The first match this weekend was played between Lille and revelation team Nice. The home side played a 4-2-3-1, with Nigerian international Vincent Enyeama in goal, Sebastien Corchia and Franck Beria as wingbacks, and Ibrahim Amadou commanding the back four. Box-to-box midfielder Rio Mavuba played alongside creative midfielder Xeka (Miguel Angelo da Silva). Nicolas de Preville played as a left midfielder, where he was looking to repeat an outing similar to his last start, where he scored the only goal in a 1-0 again Bastia. Portuguese hero Eder will play up top as a lone striker. Nice played with the same 4-2-3-1, with a more solid foundation and more tactical organization than the home side. The shot-stopper for Lucien Favre’s team was Yoan Cardinale, as usual. Dante was the leader of the defensive third, organizing the team from the back and performing a solid game tracking back. On the right played Arnaud Souquet, who enjoyed a very active game down the wing. He was responsible for most of Nice’s attack on the right, since Ricardo Pereira, not familiar with his right midfielder role, wasn’t convincing in attack. On the opposite wing played Brazilian Dalbert, who too posed a regular attacking threat to the home side. Box-to-box midfielder Jean Seri played along tactically gifted Vincent Koziello, who had a pass accuracy of 94% (60 passes), while Seri recorded a game-high 83 passes. Both Nice men absolutely commanded the tempo of the game, as well as the pure verticality of it. Valentin Eysseric played as a left midfielder, retained his position in the starting 11 and hoped to perform as well as last time, where he scored an absolute screamer from outside of the box. At ‘number 10’ was the skillful Younes Belhanda, while Italian Mario Balotelli played as a striker.
The game started with a quick opener from the home side’s Ibrahim Amadou, the first goal added to his personal tally in this Ligue 1 campaign. He scored from a deflected long shot following a corner clearance. The away side were quick to react, and within two minutes were able to find an equalizer via Mario Balotelli. A quick break from Lille’s defense, and a beautiful one-timed finish from Balotelli secured a tie just minutes after receiving a goal. The 1-1 gave the away side more tranquility, as their game continued to improve as the minutes went by. The winner came in the 45th minute, when Balotelli placed the ball in the net after Enyeama’s rebound from Pereira’s shot. The game ended in a 2-1 win for Nice, as they now stand second with 70 points (3rd place PSG has 2 games less). Lille, on the other hand, hold a mid-table place. They are 13th after 32 fixtures, with just 37 points.
The first match played on Saturday was Angers hosting Monaco. The away side, coming into the game as leaders of Ligue 1, looked to impose their authority and keep their hopes for the title alive. They played in their usual 4-4-2, with Danijel Subasic as a GK, Kamil Gilk as the leading center back, and powerhouse Benjamin Mendy on the left. The second line of 4 saw Bernardo Silva play wide on the right, with Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko as central midfielders. Underrated Valere Germain played with Radamel Falcao as an attacking duo. The home side played with a 4-1-4-1, with their most solid outings coming from center backs Ismael Traore and Romain Thomas. GK Alexandre Letellier also had a good game, accounting for 5 saves against the league leaders. Baptiste Santamaria played as a lone central defensive midfielder, with Cheikh Ndoye playing in front of him. Famara Diedhiou acted as a reference point in attack, as all crosses and counter attacks where directed towards him.
The first half ended with a hard fought 0-0 by the home side. They seemed to be holding off, not looking as uncomfortable as one would have imagined. Monaco were not enjoying their regular attacking football they have been used to throughout this campaign. The only goal of the game came from a cheeky finish from Radamel Falcao, his 17th in Ligue 1 this year. The game ended with a 0-1 win by the away side, as they continue leaders with just 7 games to play. After 31 matches played, they are first with 74 points. Anger are 12th with 39 points.
The next game was played at the Stade Michel d’Ornano, as home side Caen battled direct rivals Montpellier. The home side played with their usual and trendy 3-4-3. Remy Vercoutre played as a goalkeeper, with Jordan Adeoti having the best performance out of the 3 center backs. Wingbacks Frederic Guilbert and Vincent Bessat were set to activate the home side’s attack from the sides, however this was not possible due to Montpellier’s strong defensive enforcement towards the wings. The attacking trio consisted of Yann Karamoh on the right, Ivan Santini as a striker, and Sylvio Rodelin on the left flank. The away side aligned with a 4-2-3-1, with Frenchman Laurent Pionnier in goal, Nordi Mukiele on the right and Jerome Roussillon played on the opposite flank. Hilton had a great game at center back, while partner Daniel Congre also enjoyed a positive outing. ‘Number 10’ Ryad Boudebouz provided a constant threat to the home defense, as he managed an assist and 6 key passes in 79 minutes played. Right attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon was the man of the match, scoring the opener and completing 4 dribbles down the flank.
