Well, another week of Ligue 1 action, and finally the top five favorites for the Ligue 1 title are first through fifth. And, of course, three of those teams will play on Sunday, with the big Marseille vs. Lyon match looming.
So, lets dive right into the previews for Saturday’s matches.
Lens vs. Caen – Yes, a match that will basically mean absolutely nothing. The winner “might” move out of the relegation zone, while the loser, of course, will stay in the relegation zone. This is a sad fact considering many people had higher hopes for these teams, at least finishing at mid-table.
One interesting thing regarding this match is that Vedran Runje is expected to be part of the Lens team on Saturday. After a clash with Lens supporters after the teams 3-0 loss to Lorient on the road, Runje was said to have been punished by Gervais Martel regarding the incident. But, it seems like being suspended from playing isn’t part of the punishment. Still, it will be interesting to see how the crowd at Lens, who are always amongst the most vocal in Ligue 1, will react if Runje gets the start, which is expected.
Even with Runje in goal, Lens continues to have one of the worse defenses in Ligue 1. So does Caen. Both teams are also poor offensively. Therefore, who will be able to gain the edge?
The player in this match to watch is Youssef El-Arabi. Looking like the shoe-in favorite for Young Player of the Year, El-Arabi’s production has dropped in the last few matches. Even so, if he is able to exploit the Lens defense, then Caen should be able to secure a victory at home.
Prediction: 1-0 for Caen.
Montpellier vs. Auxerre – This is a tale of two “Forrest Gump” teams, you never know what you are going to get. One week, Montpellier will play a stellar match, the next week, they look like they shouldn’t even be playing at the Ligue 1 level. As far as Auxerre, their play on all levels looks horrible, except for the League Cup where they are in the semi-finals.
Auxerre is still suffering with the loses of Ireneusz Jelen, Benoit Pedretti and Cedric Hengbart. With their best striker, midfielder and, maybe, defender (Coulibaly and Grichting might disagree) out, Auxerre are relying on players like Dennis Oleich, who has yet to show his stuff on the Ligue 1 level.
While Auxerre has their problems, Montpellier isn’t having the best time with a healthy team either. Marco Estrada is still expected to be out, as well as Hasan Kabze, who has been useless this year for Montpellier. And while Montpellier’s best offensive player remains to be Olivier Giroud, he doesn’t seem to perform as well without having Estrada feeding him the ball from the left.
Therefore, this game is really up in the air. If all players were healthy, Auxerre would have the slight edge. But since both teams are suffering injuries, this is anyone’s match.
So, who are the key players to watch in this game? The keepers. Both Olivier Sorin and Geoffrey Jourdren are proving that they are solid Ligue 1 keepers. It took Sorin a few years and a few teams for him to get at this level, while Jourdren is just starting become a good young, solid keeper. Therefore, this could easily be a scoreless match.
Nice vs. Brest – Brest have yet to show that they can beat a top-notch team, even if they are in 6th place. Yes, they have beaten both St. Etienne and Bordeaux this season, but are these two teams really the best that Ligue 1 has to offer, or just average mid-table teams?
Still, this week Brest won’t be taking on any Ligue 1 powerhouses. Instead, they will take on Nice, who continues to play unpredictable football. They beat Marseille 1-0 one week, and then the next week they draw to Caen. Therefore, it is really hard to tell how Nice can match up against certain teams.
Both of these teams are extremely defensive, which might be one of the reasons that nobody is really paying attention to them. Brest is 2nd in goals allowed, while Nice is 4th. Therefore, expect a low scoring match.
The key player to watch in this match will be Nolan Roux, the Brest striker. While having a slower than expected season, many are expecting Roux to eventually break out, like he did in Ligue 2 last season. And with Nice keeper David Ospina sidelined with injury, this will be the perfect opportunity for Roux to net a couple of goals.
Prediction: Brest 1-0.
Rennes vs. Valenciennes – For the last month and a half, Rennes has played against some stiff competition. Yet even with that competition, they have been able to secure a place in Ligue 1′s top five. With a great combination of young players and veterans, Rennes looks like they are in a position to build for the future.
Luckily for Rennes, they are playing the slumping Valenciennes, who have only had one win in their last eight Ligue 1 matches, which was to the worse team in the league, Arles-Avignon. Valenciennes have had to rely on Gael Danic and Gregory Pujol for their offensive production this season. And while both of these players have done well, they seem to be the only ones really carrying the team.
As for Rennes, it will be interesting to see how the play without Rod Fanni, who is on his way to Marseille. So far this season, all of the major departures from Rennes (Jimmy Briand, Asamoah Gyan, Moussa Sow, Carlos Bocanegra and Petter Hansson) really haven’t hurt the team. Still, the last two weeks for Rennes have produced some really dull and boring matches.
