Finally, the Ligue 1 season is underway. After last week’s matches, we can at least get a little glimpse into what some of the teams might look like. Yes, one match into the season isn’t a predictor of anything. Even so, we were able to really get a look at what some of the teams might be throwing out there this season, and help us get an idea of where they are going.
Lorient vs. Bordeaux – This is easily the tale of two teams that went in different directions last week. Lorient pulled off the upset of Matchday 1 with a victory on the road against Paris St. Germain. Bordeaux, on the other hand, continued to struggle to find a scoring touch and lost to St. Etienne by a score of 2-1. But will the same teams show up this weekend?
As far as Lorient, they did play an impressive match. Throughout their game against PSG, Lorient had the home side on their toes. Aggressive play against what many considered a superior opponent was quite a shock. But is that what we should expect from Lorient this season, or was that just a flash in the pan? As for Bordeaux, creating any offensive threat continues to be their main problem. And after the club stated in L’Equipe this week that they would not seek any new players for the remainder of the summer transfer period, Bordeaux are pretty much stuck where they are.
Look for this match up to be a defensive struggle. Even though Lorient showed some good bursts of offensive energy in their match with PSG, they still only scored one goal. But for what aggression Lorient showed last week, Bordeaux showed none. Hopefully for Bordeaux’s sake, they will finally put Cheick Diabate in the starting line up, as he has rightfully earned the spot over the last eight months.
With all other factors being equal, Lorient’s home record from last year (only losing three at home) makes them a hard nut to crack when in front of their home fans. Prediction: Lorient 1-0.
Lyon vs. Ajaccio – Is Lyon back? Even with a few hiccups in their match last week against Nice, Lyon showed that they have the ability to put the ball in the back of the net and push their way toward the top of the table. Lisandro looked good. Gomis looked good. The team overall looked pretty solid. As far as Ajaccio, they had a rough start with a 2-0 loss at home against Toulouse. And while TFC did have the advantage in goals scored, Ajaccio didn’t exactly lay down and die. What killed them in the end was poor finishing on quality chances.
Going into this match, Lyon are the strong favorites, and being in front of the home crowd at the Stade Gerland might be a little intimidating for the visiting side. Lyon dominate ever aspect of the pitch in the last game. Still, their last game was against Nice, not exactly the hardest of opponents. And for a second week in a row, Lyon is going to start off against a softball team. They should easily rock them.
So, what to look for in this game? Pretty much let’s see if Lyon is on the same page at their first game. Last week Lyon made a few mistakes. This week we should see those mistakes fixed. Prediction: Lyon 3-0.
Rennes vs. PSG – This will easily be the match of the week. Rennes is coming off an impressive win against Dijon, even if the final score didn’t represent the overall play, especially for Dijon. As for PSG, the loss to Lorient was pretty much a shock to everyone. So, of course, the question is if PSG can bounce back or will Rennes be able to continue their momentum.
One of the questions going into this season for Rennes is if their young team will be able to keep their composure. And at the start of their match against Dijon (in which two Dijon goals were disallowed because of offsides), it looked as if that might be a serious problem. But after the first 20 minutes of confusion, Rennes were able to gather that composure together and look like a complete team. Newly acquired Julien Feret looked lost at the start of the match. But by the end, he looked like he had been with the team for years.
As for PSG, they looked like a group of lost puppies throughout their match against Lorient. Never did they put any good attack together. They let Lorient push them around, on both sides of the ball. Players that we were expecting a lot from, like Blaise Matuidi, Mamadou Sakho and Kevin Gamerio were totally unimpressive. Now since some of their weaknesses have been exposed (like a lack of a good counter-attack, in which Gamerio needs to be highly productive), has PSG adjusted and can now deal with those weaknesses? Still, while Antoine Kombouare is the coach, I do feel that the shots, as well as the lineup, are coming from someone else’s desk.
Within the next two months, I just have a feeling that we are going to hear about a lot of infighting in the PSG organization between Kombouare and Leonardo, which, more than likely, will lead to Kombouare’s departure. And, as of right now, I think Leonardo is calling all the shots (again, just pure speculation). As soon as Nicolas Douchez returns from injury, it will be interesting to see if he gets the starting job, or if Salvatore Sirigu remains the starter. If Douchez is the starter, Komboure is in charge. If it is Sirigu, it is Leonardo. Again, we will see what happens.
But politics aside, going into this match, Rennes has to be the favorites. Javier Pastore will not be available for PSG, thus Kevin Gamerio might have a hard match like he did in his first match against Lorient. But the key for PSG is their defense. With Rennes’ offense looking superb last weekend, Sakho and Matuidi will need to step up their game. We all know that they can, and that is where the battle is won or lost. Unfortunately for PSG, I think the Rennes offense will overpower the Paris side. Prediction: Rennes 3-1.
St. Etienne vs. Nancy – St. Etienne started off the season on a positive note with an impressive away win at Bordeaux. While the team played well as a cohesive unit, the defense, again, stole the show for ASSE. And against a weak Nancy offense, St. Etienne should be able to told their own.
