions League place. It has been a yo-yo season for the club so far but form is good and they have won 3 from their last four games.

Djiku is just 25 and has his best years ahead of him. It’s a tough ask for him to break into the national side given the quality they already have in defence. This is the player’s first season with Strasbourg and he has made an impact at the back, at home for example the club have only conceded 14 goals with Djiku at the back.

At 6ft tall he is the perfect height for a defender and with the club picking up wins, and him scoring a goal this should give him some more confidence to finish the season well.

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PSG win 6 goal thriller against Lyon as brilliant Lille close in on 3rd place

A meeting between the two most successful sides in French football over the last 20 years was always going to garner the most attention and PSG and Lyon who have won 14 league titles between them in the last 17 league seasons didn’t let anyone down.

The game in Paris ended 4-2 to the league champions and whilst Lyon played their part they simply could not handle just how good PSG were. Angel Di Maria and Kylian Mbappe had seemingly wrapped up the game early on as PSG went in at half time 2-0 up. In the first half they had dominated possession and allowed no shots on target for the visitors.

The game was, in effect, over just a few minutes into the second half when PSG went 3-0 up courtesy of a bizarre own goal scored by Fernando Marcel. It was bizarre in the fact that it was such a good clinical goal- had it been a PSG player we would have been talking about it for some time. The player was obviously devastated and sunk to the ground in disbelief, he knew the game was over.

But then a miracle almost happened as Lyon’s Martin Terrier and Moussa Dembele who has been so good for Lyon this season both scored in the space of 7 minutes and suddenly Lyon were back in the game it was 3-2 with half an hour still to play. But PSG showed quality as they took down the level of the game and controlled the pace. Finally with ten minutes to go Edinson Cavani scored for the home side to win the game 4-2 and it was an important redemption goal for the Uruguayan who has felt left out of the side and was so close to leaving in the January transfer window. PSG remain on top with 61 points and are 12 points clear of Marseille.

Marseille did win at the weekend but they were quite disappointing at home against the bottom side Toulouse winning just 1-0 through a Dimitri Payet goal, Payet is on great form lately but Marseille had just 3 shots on target against a club who have conceded 49 goals this season and more was expected of them. Nonetheless a win is a win and it was actually a decent weekend for Marseille because Rennes in 3rd place could only draw 0-0 at home to Brest.

Rennes have put unnecessary pressure on themselves now to claim a top 3 place, they have no wins in their last 2 games and only 1 victory in their last four. The pressure was maximised because Lille won their 3rd straight game in a row to move within one point of Rennes. Lille beat Angers 2-0 away from home and the club have started to improve on the road after a nightmare start, in form Victor Osimhen opened the scoring for Lille who eased to a win.

Montpellier are in 5th after a 1-0 win over Bordeaux as Andy Delort scored his 9th goal of the season. The win was even more impressive for Montpellier as they played a large section of the game with 10 men after Solomon Sambia was sent off.

Strasbourg’s good form continued and they have now won 3 games from their last four to go into 6th place after they easily beat Reims 3-0, a direct rival for a European finish. The club got their revenge over Reims after the side had knocked them out of the Coupe de la Ligue at the quarter final stage with a penalty shoot out. Reims had zero shots on goal in the whole game and they have slipped to 10th place as a result.

Are Monaco recovering and starting to show what they can do under new coach Robert Moreno? Well the club did win their 2nd game in a row as they beat Amiens away from home 2-1. It was only Monaco’s 3rd win on the road and a first for Moreno away from home. However Monaco were heading for defeat, with just a few minutes left of the game Amiens were winning 1-0. But Ligue 1 top goalscorer Wissam Ben Yedder struck for the equaliser and then Islam Slimani became the hero of the day scoring in injury time. Cesc Fabregas had only been on the pitch for 4 minutes as he came off of the bench to assist in the winning goal. That moves the club up to 7th place.

Bordeaux moved to 8th after they beat Metz 2-1 away from home and the club have now gone their last 4 matches unbeaten. Remi Oudin a new signing from Reims got the winner for Bordeaux with just five minutes remaining to start his career with his new club in memorable style.

