Ligue 1 Predictions: 1st and 2nd place.

The Ligue 1 season is less than 24 hours away. As we all know, the faces of a lot of the teams out there have changed. There doesn’t seem to be any one team that hasn’t had to deal with the summer transfers in one fashion or another. But when all is said and done, which team was the one that came out ahead?

Of course, this is all subjective. For all we know, next week we could have some major transfers that could change the face of Ligue 1 yet again. Just look at last year for example. Yohann Gourcuff, Loic Remi and Andre-Pierre Gignac were some of the players on the move late into the transfer window. And last year was considered a “boring” transfer year, with the exception of Nene going to PSG. This year has been much different.

So, which team is going to make the best of what they have? Which team has the complete package? Here are my predictions for 1st and 2nd place in Ligue 1.
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Would Eden Hazard or Gervinho fit at Manchester City?

After Lille’s impressive championship run, which saw them win the double, it is only natural to wonder if any of their star players are going to stay with the team or move on to newer pastures. And while this is a big unknown, it doesn’t stop the rumors from flying around.

Of course, the biggest names that people have been talking about regarding a move are Eden Hazard and Gervinho. Many expect Hazard to stay with the team. Now with a double under his belt, the price for him continues to rise. And since his contract now extends to 2015, it will be harder to pry Hazard out of the hands of Michel Seydoux, who will now look to make an impression on the European stage.

On the other hand, Gervinho’s contract expires in June of 2012. And with his contract expiring in a year, it only makes sense that transfer talks surrounding the Ivorian forward would be front page news.

If Lille knows that they aren’t going to retain the services of Gervinho for another season, selling him during this summer transfer would make sense. If they don’t, they risk a chance of going through an incident like the Marouane Chamakh incident at Bordeaux last summer. Therefore, if he is going to move, he must move now. This might reduce the price Lille might get for him. But if they start firm and offer him to the right team (ie…with money) they could make a decent bit of cash.

A number of EPL teams have been linked to these two players. Of course, Arsenal seems to be linked with every Ligue 1 player, so any news regarding Arsenal should be taken with a huge grain of salt. But another team that has been mentioned has been Manchester City. Obviously, City have enough cash to make these deals work. And if Lille decide to sell Hazard, they could really inflate the price that City could pay for him.

But would Hazard or Gervinho fit into the Manchester City system? Let’s take a look.
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Lille do the double, win Ligue 1 title. Sochaux to Europa League.

Lille OSC: 2010-11 Ligue 1 Champions.

Lille OSC: 2010-11 Ligue 1 Champions.

After last week’s big win against Sochaux, Lille, who has not won a Ligue 1 championship since 1954, only had to score one point in their last two matches in order to secure the title. And trying to gain that point in the Parc des Princes isn’t the easiest of tasks. Yet Lille were up to that task as they drew with Paris St. Germain 2-2 and win the Ligue 1 title.

Unlike their French Cup match, which was pretty lame to say the least, this one was a barn-burner which saw a number of close chances for both teams as well as a number of confrontations as well. Lille opened up the scoring just five minutes into the match when Ludovic Obraniak, who scored the only goal in the French Cup final, knocked one in, making the score 1-0. After that, Paris were able to take control of the game, with a number of opportunities coming close for the home side.

In the third minute of stoppage time in the first half, PSG were able  to finally net that goal, with the goal scorer being Guillaume Hoarau, leveling the match at 1-1.
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Lille one step closer to Ligue 1 title.

Clifford even closer to celebrating a Lille double.

Lille moved one step closer to the Ligue 1 title on Wednesday night as they defeated visiting Sochaux by a score of 1-0. While assuring that they did all but clinch the title, Marseille are still mathematically in the race. But it would take a Herculean effort, as well as two Lille defeats, for Marseille to repeat as champions.

Like many of Lille’s matches lately,they weren’t able to find the scoring touch early in the game. And while they were able to pressure the Sochaux defense, bad luck lead to the first half being scoreless.

A number of Lille players showed impressive play in the opening half, but none more than Gervinho. While he was having his way with the Sochaux defense, his opportunities were either hitting off the posts, or his passes would just take an unlucky bounce.

During the half time, the Lille supporters were able to take a glimpse at their new hardware, as Lille president Michel Seydoux walked around the stadium track with the Coupe de France raised in his hands.
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Lille defeats Paris St. Germain in the Coupe de France final.

Lille has had the pressure on them all season long. And with the possibility of doing the double, which is a hard accomplishment in French football, the pressure was even harder. On top of that, Lille had to play against Paris St. Germain, who has been the best team as far as French Cup appearances, especially since 1993, where they have won six Cups and appeared in two additional finals. But this was to be Lille’s day as Ludovic Obraniak scores the game winning goal in the closing minutes of the game, giving Lille the 1-0 win over the Cup giants.

