Final weekend confirmed the state of affairs in Ligue 1 completely: the “huge 4” of Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco, Lyon and Marseille, have by no means have been so dominant.
A Neymar-less PSG hammered Angers 5-Zero away; Monaco battered Guingamp 6-Zero at residence with out half of their starters (Radamel Falcao, Thomas Lemar, Jemerson, Djibril Sidibe, Joao Moutinho); Lyon thrashed St Etienne 5-Zero within the 115th Rhone derby, recording their largest away win ever within the fixture; and Marseille, regardless of “Evragate” and nonetheless with out Dimitri Payet, cruised previous Caen 5-Zero.
There have been 21 objectives scored for the 4 groups on the high of the desk, and none conceded, a tally by no means seen earlier than over the identical weekend.
But inside the high 4 there may be one other hole: between PSG and the others. After spending €222 million on bringing in Neymar and loaning Kylian Mbappe from rivals Monaco, the capital membership are nonetheless unbeaten and have a 4 level lead over Monaco, with a a lot better aim distinction. The sensation is that, domestically at the least, there aren’t any weaknesses on this staff, even when the Monaco vs. PSG conflict in lower than three weeks will probably be very fascinating. No matter occurs on the Stade Louis II, it’s onerous to see the Parisians and their unbelievable squad not regaining their title.
PSG look untouchable in the meanwhile, so what’s left? Lyon’s Nabil Fekir admitted in an interview in Le Parisien on Tuesday: “Our goal is the second place.” Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim has mentioned the identical factor as properly.
Monaco, Lyon and Marseille are in a battle for second — and direct entry to the Champions League subsequent season. There are simply 4 factors between them, with defending champions Monaco on 28, Lyon on 25 and Marseille on 24.
Simply behind, in fifth place, there may be additionally the defensively stable Nantes, led by former Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, on 23 factors. They’re very a lot outsiders, however that will change in the event that they beat PSG in Paris after the worldwide break.
The distraction of European soccer will play its half. Even with out it, Nantes will wrestle to compete with the opposite three, but it surely may make distinction within the race for second.
Monaco are presently struggling of their Champions League group (backside with simply two factors) and will miss out on qualification for the knockout spherical and likewise the Europa League. That will imply taking part in just one sport per week from January to Might.
Alternatively, Marseille and Lyon look prone to qualify for the Europa League spherical of 32 and, with the ultimate in Lyon in Might, Les Gones will need to go far within the competitors. Each golf equipment most likely haven’t got the depth to take action although, which can result in dropped factors again in Ligue 1.
Arguably, Monaco may very well be in the very best place and, if they’ve the very best squad out of the three — by way of depth and likewise expertise — in addition they have the very best supervisor in Leonardo Jardim. Nonetheless, they’re additionally very depending on Falcao. The Colombian striker has been in unbelievable kind up to now this season with 13 objectives in solely 9 league matches and from simply 14 pictures on track. If Monaco can hold him match, then they’ll have an awesome likelihood.
Lyon are depending on their very own star: Fekir. After a shaky begin to the season, with attracts at residence towards Bordeaux (Three-Three) or Dijon (Three-Three) for instance, Lyon are in unbelievable kind with six wins in a row in all competitions. Their Improbable 4 (Fekir, Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore and Mariano Diaz) have been very good, and midfielder Houssem Aouar is their new wonderkid. However loads depends on Fekir.
Greater than his stats (11 objectives and three assists in 11 league matches), it is usually his management on and off the pitch which has been spectacular. Supervisor Bruno Genesio gave him the captain’s armband at the beginning of the season and he hasn’t upset.
Marseille have a pacesetter too, in Florian Thauvin. Within the win towards Caen, Thauvin scored twice and gave one help — he has now been concerned in 25 objectives (15 scored and 10 assists) within the league in 2017, greater than another French participant in Europe’s high 5 leagues. He has lastly matured and is extra constant, however will it’s sufficient to maintain l’OM in rivalry?
Up to now, the encounters on the pitch between the three contenders have introduced improbable leisure with Monaco humiliating Marseille (6-1) and Lyon touchdown a final minute Three-2 victory towards Monaco (due to a Fekir free kick), whereas Lyon vs. Marseille will occur simply earlier than Christmas.
This race for second place may very well be additionally determined within the golf equipment’ matches towards PSG. Lyon host them on Jan. 21; Marseille journey to the capital on Feb. 25; Monaco go there on April 15 — by which level, it might all be completed.
Even when PSG stroll away with the Ligue 1 title this season, the race for second has by no means been extra thrilling.
Julien Laurens is a London-based French journalist who writes for ESPN FC and Le Parisien. Comply with him on Twitter: @LaurensJulien.