Ligue 1 Player of the Week: Kylian Mbappe

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Everything came together in Ligue 1 at the weekend as Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick on Sunday against his former team Monaco in Paris as PSG won the league title.

Mbappe’s 3 goals earned him more points than any other player in Ligue 1 Fantasy Football with 14. He is top of the rankings with an overall haul of 132 points and has a value of 10.5m. He is a cool 35 points in front of the next best player Nicolas Pepe who plays for Lille.

Mbappe is also the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 with 30 goals and one has to remind themselves that he is just 20 years old- oh and of course he has a World Cup already to his name. In a week where his team mate Dani Alves became the most decorated player in history with his 42nd trophy, one has to wonder if Mbappe will surpass this record. Alves is 15 years older than Mbappe and if we say that the French forward has at least another 15 years at the very top then he has plenty of time to catch him up, he currently has 7 trophies to his name.

The 20 year old has been not just the best player in Ligue 1 this week, or this season but the best player in world football in the past 12 months. One has to wonder if Ronaldo or Lionel Messi would have won world player of the year had they won a domestic treble and then the World Cup last season. Mbappe didn’t, FIFA seemed to back out of that decision based on his then age of 19. No matter it is only a question of time, perhaps this will be the year but then again PSG were knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16 and that could affect that vote.

Mbappe has recovered well in recent weeks too- the player was dropped from he defeat at Nantes after he criticised the teams commitment on the back of drawing 2-2 with Strasbourg and then the horrific 5-1 defeat at the hands of Lille. Of course it was just a stay of execution PSG were always going to win the league, in the end it simply dragged on more than they would have liked.

He has proven to be the ultimate striker and his pace is electrifying. Against Monaco one of his runs clocked in at an a average of 38km p/h that is quicker than 100m world record holder Usain Bolt.

For his hat-trick Mbappe was set up twice by Alves and he even hit the post meaning he could have ended the night with more goals. And there is more.

In scoring 30 goals in a single season Mbappe became the first French player to reach that feat in Ligue 1 since the great Jean- Pierre Papin.

Mbappe by light years wins the Ligue 1 player of the week in reality he should be winning every other personal competition he is involved in too. An absolute star to treasure with an even greater future ahead of him.

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com 

PSG will win the league but the owners and fans crave for more

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PSG chalked up their 26th win of the Ligue 1 season from 29 games to reach the 80 point mark at the weekend after beating Toulouse 1-0. They need just 4 points from their next 8 games to confirm their 7th league title in 8 years and of course it is just a matter of time before they do it. But let’s be honest since November it has been when not if when referring to PSG’s league title.

Thomas Tuchel has had a walk in the park, or so that is what many people will tell you. On reflection this has been an easy league title win, but does such a term truly exist? PSG have had to work incredibly hard for their results, something a passing fan of football would not see. Yes they have had some easy victories and fantastic results but there have also been battles which they have got themselves into winning games by one goal margins like 2-1 or 1-0, that could have easily have gone the other way. PSG have by far been the best team in the league but they have also had to work for it.

Take for example how they exited the Coupe de la Ligue, in Paris against the then bottom team Guingamp. Nobody could have seen that result coming, and before anyone thinks that France’s 2nd cup competition is not taken seriously by PSG look at the past five winners- all won by PSG. No complacency was the key in that defeat and the word should be used as a positive to all of the mega rich clubs out there. The reason these teams do not lose is down to not having complacency, otherwise as a general rule they would sweep up every game and competition they enter.

So PSG will win the league and the streets of Paris will cheer on their heroes, and yet there is the white elephant on the Champs Elysees the very same one that has stood there shrugging its shoulders and downing its trunk- where is that Champions League trophy?

Owners and fans will be delighted with another dominant Ligue 1 win and Thomas Tuchel’s job is safe for this season. But it was beyond disappointing for PSG to get knocked out this season against Manchester United when they were in total control of the match. And it has been the same year in year out for the club, sure fire victories snatched away by Barcelona and Real Madrid line the memories.