The game started with the home side enjoying some goal opportunities, followed by a few Montpellier chances. The first half ended with a 0-0 draw, yet the opener came quick. Sessegnon and Boudebouz combined brilliantly to score the first of the night for the away side. The second and concluding goal would not come until the 88th minute, when recently subbed-on Jonathan Ikone managed to get on the scoring sheet. Caen are 16th with 32 points, 1 point away from relegation. Montpellier, after this victory, are 14th with 36 points, escaping the relegation zone by 5 points.
Ligue 1 is ending soon, and with few games left, the relegation battle starts to take shape. Dijon faced SC Bastia, both teams facing similar situations. Dijon used a 4-3-3, with Fouad Chafik enjoying an active game as a right back. Cedric Varrault also enjoyed a quality game in defense, however CB Jordan Loties and LB Oussama Haddadi played a terrible match. Pierre Lees-Melou, who acted as a right CM, played the most important role in the three-man midfield. The away side chose to play with a 4-2-3-1. Goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca was outstanding for the away side, accounting for 5 crucial saves. Abdelhamid El Kaoutari and Alexander Djiku acted as center backs, both clearing constant crosses into the area for majority of the game. Leading the midfield was Yannick Cahuzac, and leading the attack were Axel Ngando, Allan Saint-Maximin, and striker Enzo Crivelli.
The match started with the away side pressing forward. It seemed they were looking for the 3 points way more than Dijon, and in just 17 minutes they managed to score the opener via Enzo Crivelli. It only took 12 minutes before the home side managed an equalizer, and it was via Pier Lees-Melou. The first half ended with a 1-1 draw, with Yannick Cahuzac going on to score the winner in the 58th minute. The match remained 1-2 until the final whistle, with away side SC Bastia taking home all 3 points. Dijon are 19th with 29 points, while SC Bastia are 20th with 28 points.
Probably the most surprising result for some as Lyon hosted in-form relegation side Lorient. Although Lyon’s inconsistency was to be considered, they were still considered favourites for the match and have a far superior squad. Lyon played with a 4-3-3, with Anthony Lopes in goal, and Emanuel Mammana and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa as center backs. The only somewhat acceptable performance from the home side was provided by star Corentin Tolisso. Memphis Depay was also enjoying a good game up until the 30th minute, providing an assist for his club. Lorient played with a 4-4-2. Benjamin Lecomte was in goal and didn’t have much to do, only having to make 4 saves. Steven Moreira and Vincent Le Goff acted as fullbacks, providing defensive balance to the CB’s and helping out in attack. At right midfield was the club’s top goal scorer Benjamin Moukandjo, who had a stellar performance in attack. Sylvain Marveaux performed on the opposite wing, while Majeed Waris played as a striker. The game started with the home side attacking and Lyon’s midfield moving the ball horizontally. They opened the score via Tolisso, with Memphis Depay accounting for the assist. All seemed normal at the Stade des Lumieres up until the 42nd minute mark, when Waris was able to level the score. After that, the away side gave it everything they got. They refused to lose any 50/50 ball, and with the amount of confidence they had before the game due to their mini-undefeated run, they managed to put 3 past Anthony Lopes. Marveaux put the away side in front in the 49th minute, with Moukandjo providing a brace late in the game, to seal a 1-4 lead for the relegation side.
Lyon are currently 4th with 54, and will most likely qualify for the Europa League Qualification. Lorient, on the other hand are 18th with 31 points, however they account for an astonishing 9 points in their previous 3 games.
The next match saw Bordeaux host Metz at the Matmut Atlantique stadium. The home side used a 4-3-3, with Cedric Carrasso in goal, and Youssouf Sabaly and Diego Contento as fullbacks. The key to this game was the superiority shown by the 3-man midfield, which consisted of Jeremy Toulalan, Valentin Vada, and Younoisse Sankhare. The trio accounted for 148 passes and 2 goals for the home side. Up top were Malcom Filipe Silva, Gaetan Laborde and youngster Francois Kamano. The away side played with a 4-2-3-1, with Thomas Didillon in goal, Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the left and Simon Falette as a center back. Cheick Doukoure played in the middle while Opa Nguette played on the wing.
The game started with a quick opener by young Brazilian Malcom. Valentin Vada also added two in the second half, with the first coming from the penalty spot. The final score was of 3-0, which allowed the home side to move up to 5th, passing Marseille, with 49 points. Metz, on the other hand, are 15th with 35 points, just 4 shy of relegation.
The last match played on Saturday was between Nancy and Rennes. The home side played with a 4-3-1-2. GK Guy N’dy Assembe executed a spectacular game with 5 total saves, 3 of them being clear cut chances. Michael Basser Chretien and Erick Cabaco accomplished solid games as center backs, while left back Faitout Maouassa was one of the best for the home side, providing two assists. Vincenct Muratori dominated the midfield along with Benoit Pedretti. The most stellar performances came from both strikers, as Maurice Junior Dale scored the opener, with partner Issiar Dia providing a brace for his club. The away side aligned with a 4-2-3-1, with Benoit Costil as goalkeeper, and Joris Gnagnon playing as a center back. Clement Chantome played in midfield along Firmin Ndombe Mubele. Stiker Giovanni Sio had a mediocre game, having contributed no shots on target for his side.