This is the match where ASSE’s offense really needs to shine. With the services of Dimitri Payet and Emmanuel Riviere no longer available, players like Gonzalo Bergessio and Florent Sinama Pongolle will have to step it up. And in their match against Bordeaux, neither one of these players were impressive. Therefore, against a weaker defense than Bordeaux, will these players get the monkeys off their backs and knock a few balls in the back of the net? Remember, this Nancy side only allowed one goal against the high-flying Lille offense last weekend, so anything is possible.
But even if St. Etienne’s forwards aren’t able to do the job, just one goal should help them secure the victory. ASSE can argue that they have one of the strongest back line/goaltender combinations in all of Ligue 1. And if they continue to play like they did last week (though luck did help the offense), they should be fine. Prediction: ASSE 1-0.
Sochaux vs. Caen – Sochaux was another unknown going into this season. Losing their coach and one of their leading scorers, many predicted that Sochaux could fall back into Ligue 1 obscurity. But many of those critics were silenced last week by an impressive match by Sochaux against Marseille at the Stade Velodorme which resulted in a 2-2 draw.
Even with the departure of coach Francis Gillot as well as Nicolas Maurice-Belay and Brown Ideye, Sochaux played an impressive, balanced game. Of course, they still have Marvin Martin, Modibo Maiga, Ryad Boudebouz and a host of other players that will keep Sochaux in contention for a European sport, no matter what the early season naysayers think.
As for Caen, they didn’t have the best of matches last week. Yes, they were able to pull off a victory against Valenciennes at home, but the visiting side seemed to have the better overall play on the field. If it wasn’t for Gregory Proment’s beautiful goal in the 34th minute, Caen would have easily been held scoreless. In addition, Pierre-Alain Frau isn’t proving to be the offensive answer for Caen. But still, the season is young.
Going into this match, Caen still have a number of issues to deal with. They looked average last week against another team that isn’t expected to play well either. On the other hand, Sochaux, though they started off slow, built momentum in their match against Marseille and continued to improve throughout the match. The level of these two teams are night and day, and Sochaux has already shown that they are ready to be a force in Ligue 1 this season. Prediction: Sochaux 3-0.
Toulouse vs. Dijon – Toulouse were able to win last week, even with a team that is riddled with injuries. And those injury problems will continue this week. Etienne Didot, Etienne Capoue, Daniel Braaten, Emmanuel Riviere and now Cheik M’Bengue will all miss Saturday’s match against Dijon.
The injuries will be the biggest storyline of this match. After how impressive Dijon played against Rennes last week (even with the lopsided score), will Dijon be able to pull the trigger on a team that doesn’t have half of their starting lineup available? On the flip side, if Toulouse are able to pull of a win with half of their team missing, does that mean that they could be a surprise force to be reckoned with this Ligue 1 season?
Besides the injuries, the biggest battle will be between the Dijon attack and Toulouse defense. Last week, Brice Jovial, Gregory Thil and Eric Bautheac were able to keep constant pressure on the Rennes defense. And now with Capoue missing in the defensive midfield along with M’Bengue injured at left-back, this is the perfect opportunity for these three players to show that they can be an offensive force in Ligue 1. As for Toulouse, expect them to continue to attack with Umut Bulut, with support from Franck Tabanou, who improves with each and every week.
Even with a 5-1 defeat, and as much as it pains me to say with Toulouse being my favorite team, I see this as being the upset of the week. With Mauro Cetto gone and the injuries, I have a feeling that Jovial, Thil, Bautheac and Thomas Guerbert will control the game and score early against Toulouse. And once Toulouse is down, it is always hard for them to get back up. Prediction: Dijon 2-0.
Valenciennes vs. Brest – Both Valenciennes and Brest had to be two of the most disappointing teams of Matchday 1. For Brest, many of us were expecting a little more from Nolan Roux. As far Valenciennes, both Gregory Pujol and Gael Danic almost non-existent.
Going into this match, both of these teams are evenly matched. Both are not expected to be big mover and shakers in the Ligue 1 season. But as far as overall teams, Brest seems to be a little more balanced compared to Valenciennes. For VAFC to be successful in any match, they really need Pujol to be on his game. If he is, then they can win. The same goes for Danic.
As for Brest, they don’t have to rely on just two players for their team to play well. As was mentioned, Roux didn’t have a good game. But other players were able to pick up the slack, which allowed them to score two goals in their match against Evian. If Brest are able to play “keep away” from Danic and Pujol for 90 minutes while scoring a goal or two, then they should have the match in the bag. But if they give these two players opportunities, VAFC could pull off the win. And with that being said, Prediction: 1-1.
Current Prediction Record: 6-4.
Filed under: AC Ajaccio, AS Nancy Lorraine, AS Saint-Etienne, Dijon FCO, FC Lorient, FC Sochaux-Montbeliard, Girondins de Bordeaux, Olympique Lyonnais, Paris Saint Germain, SM Caen, Stade Brestois 29, Stade Rennais FC, Toulouse FC, Valenciennes FC