PSG have been called bottlers in the Champions League that is wrong and cruel on every level. But they do need to step up and realise that a knock out round is rarely ever decided in one leg. Repeated disappointments in Europe mean that whilst victory in Ligue 1 should be celebrated it may actually be quite muted by the owners of the club until Europe if ever comes calling.

What did Manchester United learn from loss against PSG?

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Manchester United headed into the first leg of the Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain with full confidence, given their fine form in recent weeks and the fact that Edinson Cavani and Neymar would be missing both legs of the Champions League tie. Though, all did not end well, as the visitors gave the host a football lesson and showed that they are levels ahead of the Red Devils.

Despite the questionable refereeing and the fact that the side lost Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard by the half-time break, Thomas Tuchel had his side setup in the most perfect way whist Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now showing that he is beginning to lack a Plan B. With how the first leg had come to an end, United’s chances of qualifying for the next round are very slim as PSG take two away goals and a win back to France.

Here are three valuable lessons that can be taken from the Champions League defeat…

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to desperately find a Plan B

For sure, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is enjoying the dream of managing Manchester United and has got the fans of Old Trafford bouncing again. However, he needs to come up with a backup idea or a different system for when things don’t go according to plan, especially with how Tuchel made some clever choices with his starting line-up and made sure to make tactical tweaks during the game.

It’s more or less obvious that the injuries to Lingard and Martial badly affected to how the side normally attempt to break on the counter through pure pace and movement, which led the full-backs and the midfielders to then take part in a more direct approach. Given the injury issues and the lack of midfield options, it may be ideal for Solskjaer to consider using the back-three/five setup, to restore balance from defence to attack.

In regards to a back-three/five formation, it would allow both Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot to push high up the pitch as the wing-backs whilst Paul Pogba potentially playing in an attacking role with freedom will do the side real good. As long as United’s main players in Ander Herrera, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof are in high confidence and spirits, they should be able to play effectively and smartly within this style.

The midfield battle is where the match was won and lost

Without a doubt, Marco Verratti and Marquinhos stole the headlines at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, as the midfield duo controlled and dictated the game like it was a walk in the park. From keeping it simple with the short passes and the through balls into the wide players, to silencing each attack United could offer, they truly gave Gianluigi Buffon and Thiago Silva a quiet night at the back.

Meanwhile, for the hosts, it had seemed like only Pogba was attempting to guide the midfield and attack whilst the rest were waiting in the opposition’s half for something to happen. Herrera and Nemanja Matic provided assistance defensively and were able to support the backline when required, though, they struggled a lot when it came down to helping them push forward and to create constant chances.

The midfield department is an area that the hierarchy should look to aggressively strengthen, especially when the only options are Andreas Pereira, Fred and the young Scott McTominay from the bench. If one of the current midfield trio were to be injured or suspended for a number of games, then it can easily be stated that the backup choices would not be able to come up with the needed displays without any issues.

United’s board need to have a good look at the strength and quality between both squads

Majority of football supporters would have thought that the absence of Cavani and Neymar would make the fixture more balanced and would make the hosts the favourites, on the other hand, the visitors still had the likes of Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and surprisingly Dani Alves utilised as the front three. Straightaway, one can gain the understanding that PSG’s squad depth is no joke at all.

Though, when United’s two main attackers were forced off a half-time, Solskjaer could only bring on Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata, two players that are clearly past their best and are not able to take the side’s attack to the next level. On top of that, PSG’s quality in the starting line-up was incredibly outstanding, leaving Tuchel with no reasons for them to complete their third and final substitution.

Overall, PSG have the perfect squad to allow them to convincingly challenge in every competition they take place in, whilst United’s current team is just about enough to challenge for the top four spots as well as the Carabao Cup or FA Cup. If the board want to improve instantly, they will need to bring in a director of football, someone who can help when it comes to recruiting and scouting.