The game began with a rapid opener from Maurice Junior Dale, with LB Faitout Maouassa providing the assist. The second goal for the home side came in the 51st minute, when Issiar Dia managed to find the net, again assisted by Maouassa. Dia finished the away side off in the 65th minute, with his second of the night, and the final of the game. Nancy went on to beat Rennes 3-0.
The home side are 17th with 31 points. They managed to momentously escape the relegation zone with these 3 points, but must manage a solid run in the upcoming matches to stay in Ligue 1. Their form, and Lorient’s hot run, suggest that Nancy are still major candidates join Ligue 2.
The first game on Sunday came between Toulouse and Marseille, when the purple side hosted Top 6 Marseille. Toulouse played with a 4-2-3-1. The home side started with prodigy Alban Lafont in goal, Kelvin Adou as a right back and Francois Moubandje as a left back. Yann Bodiger played a good game in midfield, but managed just 27 passes in the game. Wide midfielders Corentin Jean and Martin Braithwaite were not able to produce much. The away side started with a 4-3-3, with regular starter Yohann Pele in goal. Patrice Evra performed on the left, while Gregory Sertic played alongside Rolando Pires as center backs. Ligue 1 assist leader Morgan Sanson played as a left central midfielder in a 3-man midfield. The attacking trio consisted of Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin and Bafetimbi Gomis. The three talented attackers were not able to put the ball in the net.
The match ended 0-0, with both teams failing to find the net. Alban Lafont had a quality game in goal, making 3 crucial saves. Although there was some good ball circulation and some good chances, the match had more potential to it. Toulouse accounts for another clean sheet; to me they have shown to be one of the top defensive sides in Ligue 1 this year.
Toulouse are 9th with 41 points, while Marseille are 6th with 48 points.
The next game was between Saint-Etienne and Nantes. The game was played at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, and the home side played with a 4-2-3-1. Star GK Stephane Ruffier performed in goal, while Ronael Pierre Gabriel and Cheikh M’Bengue played as full backs. Center backs were Kevin Theophile-Catherine, and Paul Pogba’s brother Florentin Pogba. Jordan Veretout played in the middle, and Henri Saivet acted as a center forward. The away side aligned with an old fashioned 4-4-2. GK Maxime Dupe acted in goal, Diego Carlos and Koffi Djidji as center backs and Leo Dubois on the right. Valentin Rongier and Alexander Kacaniklic had notable performances in the middle four. Emiliano Sala and in form Prejuce Nakoulma played as strikers.
The game started with a quick opener from Prejuce Nakoulma. The goal resulted from a pass between the lines from Alex Kacaniklic that Nakoulma finished into the bottom left corner. The equalizer came late in the 70th minute via a header from Benjamin Corgnet. The assist came from a cross from Cheikh M’Bengue. The game finished with a 1-1 draw. As both teams sit right next to each other in the table, Saint-Etienne are 7th with 45, while Nantes are 8th with 42.
Paris Saint Germain-EA Guingamp
The last game of the 32nd round was between French giants PSG and Guingamp. The Parisian side hosted the game at the Parc des Prince, and aligned with their usual 4-3-3 under Unai Emery. Kevin Trapp acted as a GK, while Thomas Meunier and Layvin Kurzawa enjoyed much importance down the flanks. Youngster Presnel Kimpembe played as a central defender, accompanied by Sergi Aurier. The right back was played in the middle to cover for injured Marquinhos and Thiago Silva. Marco Verrati and Blaise Matuidi played as attackers in a 3-man midfield. The attacking trio was the three stars that enjoy countless opportunities, such as Angel di Maria, Julian Draxler, and Europe’s top goal scorer Edinson Cavani, who scored 2 in the match.
The match started with the Parisian side having many opportunities, however they were denied by GK Karl-Johan Johnsson. It wasn’t until the second half, after PSG managed the opener, that things went downhill for the away side. Angel di Maria scored the opener from a close range chip shot, just beating the goalkeeper. Cavani scored the second goal from a pass from Adrien Rabiot, and the third from a pass from Angel di Maria. The third goal was a good one-on-one low corner finish, which Cavani already has us used to this year. The last goal came in added time, with a cross whipped in by Blaise Matuidi. The game concluded with a 4-0 defeat for Guingamp.
PSG are second with 71 points, while Guingamp are 10th with 41.
Lille 1-2 Nice
Angers 0-1 Monaco
Caen 0-2 Montpellier
Dijon 1-2 SC Bastia
Lyon 1-4 Lorient
Bordeaux 3-0 Metz
Nancy 3-0 Rennes
Toulouse 0-0 Marseille
Saint-Etienne 1-1 Nantes
PSG 4-0 Guingamp