There is no reason to think that Rennes shouldn’t come away victorious. Valenciennes just doesn’t have anything going for them. Yes, they can pull off a shock here and there, but their recent form shows that they have difficulty winning the big games. Therefore, expect Rennes with the victory, though it could look just as ugly as their last two matches.
Prediction: Rennes 2-1.
St. Etienne vs. Arles-Avignon – After their great start to the season, ASSE seems to have fallen back to Earth a little bit. Their key players that were on fire at the start of the season, like Dimitri Payet, have somewhat cooled down and haven’t been producing. But this match against a much weaker opponent at home could give St. Etienne the boost that they need to start a strong second-half of the season.
While St. Etienne needs to get their team back on track, this might be the time to get some other players back into the fold as well. Maybe this is the match to give players like Gonzalo Bergessio some extra action. St. Etienne have a solid team, and now it is time for them to build on that. And with the personnel they have now, they could battle for one of the top six positions in the league.
This should be a walk in the park for ASSE, and hopefully some of their players will start getting back in the grove of things.
Arles-Avignon, on the other hand, did hold the highly explosive Lille to one goal last week. Still, I’m sure Rudi Garcia’s players were more concerned about their mid-week Europa League match-up instead of Arles-Avignon. So don’t read too much into last week’s performance by the league’s worse team.
Prediction: ASSE 3 – o.
Toulouse vs. Lorient – Last week, Lorient looked good. At the same time Toulouse looked bad. And after a blistering start to the Ligue 1 season, could Toulouse finally be regretting not having a prominent offensive player?
In their loss last week against Lyon, Toulouse looked horrible defensively, which is usually their strong point. Players like Etienne Capoue and Daniel Congre made a few errors which lead to a strong Lyon performance. And if Alain Casanova thinks that they will be able to continue such sloppy play against Lorient, they will sadly be mistaken.
The Lorient offense continues to be led by Kevin Gameiro, who indicated this week that he will stay with Lorient for the rest of the season, ending any speculation of him transferring to Bordeaux during the winter. But while Gameiro is the team’s leading scorer, offensive contributions from Lynel Kitambala has also helped Lorient spread the ball around a little.
While Lorient is stellar at home, with only one loss this year, they are dreadful on the road, with only one win to St. Etienne. Luckily for Lorient, Toulouse hasn’t been the best team at home, with dismal performances throughout the season at the Stadium Municipal.
Lorient should have the upper hand in this match-up because of Toulouse injuries. Chiek M’Bengue (who just returned from injury but is now out again), Maruo Cetto and Daniel Braaten will not be suiting up for Toulouse. This takes away both a major offensive threat, and two defensive threats from Toulouse.
They key player to watch is, of course, Kevin Gameiro. With the injuries to both Cetto and M’Bengue, Gemeiro could have a huge game. In addition, Toulouse have looked poor at defending against the counter-attack, which Lorient executes well.
Prediction: Lorient 2-0.
Paris St. Germain vs. Monaco – Alright, as some of you might know, out of all the matches I have predicted this season, I have hit the nail on the head with every PSG match I have predicted. Of course, this streak will have to come to an end. I assume it would be this week, but who knows.
The big story in this match up is Nene, who is clearly one of Ligue 1′s best players, taking on his former Monaco teammates. If he continues to play like he did last week, then he could easily have another goal in this match-up.
Still, even with PSG playing some of the best football in the league right now, Monaco quietly still does have one of the best defenses in the league. The Principality has both decent defenders as well as one of the best goalkeepers in Ligue 1, Stephane Ruffier. But will this be enough for Monaco to stop PSG, who is second in goals scored with 28 so far this season?
Of course PSG are going to be considered the huge favorite at the Parc des Princes, but anything could happen. Therefore, the key player to watch isn’t a PSG player (as we expect all will play well) but a Monaco one, Chu Young Park.
Everyone knows that PSG can score, and everyone knows that Monaco can defend. Therefore, good performances by these players are expected. But one of the biggest questions that still remains for PSG is the inconsistent play of goalkeeper Apoula Edel. If Park, who is quietly having his best Ligue 1 season since entering the league three seasons ago, is able to slip by the PSG defense and force Edel to make an error, Monaco could have an outside chance.
Monaco cannot win this game without at least one goal, and that goal will have to come off the foot of Park. Even with that being said, PSG are the favorites, and Monaco could easily be in the relegation zone by the end of the day if the Lens vs. Caen match-up doesn’t end in a draw.
Prediction: PSG 2-0.
Filed under: AJ Auxerre, AS Monaco FC, AS Saint-Etienne, FC Lorient, Ligue 1 Commentary, Montpellier HSC, OGC Nice, Paris Saint Germain, RC Lens, SM Caen, Stade Brestois 29, Stade Rennais FC, Toulouse FC, Uncategorized, Valenciennes FC Tagged: | Chu Young Park, Geoffrey Jourdren, Kevin Gameiro, Nene, Nolan Roux, Olivier Sorin, Vedran Runje, Youssef El-Arabi