PSG lose first league game of the season- could this be the meltdown?

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There was just that feeling going into this weekend that Lyon had the players to beat PSG on Sunday night. And they did just that by coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 to inflict PSG’s first defeat of the league season.

PSG are going to win the league regardless, that just seems a given where they are 10 points clear and have a game in hand, but this defeat feels like a bitter blow to Thomas Tuchel and his team.

It is clear that when a club get to February unbeaten they are thinking about going the whole season that way, and it would have been the icing on the cake together with breaking numerous French Ligue 1 records, but it isn’t going to happen and after this defeat one could expect more will follow.

PSG haven’t been helped with the recent injury to Neymar where he could miss up to 2 months of the season. But is it all going wrong for the team at the wrong time of the season? It does seem so, a defeat here will feel like such a body blow to the players and Tuchel will need to pick them up given that the Champions League is just around the corner and they will be playing Manchester United and not just any United, a brilliant looking side since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The hierarchy at PSG are happy to win the league of course and it would have to take the mother of all meltdowns to let in Lyon or Lille, it shouldn’t happen. But at the same time now that PSG are feeling that they can lose big games it could well have a psychological effect on them for the Champions League. It is no secret that the team that really need it most are PSG and possibly Manchester City. But PSG have been called chokers in the past for not winning it, considering the amount of money they have spent trying too. This could be another frustrating season in that department.

PSG lost out in bringing in some quality in January to replace Neymar with his injury but even if they did they would have most likely been cup tied. They tried for Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil but that deal fell through. One wonders if all of this will count against Tuchel and how long he will keep his job.

Of course Tuchel has lost just 1 game in the league this season and fully deserves to keep his job, but in football questions arise very quickly and a lot of people will be keeping an eye on how the club performs over the next month.

 

Neymar could be back for PSG sooner than expected after injury blow

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Just like this time last season Neymar PSG’s Brazilian forward has been ruled out for a chunk of the season when all of the competitions are reaching their business end and reports have suggested that the player will miss the next 10 weeks with a return date pencilled in for the beginning of April.

Neymar has injured his fifth metatarsal and received the injury in PSG’s French Cup win over Strasbourg. This latest injury just highlighted the unfair treatment that Neymar has had to put up with his supposed diving antics and fooling around. Truth is most of the time he is getting chopped down. This time it was because he was showboating, and it feels quite sad that Neymar has been cut down like this especially at a time when his club really need him.

Neymar’s injury shouldn’t affect the team in the league given that they are 13 points clear at the top and have games in hand. Ligue 1 in theory has been wrapped up since before Christmas and it seems that it is just a matter of when and not if PSG win the league title for the 2nd time in a row.

But the focus will be more on the Champions League, a trophy that PSG desperately want to win and keep failing at against the more elite and historic teams when it really matters, it was the major reason that the club brought in coach Thomas Tuchel.

But Neymar will certainly miss the teams first leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford, which is a massive bonus for the Premier League side. The second leg in Paris is on March 6th and that might be the game that PSG are secretly targeting Neymar’s return.

For example if the game is still open by then and PSG need that extra piece of magic Neymar would be key to the side’s chances of progression. However the 2nd leg date is only in five weeks time, so will it really be possible?

Players in the past have been able to recover from such injuries in 4-6 weeks at the very least if they have been able to fully rest properly. Also in Neymar’s advantage is that he hasn’t required surgery on the injury. So in theory he could be back much sooner than expected.

Of course the problem is would he be match fit? The answer is no, and Neymar returning so early could be seen as a desperate move and a last roll of the dice for Tuchel. The correct method to take would be for Neymar to return for the quarter finals in PSG were able to make it past United.

In any sense Neymar’s injury and especially the timing of it is hard luck on Tuchel who will most probably be judged more by the owners on how PSG perform in the Champions League compared to the league.

