Ligue 1

Ligue 1 Talking Points: Super Mario strikes again

We’ve all seen the stories. The fireworks in the bathroom, the why always me? t-shirt during the heated frenzy of a Manchester derby, the training ground scuffle with Roberto Mancini. In any other profession, this much controversy would be enough to see an employee sacked a million times over. But it seems in football, standards are very different.

The standout highlight of Mario Balotelli’s career is probably still his assist for the infamous Aguero goal that sealed the title for Manchester City in 2013, and sent the Etihad stadium into rapture. But the moment was capped off by the Argentine, rather than the Italian. Balotelli’s name may have been read aloud by Martin Tyler in the build-up to the goal, but as the Manchester City fans and players ascended into ecstasy, not many would have spared a thought for the assist.

Perhaps this perfectly sums up Balotelli’s time on the football field – so much promise marred by an undeniable air of being so close, yet so far.

But wherever he goes, he is destined to score goals.

His time at Nice so far has been a success, and the Italian seems to have successfully brushed away the mixed experiences at Liverpool and Manchester City. Whilst England may bring bad memories, Balotelli is certainly beginning to make Ligue 1 look relatively easy.

Having scored 15 goals in 23 appearances last season, the Italian has 10 to his name this time around, including eight in as many games. Nice sit sixth in the table, with an outside chance of European football in their next campaign. They have won their last four games and are impressing many in what is proving to be such a tight league.

There is only an eight-point gap between sixth and the relegation zone, so Nice are piecing together a run of form at just the right time.

Lucien Favre’s team faced struggling Bordeaux this weekend, who had been dropping down the league standings at an alarming pace and lost their last three games. After a positive start from the away team, Nice opened the scoring after 36 minutes through Balotelli.

Maxime La Marchand’s cross was flicked on by Pierre Lees-Melou, allowing the Italian to stab home at the far post. There would be no showboating, no unnecessary flicks and tricks, just an assured finish. And there would also be no celebration; as the camera panned around the Italian it was almost a throwback to his days skulking with Manchester City.

But the days of back-heeling well wide when clean through on goal are long gone, and Balotelli is now storming his way up the Ligue 1 goalscoring chart. Long may he continue.

Other notable talking points from this weekend include Metz’s away victory at Montpellier, and the tight clash between third and fourth place in the battle for the last Champions League qualifying spot.

Metz are still rock bottom of the table despite their victory, but their players showed fighting spirit and determination to pick up the three points. After going one-nil down, Renaud Cohade equalised with a drive from 25 yards, before Riviere put his side in front when Ibrahima Niane played the ball across the box. Nicolas Basin wrapped up the win in stoppage time, and Metz are now 11 points from safety. Although it’s certainly a tall order, stranger things have happened in football.

In the quest for the final Champions League spot, Lyon and Marseille went head to head. It was Bruno Genesio’s side who would come out on top, after a glaring error from Steve Mandanda and clinical finish from Mariano. The gap between the two teams is now three points heading into the Christmas break, as Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain continue to lead the way.

Yes, unsurprisingly, PSG won again.

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