There is just 3 points between 8th and 5th and so much to play for in the league regarding European places. Marseille have taken a large step in the right direction to qualify for the Champions League and now have an 8 point lead over Rennes in 3rd place. PSG look like they have won the league, but will the upcoming Champions League games distract the team, if so it is only Marseille who have the smallest of chances of catching them. Watch this space as the league hots up with just 14 games and 42 points left to play for.

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The curse of Monaco continues as Robert Moreno and his team lose again

One could be forgiven for thinking that Leonardo Jardim has cursed Monaco. The former coach who has been sacked by the club twice in 12 months seems to have sprinkled something over the green grass at Stade Louis II.

In reality perhaps the other coaches who have stepped into his job have just been inferior. When Jardim was sacked the first time everyone was sceptical about Thierry Henry. The only managerial experience he had had up till then was as Roberto Martinez’s assistant with Belgium at the World Cup. But a full on club job is so different and so it proved and Henry was sacked within weeks and Jardim was back.

But when Monaco sacked Jardim again it seemed this time it was for a legit coach who had much more experience in Robert Moreno. Moreno had been in charge of the Spanish national side for a year. Still the same problem could be applied to Moreno as it did for Henry, no club managerial experience. And maybe it is showing.

The timing of bringing Moreno in was odd in the fact that Monaco had to face PSG in their first two games. The hardest start than any coach could have wished for in Ligue 1. Promise was shown as the club went to Paris and drew 3-3 in an absorbing match that was to be a false dawn. A few days later with the way the fixtures had worked out Monaco had to play PSG again this time at home, and there was hope. But PSG ran out 4-1 winners. Still there was no panic, losing at home by 4-1 is a disaster to any team but the champions. But then came the other games….

To put it bluntly Moreno is yet to win with Monaco and has lost the last two games against Strasbourg at home and then Nimes away. Both sides scored 3 goals each and Nimes were able to win despite being in 19th place It was only the club’s 4th win of the season.

Moreno’s win rate with Monaco stands at 28% and that is only because cup games are included. It s worth noting that Jardim’s win rate in his first stint with the club was almost 54% and his second stint was even 38%.

When Jardim was sacked Monaco were in 7th place and the Portuguese coach had steered the club out of relegation. Now they have fallen to 13th place. The club should be safe from the clutches of Ligue 2 given that they have a 10 point lead over the bottom three but what sad times these are for the club.

Will Moreno be given some time and possibly a summer transfer budget or will he be sacked before the end of the season? Could Jardim even come back for a 3rd term? If Monaco have learned anything it is this, bring in a coach that has some club experience if you are going to sack one with vast amounts.

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Monaco coach Robert Moreno labels his team a disaster as he searches for first Ligue 1 win

It’s fair to say that Robert Moreno’s time at Monaco has not got off to a good start and at the weekend he saw his new club lose to Strasbourg and labelled the match and performance a ‘disaster’.

Moreno is right it was and Monaco just seem a little off in the past few weeks as Moreno searches for his first league win as Monaco coach. It has been rumoured though that some players in the Monaco camp do not take criticism lightly, and that may well have been the downfall of former coach Leonardo Jardim who had actually turned around the clubs fortunes, it meant little as in the end he was sacked.

So is Moreno saying that he witnessed a disaster going to be a controversial moment and could it define his career as Monaco coach? Certainly if some players are sensitive then his words would not have gone down very well.

After losing at home 3-1 to Strasbourg Moreno said: “It’s a horrible feeling. We started the game well, but after the first goal, it was a disaster, it’s difficult to attack a team that sits back and waits for you.

Moreno continued: “There wasn’t a good feeling with the ball, passing it around, to attack the space. We lacked quality in our passing, in the preparation of the game, in my choices…What happens on the pitch is my responsibility. I must explain things better to my players. We’re not the worst in the world now. It’s my team. Win or lose, I think my players are the best.”

Moreno has had earned just 1 point from the three leagues games he has been in charge of, although two of those have already been against champions PSG. The more pressing point for Moreno and something he will need to work on is in defence. That was a part of the field where outgoing coach Leonardo Jardim was so good at, the defence became so solid that it helped Monaco win the title in 2017. This version of Monaco under Moreno have conceded 10 goals in his 3 league games in charge.