Can PSG go the whole season in Ligue 1 unbeaten?

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More or less PSG have been absolutely dominant in the French Ligue 1 since 2012 and their massive takeover which has seen the club win 6 out of the last 7 titles in France. Millions have been spent on some of the greatest players to have graced the game in recent years. The likes of Zlatan Ibramhimovic, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and a new starlet in Kylian Mbappe have passed through their doors.

However it is this season that just feels different under new coach Thomas Tuchel. The reason is evident when you glance at the league tables. Yes it is no surprise to see PSG in 1st position, but they have played 14 games so far and won 14. It’s like a PlayStation game that went very wrong in a kind of excellent way. 42 points means that their nearest challengers Lyon are 15 points behind and the league in effect looks over before December.

We should also be reminded that their nearest rival Lyon were soundly beaten 5-0 last month by the Parisians. They are just that good that no team in France seems to be able to touch them. And yet of course in previous seasons it felt the same way until they would lose a surprise game away from home. This past weekend that almost happened. Not so much that the team would lose but even drop their 100% win rate. The team was Toulouse and with an important Champions League game coming up against Liverpool, both Mbappe and Neymar did not play and PSG edged to a 1-0 nervous victory.

PSG certainly have it within them to not only go unbeaten the whole season but to win every game, it would be a massive achievement even if some critics would point and suggest that the French league is not strong. Well tell that to Premier League champions Manchester City who in 2 games against Lyon both home and away failed to beat the team and conceded 4 goals along the way.

Ligue 1 is not the strongest league in Europe of course but it is far from weak, all it is missing is some wealthy owners to give PSG a run for their money (pardon the pun).

PSG’s real tests will come as the season progresses. How will they react if they are knocked out of a cup competition, especially the Champions League? The league is theirs that is basically assured now, but it is a question of how long they can continue their dominance this season which is most fascinating. Europe will be looking on in anticipation that is for sure.

Liverpool or PSG set to be knocked out of Champions League at the group stage

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Liverpool and PSG were amongst the favourites to win this seasons Champions League but it looks more and more like one of them will not even qualify for the knock out rounds after a topsy turvy group stage.

When the two European giants were announced to be in the same group, there was obvious excitement but most pundits believed they would get through in a group also containing Italians Napoli and Red Star. But some surprise results have left that chance really open ended with just 2 games left to play each for the super clubs.

Liverpool who got to the final last season have already lost 2 of their 4 games. These defeats both came away from home against Napoli and then this week to Red Star in a 2-0 loss. However for now they are still in 2nd place on 6 points.

As for PSG they started their campaign off with a loss away to Liverpool which ended 3-2 and then they drew two times against Napoli but slaughtered Red Star at home, they are, at this moment going into the Europa League with 5 points so far.

Napoli have been the real surprise and the problem for Liverpool and PSG. But Napoli who are in 1st place are not safe yet as they have drawn 3 of their 4 games but they do remain unbeaten. So the key to qualification will be in the next two matchday fixtures.

Napoli will play Red Star at home and given how poor they have been on the road we would expect a win for the Italians. But then they have to play Liverpool away and what would be a packed out and atmospheric Anfield and that could well end in a loss, so Napoli has the chance to finish with 9 points.

Liverpool have a massive crunch test with PSG in Paris on November 28th and it will in effect feel like a knockout game. All eyes will be on this match, let’s be conservative and say this game ends in a draw. It would mean that even if PSG beat Red Star away from home as long as Liverpool win they would go through. The key game seems to be Napoli’s match against Red Star, win that and one of Liverpool or PSG are going to go out. It would be a massive blow for either club.

Arguably one could say the blow is bigger for PSG given the new coach in Thomas Tuchel and the fact they have Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in order to win the competition. By the end of this month we should know which one of these teams will be playing Europa League football next year.

