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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Ligue 1: Week 35: Player Picks for the Weekend

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PSG are champions as we know but there is still the prospect of sorting out Champions League, Europa League and relegation places, and this is what will be on everyone’s minds come the 35th week of Ligue 1 football.

Below we will take a look at the players that could make all the difference this weekend and some of them you may want to add to your team, as they look to gain maximum points depending on the upcoming fixtures.

Formation 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Walter Benitez- Nice

Walter Benitez is one of the best up and coming goal keepers in Ligue 1. But he makes this list and you should choose him given his fantastic recent form, where he has kept 4 clean sheets from the past five games. It’s true they are playing PSG, but their form has not been good and they have already won the league. Benitez costs 6.5m.

Defender: Christopher Julien- Toulouse

Julien has been a rock in defence for Toulouse and has played the most games for the club this season. Toulouse will be at home against Rennes who shouldn’t offer much trouble up front. At home Toulouse have kept 2 clean sheets in a row. He is valued at 6.5m.

Defender: Issiaga Sylla- Toulouse

Keeping with Toulouse is the experienced Issiaga Sylla who has had a decent season and has a good chemistry with Julien. Again Toulouse are at home and have decent opposition in a game where they could well keep a clean sheet. Sylla can also score goals and has 2 so far this season so could be worth some bonus points. He is valued at 6.5m.

Defender: Pierre-Yves Polomat – Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne are the team right now and not only are they winning but they are keeping it very solid at the back too. It might be worth taking Polomat into your team given that the player likes to come forward too- and can score and create goals, plus he is only going to cost a bargain 3m. Saint Etienne play Monaco away this weekend.

Defender: Dani Alves – PSG

Dani Alves has been one of the brighter lights for PSG even though their form has suffered in the past few weeks. PSG are at home to Nice and there is a big chance for the club that they can at least keep Nice quiet in Paris. Alves has 6 assists so far this season too. Alves cost 7.5m.

Midfielder: Wahbi Khazri – Saint Etienne

Simply put Khazri has been one of the best pound for pound players in Ligue 1. His club are chasing the Champions League, they are in superb form, scoring goals, and for his position Khazri has an incredible 13 goals- what else do we need to know, not to pick this player? And he will cost just 7.5m.

Midfielder: Remy Cabella- Saint Etienne

Cabella was brilliant last week and there is no reason to see the player slowing down given that Saint Etienne have to keep pushing and winning in order to try and take 3rd place from Lyon. Cabella is a bargain price- all things considered at 7m.

Midfielder: Valentin Rongier- Nantes

Valentin Rongier has 3 goals and 4 assists for Nantes and has shown a lot of quality especially in recent weeks. Plus Nantes are going through the best form of their season and have won the last 4 games including beating PSG, Lyon and Marseille. They just keep winning and they are at home v Dijon this weekend, which should be another victory. Rongier to buy is just 4.5m.

Midfielder: Nabil Fekir- Lyon

True Fekir will cost you 10m but at the weekend Lyon have a massive game against 2nd place Lille and this is where Fekir need to step up and make this game his own if he ever wants to be a regular French international. He has scored 9 goals and has 7 assists so there are plenty of points in him.

Striker: Edinson Cavani- PSG

Cavani has been knocked down to 3rd striker in the PSG pecking order because of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. But Neymar has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons while Mbappe is suspended for this game. This is Cavani’s chance to get back in the starting 11 and back on track scoring goals. Cavani is valued at 13m.

Striker: Andy Delort- Montpellier

The man of the moment Andy Delort is trying his best to fire Montpellier into a final European position. Delort is scoring goals and did so last weekend against PSG. He has scored 14 so far and is 7m.

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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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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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M’Vila signs new three year contract at Saint-Etienne

m'vilaSaint-Etienne midfielder Yann M’Vila has been rewarded for his fine start to life at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard with a new three year contract, just six months after his arrival at the club. Having struggled at Rubin Kazan in Russia, M’Vila joined Saint-Etienne back in January and started 17 of the 18 remaining games for the campaign, helping the club get back to happier form after a poor start. The truth is, this is a great bit of business for Les Verts in retaining the services of one of the most talented, cultured players in the French top flight. If M’Vila can continue to contribute to such an upturn in fortunes as he has done in his first six months at the club then the future bodes well indeed.

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