There is no denying the fact though that Monaco have made some really controversial choices in the past year. Sacking a good coach in Jardim twice, having to go through their nightmare patch with Thierry Henry in charge. Is Moreno going to be another coach that cannot work with the club? When he arrived Monaco were in 7th place now they have dropped to 13th. The good news perhaps is that they are just 4 points from a European finish.

But the club have just 1 win in their last five games and that does not bode well. Their next match is away to Nimes who are in 19th place and have won just 3 games all season. However Monaco have won just 2 games from their 10 away this season. The road looks like a long one for Moreno, how will he and the club fare by May?

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Coupe de France round up: PSG squeeze through, Bordeaux shocked

The round of 32 in the France’s main cup, the Coupe de France was the main focus this past weekend as Ligue 1 took a rest.

All eyes were on league champions PSG who had to travel to Lorient. Lorient are currently in 1st place in Ligue 2 and PSG of course top the standings in Ligue 1, so it made for an interesting match up. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel decided to have star players Kylian Mbappe and Neymar on the bench and he didn’t use them. The game was a very tight one which in the end PSG won 1-0 through a Pablo Sarabia header with just 10 minutes to go to break Lorient’s hearts. PSG will now face Pau FC in the last 16.

This will be a dream for Pau FC who are in the 3rd tier of French football, to be able to play against the mighty PSG for a chance in the quarter finals. It is everything Pau FC deserved after shocking another Ligue 1 team as they knocked out Bordeaux, winning 3-2 in what many have called one of the games of the round.

The match finished 2-2 and Pau FC won the game in extra time, there were 15,000 fans to see it and they have been drawn again at home to face PSG- put this in your calendars, the game takes place on January 29th.

Perhaps the game of the round though took place in Nantes where Lyon came to town and won an enthralling match 4-3. Lyon had found themselves 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes and at half time they were 3-1 up. Both teams revised their normal line ups but it was Lyon that showed more hunger in the end. Moussa Dembele who has arguably been one of Lyon’s better players this season seemingly put the game away when he made it 4-1. But Nantes were not completely done and a comeback looked on the cards after goals from Louza and Simon one in the 83rd minute and then another three minutes later. It was a very nervous last five minutes as Nantes pushed for a fourth goal but they couldn’t find it.

Elsewhere Strasbourg beat Angouleme 5-1 with Ludovic Ajorque getting on the score sheet once again though this was a penalty. Saint Etienne were involved in a very good game eventually beating Paris FC 3-2 away. Angers beat Rouen 4-1, Montpellier easily beat 5-0 with star striker Gaetan Laborde getting on the score sheet. Rennes won and Dijon put 5 goals past Nimes and Monaco squeezed through too.

Only the Bordeaux game was seen as a shock result, the last 16 games take place at the end of the month.

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PSG fans must back up Neymar now after 2 goals in 2 games as PSG beat Lyon

Neymar the magician who is Brazilian did it again, didn’t he? After a summer where he has spoken negatively about his club PSG and wanting a move away to Barcelona, he has come straight back into the team and earned the club 6 points straight off the bat.

He is turning into an enigma someone that is hard to figure out. It is easy to throw negative criticism at him too. His lack of passion and loyalty seemed fairly evident, like a baby throwing out his toys he wanted out of one of the most successful teams in world football to play for another. His feelings were clear. One could think of the endless run of kids in and around Paris dreaming to play for the club and the youths who have been rejected at the final hurdle- the commitment, the passion and the loyalty. And then look over at Neymar who was playing with his career at the club and seemingly didn’t care.

But what Neymar has, which the other hopefuls don’t is sheer and utter quality. It is why he can want a move away with his career feeling like it is coming to an end in France and then come back and produce wonder goals, each time saving his club and winning the game.

A few weeks ago he scored an outrageous bicycle kick in injury time against Strasbourg with the tie at 0-0. And then this past weekend PSG travelled to a direct league rival in Lyon. Again the score tied at 0-0 before Neymar went on a mazy solo run and scored with the winner with just two minutes remaining.

