Going into this weekend’s Ligue 1 matches, everyone can see the one big match that will be looming over all other matches, which is Sunday night’s heavyweight match between Lyon and Marseille, now termed the Olympico.
But of course, there are a number of other matches that will be going on that will have just as much of an impact on what could happen in the Ligue 1 season as the big OL vs. OM match does. Therefore, lets take a brief look at the upcoming weekend.
Lille is the team that is current leading the league. Luckily for them, they will be playing Nancy on the road. Nancy, a team that many people expect (and, sadly, want) to be relegated to Ligue 2 this season. They will be fighting for the Ligue 1 lives against the championship front-runners. Unfortunately for Nancy, Lille have the second best road record in Ligue 1. True, they will be missing the services of Yohan Cabaye, but his absence shouldn’t hurt them against an opponent that they should easily defeat. And if Lille is able to grab a valuable three points while both OL and OM are slugging it out (which could end in a draw), they could truly make this a two-horse race for the Ligue 1 title.
In other matches, a number of teams vying for the final Europa League spots will be squaring off against one another.
One of those matches will be Lorient hosting Toulouse. Both teams are coming off positive wins. And while Toulouse’s 2-0 win against Lyon might look more impressive than Lorient’s come-from-behind victory at Lens, they are still coming off a high nonetheless. For Lorient, Kevin Gameiro, who was looking like he might have slowed down about a month ago, is showing that he is back and with full force. But what will hurt Gameiro is that Toulouse’s defense looks to be back as well.
One would assume that Lorient playing at Stade du Moustoir would give them the slight advantage. But in reality, it will just add more pressure. In their last four matches at home, they have drawn every single one of them. The key player in this match will be Gameiro. Luckily for him, he will be attacking the right side of the Toulouse defense, which is slightly worse than the left, but still respectable. Therefore, Toulouse captain Mauro Cetto and defensive midfielder Etienne Capoue will have to be on their toes. If they aren’t, Lorient’s counter-attack could spell doom for the visiting side.
Another Europa League match will pit Bordeaux against unlikely challengers Sochaux. Both teams have had their ups and downs this year, and trying to find predictability in their play is far from predictable. Either one of these teams could win this match. But Sochaux, who will be playing at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, is the second worse road team next to Arles-Avignon. Therefore, the pressure will be on Sochaux to perform on the road. The only bright spot for Sochaux is that Jussie and Marc Planus are both doubtful for this match. Benoit Tremoulinas is returning to Bordeaux after suffering calf and groin injuries, but is still an unknown as far as being named in the starting eleven. Another blow for Bordeaux is that they will be without the services of Fernando, who will be serving a suspension.
If there is a positive for Bordeaux (besides the fact that Sochaux is a horrible away side), Sochaux’s defender Jacques Faty is doubtful for this match. There is a possibility that he could play, but highly unlikely with a groin injury. This missing link in the Sochaux defense could give the Bordeaux offense exactly what they need to pull off the win.
Another match that could have Champions League implications is the battle between Monaco and Paris St. German. Both teams have been able to find their strides in the last couple of weeks. Monaco have been able to climb out of the Ligue 1 cellar, while PSG has been able to take advantage of other team’s, particularly Lyon’s, misfortunes. If PSG is able to get the win on the road, this will even add more pressure on both Claude Puel and his battered Lyon team to pull off a win against Marseille.
Even though Monaco has been showing some life at home, the edge is given to Paris St. Germain. First of all, they are the 3rd best road team in Ligue 1. Second, Monaco is suffering with a number of injuries. Goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier is expected to miss anywhere form 10 to 20 days with an abductor injury. We also get late word from L’Equipe that Chu Young Park will miss the match as well. In addition to these injuries, Monaco will be without the services of Mahamadou Diarra, who continues to deal with a knee injury. All of these factors added together should lead to PSG soundly defeating Monaco at the Stade Louis II.
The Auxerre vs. Montpellier match might turn a few heads as well. Last week, Auxerre were able to hold off the Marseille charge and retain a 1-1 draw at the Stade Velodrome. As for Montpellier, they are the 5th best road team in the league, so putting pressure on opponents at home isn’t a problem. The big question is which Auxerre team will show up? This is a team that has easily played under their potential this season, but a number of injuries to their top players has made it nearly impossible to have any consistency. This could possibly be the match where they can finally put some distance between themselves and the 18th place team.
One of the teams that have been struggling as of late is Rennes. After a great start to the season, which lasted until a few weeks ago, the Brittany side seems to be losing a little steam and is starting to fall off the pace. It was just a matter of time when people started questioning how long they could continue without the prolific strike force they had last season. But even with the departures, the young players on the team have been able to pull through.
Even though they have played well most of the season, this match could be the upset of the week. Valenciennes is one of those teams that people always forget about. And from time to time, they can pull off an upset against one of the big teams. If Valenciennes are to pull off the upset, it will more than likely come off the foot of Gregory Pujol. Pujol has had a quietly productive season. He has already scored 15 goals this season, and has been able to score against Marseille, Lyon, Lille and PSG. Therefore, being a giant killer is a role that Pujol can deal with. And when one of the giants are lying injured, like Rennes, that is when this team can strike. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see an upset in the making.
Oh, and just to make you all sweat and wait, we will have the Lyon vs. Marseille preview up tomorrow.
Filed under: AJ Auxerre, AS Monaco FC, AS Nancy Lorraine, FC Lorient, FC Sochaux-Montbeliard, Girondins de Bordeaux, LOSC Lille, Montpellier HSC, Paris Saint Germain, Toulouse FC Tagged: | Chu Young Park, Etienne Capoue, Gregory Pujol, Kevin Gameiro, Mauro Cetto, Stephane Ruffier