Like a typical Ligue 1 match, both teams took a while to get warmed up. In the first fifteen minutes, both sides had a few opportunities to create something, but were rarely able to convert any of their chances. The best chance in the opening minutes was in the 10th minute when Gervinho broke free on the left hand side. But instead of passing the ball to an open Eden Hazard in the box earlier, Gervinho waited, and the play was broken up by the PSG defense.
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French Cup (Coupe de France) Final Preview: Lille vs. Paris St. Germain.

Like every year in the French Cup, this year was filled with excitement. There were the close games. There were the near-upsets. And in the end, there was Chambery, a CFA-2 team (5th Division) team that knocked off three Ligue 1 teams, making their way to the French Cup quarterfinals before they were knocked out by Angers.

But then it was down to two. Current Ligue 1 leaders Lille and defending cup holders Paris St. Germain will be facing off against each other at the Stade de France on Saturday night. But who will have the advantage going into this match? Besides the obvious “who has the best” questions, we will try to examine the match a little further and give you an idea of the mindsets of these two teams.

Goalkeeping – If you were to ask this question four years ago, Gregory Coupet would be the easy choice in goal. But it is 2011, and Mickael Landreau, who isn’t a spring chicken himself, has the upper hand. Granted, Coupet has looked decent for the Paris side over the last few matches, but so has Landreau, who stopped an amazing penalty kick against St. Etienne this past weekend. Therefore, while both keepers are getting up there in age, the 31-year old Landreau has the advantage over the 38-year old Coupet. Advantage: Lille.
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The Biggest News in Ligue 1…that nobody is talking about.

Michel Seydoux - Nominee for "Smartest Football Businessman of the Year" Award? (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Michel Seydoux - Nominee for "Smartest Football Businessman of the Year" Award? (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Let’s first start in 2002. There was a movie opening in French theaters called “Rene”. The film stars Joel Lefrancois as a 340-pound man named Rene who tries to lose weight to win back his old girlfriend. What is interesting is that this film was semi-inspired by an attempt by Lefrancois’ friends to help him lose weight, thus making it somewhat of a documentary as well as a drama. The movie was produced by Michel Seydoux.

At the same time that Seydoux was releasing his newest movie (a business he had been in since the early 1970s), he was also continuing to purchase more stock at Lille and replaced Francis Graille as the team’s president. Not long after, Seydoux would become the majority stock holder in the team.

At around the same time that Seydoux took over majority ownership, a Lille scout made his way up to Tubize, Belgium to check out some young talent at a tournament that was being held. One player caught his eye…Eden Hazard. Hazard’s father liked the idea of Eden moving to France to master his skills, and agreed to terms with the north France team to sign his son to a youth contract. This was the start of a very productive partnership for both Lille and Eden Hazard.
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Ligue 1 Matchday 35 Preview – Upset in the making day?

There are only 20 days left until the end of the Ligue 1 season, and the standings are about as predictable as when all the teams had no point. A number of teams can still win the title. A number of teams can be relegated. And, mathematically, every team but Lens and Arles-Avignon are in the hunt to qualify for the last Europa League spot, which could be sixth place in the standings, depending on where PSG finishes (as Lille has already clinched at least a trip to the Europa League).

It seems like it was only yesterday when we were talking about the Lyon vs. Marseille match. In fact, it was yesterday. And now, just two days later, we are getting ready for more Ligue 1 action.

The week will start off with two Tuesday matches, which are being held on the separate day due to the scheduling conflict caused by the French Cup final.
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Ligue 1 Matchday 34 Preview: Are there some big games this weekend?

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.
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Is Olympique de Marseille in the driver’s seat for the Ligue 1 title?

Even though Marseille were able to outplay Auxerre at the Stade Velodrome, they were only able to gain one point at home, which pushed Lille back into first place. And even with the draw, OM has been able to show that they have no intention of making the Ligue 1 title an easy task for Lille.

At the start of the year, maybe people predicted Lille (along with Lyon) to take the title. And while Marseille did have an impressive team on paper, some experts wondered if last season’s success was due more to the under-performance of teams like Bordeaux and Lyon compared to the winning ways of OM.

But this year, Marseille are showing that last year wasn’t a fluke and that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ligue 1 world. But what has made Marseille this new “quiet power” in the league?

First of all, they are all about winning. At the start of last season, everyone was talking about Marseille struggling. Bordeaux and Lyon looked to be on their way to Ligue 1 title glory, and OM, who spent tons of money on a new team, were kind of pushed to the side. But even with their lack of impressive play at the start of last year, they were able to win their matches. These “ugly wins” early in the season gave Marseille the points that they needed to make an impressive title run toward the end of the season. Eventually, OM were pulling away from the rest of the field like Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes (easily the best horse race in US history).
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