Thomas Tuchel’s version of PSG is set to be the best ever

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When PSG strolled to a 3-0 victory over Nice at the end of September it seemed to go by without much fuss and why should it as everyone expected the champions to win the game. However more fuss and attention should have surrounded this historic result. In beating Patrick Vieira’s team, PSG had just equalled an 82 year old Ligue 1 record by winning their first 8 games of the season.

The record was held by Lille in the 1935/36 season and had stood for that long despite PSG being dominant in France since their takeover from the 2011/12 season onwards. In order to break the record the club from Paris would have to play an old foe in Lyon. Lyon of course dominated French football themselves in the 2000s winning 7 titles in a row and whilst they are a team now playing second fiddle to PSG they still would not have been chosen as the team you had to beat to break an historic record.

A few weeks ago this Lyon side had travelled to Manchester in the Champions League and stunned Manchester City by beating them and they had started to pick up form and points in the domestic league. But the match would be held in Paris where PSG have simply been irresistible.

Ninety minutes later PSG had not only broken the record they had done it in style by beating a genuine league rival 5-0. PSG had just won 9 games in a row thanks to a Neymar goal and a stunning performance by Kylian Mbappe who scored 4 goals in 13 glorious minutes to break another Ligue 1 record.

One has to wonder if, under current coach Thomas Tuchel, PSG have their best team since their takeover and indeed they are proving wholeheartedly to have the best team ever in Ligue 1 history.

The club have 27 points after just 9 games and their nearest challenger is Lille who are 8 points behind on 19. The only team to stop PSG’s title runs have been Monaco who won in 2017 and they are already 21 points behind. PSG are scoring almost 4 goals a game and at home they have scored 19 times from just 5 games and conceded just 2. The team are on fire and have a belief in breaking records and winning the league in record time.

Of course the wider view will be that their season will be judged on how well they do in the Champions League. They were unfairly criticised when they lost to Liverpool 3-2 in their opening game of the competition. Many teams will lose at a packed out and atmospheric Anfield- what will count more for Tuchel will be how his side react when they play Liverpool in Paris. And PSG were clearly not at their best that night and yet came back from 2-0 down and could have drawn the game. The team remains a real danger to any side in Europe.

However they have historically made too many errors and a bad lack of judgement in the competition against the better teams. But if PSG can play like this then they have every chance of going very far in this seasons edition of the competition.

Buffon set for showdown talks with PSG boss Tuchel

buffonGianluigi Buffon is set for discussions with Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel over the Italian goalkeeper’s role at the Ligue 1 champions. Reports suggest that Tuchel wants to keep Alphonse Areola as the number 1 stopper at Parc des Princes, leaving Juventus legend Buffon warming the bench. That has not sat well with the 40-year-old, who wants to continue on with plenty of game time. The club have since implied, however, that the interview in which Tuchel stated that Areola was “in pole position” to start was done in German, and so his stance was essentially lost in translation into French. The French champions have started with Buffon in goal twice and Areola three times so far this season, with the younger custodian being chosen in each of the last three.

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Julian Draxler: Set for the bench at PSG?

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cropped_2017-02-14T203105Z_130105865_MT1ACI14751517_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-CHAMPIONS-PSG-FCBThe Parc des Princes erupted with joy as attacker Julian Draxler wheeled away in celebration after scoring a sensational goal against Spanish giants FC Barcelona in the home leg of the Round of 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League. The fans were full of praise after the sensational performance by the German attacker on the night with many hailing him as the man to watch out for in the away leg at Camp Nou. Sadly, the 24-year-old flattered to deceive as has been the case throughout his career so far.

The ex-Schalke attacker was hailed by footballing experts after he decided to take a plunge into the unknown by signing on for French giants Paris St Germain from Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg for a then-record sum of £40m. Draxler was more than happy to bid adieu after a cold reception from the fans who indicated their immense disapproval by whistling vociferously during a cameo against Hertha Berlin.

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