Neymar is an unbelievable player and in a generation where Brazilian football has stalled on produced attacking greats, he is one of them and perhaps the only genuine one. The heir apparent to the likes of Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho before him.

The hardcore PSG fans known as the ultras put out a statement upon Neymar’s return that they won’t easily forgive the player, and to be fair it did seem understandable. But after these 2 games, that’s 2 return goals and more than that it is clear without the player that they would have drawn those games and had 4 less points as a result. That would mean PSG would have 11 points now and Angers would in fact be top, with PSG resigned down to 4th place and that is the reality of the situation.

It might be hard for the ultra fans or even regular PSG fans to admit this, but the team can’t afford to be without Neymar, he is simply that good a player.

 

 

Despite a summer of discontent Neymar proves he is one of the best players in world football

Neymar was back at the weekend for PSG after a summer trying to leave the French champions. The Brazilian could not force a move and the teams he wanted to move to in Barcelona and Real Madrid couldn’t afford him anyway. Under intense pressure to do well Neymar showed his class when he really had to and scored the winner against Strasbourg.

This wasn’t just any type of goal, this was a goal sent from the heavens that changed all of the sports headlines the world over because this game looked like it would end 0-0. In the final minute with PSG heading for a disappointing draw at home, Neymar latched onto a cross, and bicycle kick style shot for goal, the ball thundered in the net and the roar from the fans could be heard outside Paris.

At first Neymar did not celebrate then buoyed by his team mates he couldn’t resist but not too, the villain in this piece had suddenly turned to the hero.

What PSG’s ultra fans thought of that will be interesting. They put out a statement a few days ago saying that Neymar had disrespected the club and that it would take a long time to earn Neymar’s trust back. Well in a matter of seconds he went a long way to doing that.

Criticism is thrown at Neymar, the way he acts, the way he goes tumbling down and he has been wrong in trying to force a move out of Paris this summer. But one thing that can’t be taken from the Brazilian is just how supremely talented he is, when you see goals like he scored at the weekend then you know he is amongst the worlds best footballers- that’s what paying 200m euros does to a team and that’s why PSG were so stubborn in not wanting to sell him, no one could blame the club for that, when you see what Neymar can produce.

Something says that following this vital win and vital goal in such a vital game that Neymar’s forgiveness will be accepted much quicker from the die hard fans. Whilst some fans of ultra groups take everything within football too seriously, they did have a point, given that it should be an honour to play for PSG, and Neymar does need some making up to do. At the weekend he did that in the best possible fashion and after a summer of discontent, Neymar could have a very memorable season ahead of him, if that is what he so desires.

 

 

Ligue 1: Week 37: Player Picks for the Weekend

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Most of the major European leagues have finished but in France Ligue 1 doesn’t end until the end of the month. PSG are champions of course and Lille and Lyon look like they will get Champions League places. Relegation is still up for grabs though, could Caen really survive and take down the 2017 champions Monaco, it looks more likely as the season draws to a close.

Below we pick in a 4-4-2 formation the players that could be most likely to shine and earn you points this weekend.

Goalkeeper: Stephane Ruffier- Saint Etienne

Stephane Ruffier has been superb in goal for Saint Etienne and the club have conceded just 3 in the last 6 games. They will be at home to Nice and this is the clubs last roll of the dice. Ruffier can be added to your team for 7.5m.

Defender: Marcelo- Lyon

Marcelo has played 31 times and is ranked as the best Lyon defender this season. Lyon are at home and really need the win. They will have a tough game against Caen who are fighting to stay up, but Lyon possess more quality and Marcelo is just 8m.

Defender: Dani Alves

Dani Alves for PSG could have a good game, this is PSG’s last home match of the season and it may well be Alves last game for PSG given his age. He will want to put in a good performance and they are playing Dijon who are really struggling, Alves could well earn some valuable points here.

Defender: Hilton- Montpellier

Hilton has played almost the whole season and Montpellier kept a clean sheet in their last game as they try and finish the season on a high. They are playing Nantes at the weekend but they are at home and every chance to get a good result, he is 6m.

Defender: Lamine Kone- Strasbourg

Kone has a had a decent season and has become a staple figure in the side. It is true that Strasbourg have just 1 clean sheet in their past five games however the club will feel confident that they can do so when they entertain Rennes at the weekend and Kone should be looked into.

Midfielder: Remi Oudin- Reims

Oudin is valued at 10m but he has had a great season for Reims even if the club are going through a difficult spell. He has assisted in 3 goals and scored a further 10 and with the season almost near the end he might be worth sticking in your team.

Midfielder: Arber Zeneli- Reims

Sticking with Reims, is Zeneli another player that can switch it on and create chances. Reims have not been in good form but have the quality to finish the season well and they will be playing Bordeaux who have been very poor this season so their luck could change. Zeneli can be yours for just 6.5m.

Midfielder: Ismaila Sarr-Rennes

Sarr has been in good form for Rennes as they take on Strasbourg away at the weekend it what could end up being quite a close game. Sarr has scored 7 goals and also assisted 6 times and he is valued at 7.5m.

Midfielder: Wylan Cyprien- Nice

Cyprien has so much quality but what tends to happen is that he goes through periods of the season quiet. The question is can he finish it on form and with a bang? He can be brought into your team for a bargain 5m and Nice will be playing Saint Etienne at the weekend.

Striker: Nicolas Pepe- Lille

Nicolas Pepe has been one of the best players in Ligue 1. This is Lille’s last game at home to secure 2nd place and it all looks set for Pepe to add to his goals this season. He should be taken on.

Striker: Edinson Cavani- PSG

This could be Cavani’s final game in Paris as he is set to leave the club. He has scored so many goals for the club. Kylian Mbappe is struggling with fitness and Neymar is banned from this game, so this should be Cavani’s time to step up and score a few goals. He is 13m which is expensive but at the same time the players will be creating many chances for him, that’s for sure.

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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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Choupo-Moting’s stunning miss denies PSG the league title

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PSG lost their 100% record at home when they could only draw 2-2 with Strasbourg at the weekend. But that is just one story- the other is Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s extraordinary miss when the match was poised at 1-1, which almost certainly would have sealed the game in their favour and given them the league title. Now PSG will have to wait.

Strasbourg have frustrated PSG in the past- a few seasons ago Strasbourg ended PSG’s unbeaten run in the league and now the new Coupe de la Ligue winners have ended PSG’s dominance at home by becoming the first team this season to take points from them in Paris. Before the game PSG had played 15 and won 15, a stunning record.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel was still without Brazilian Neymar which was expected what wasn’t expected was that he did not start star player Kylian Mbappe, instead choosing to rest the player from the bench. That meant a rare start for once Stoke City striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

Everything was going so well for the player who opened the scoring in the 13 minute with a neat finish. At that point PSG were simply expected to stroll to victory, but Strasbourg who have been in superb form after winning the Coupe de la Ligue and then beating Reims 4-0 had not read the script.

Da Costa equalised on 26 minutes and then shock of shocks Goncalves put Strasbourg ahead just before half time. But before Goncalves got the goal to put the visitors ahead, PSG somehow were not ahead themselves.

Choupo-Moting found himself virtually on the opposition goal line, the ball crossed in perfectly and with good weight and pass he simply had to notch the ball in with the deftest of touches. Instead he somehow kicked the ball in a way that ended up looking like a nonchalant brilliant piece of defending- and fans in the stadium sat their stunned. Mbappe on the bench could not believe what he was seeing, and the opportunity was gone. In England commentators reporting on the game suggested it was the greatest miss of all time- that’s for another day and another list but it was certainly up there with the biggest controversial moments stemming from such a clear cut chance in front of goal- a real head scratcher.

Choupo-Moting has played 18 times for PSG and scored 3 goals and it is unfortunate for him that the night turned sour given that he had opened the scoring. It was of course not a reflection on the player and was just a shocking miss, a freak and it happens.

The problem for the 30 year old is such misses for the biggest clubs can be the downfall moment and it would be a surprise if Choupo-Moting is a PSG player next season given his age and the fact that he joined the club this season on a free transfer anyway. Football has shown us on countless occasions how ruthless the big clubs can be when needed.

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