It was expected that this season be yet another cakewalk for Paris Saint Germain in the Ligue 1 but much to our surprise; it has not panned out that way. Although Monaco have had money to spend for a few seasons, they have never seriously challenged for the title until now. What does the rest of the season have in store for Ligue 1?
The top French league is certainly becoming more competitive as the years go by. The performances of PSG in the Champions League over the last few years and Monaco securing a spot in the quarters finals are a sign that Ligue 1 teams can compete with the bigger nations.
Race for the title
After several seasons where PSG probably had the title all but wrapped up by now, this time around it is a lot closer. Monaco lead the way at this point in the season and the look forward to being able to compete with the financial muscle of Paris. They have a much better goal difference as PSG have not scored anywhere near as many goals as they did with Zlatan Ibrahimović in town. Nice only find themselves 4 points behind PSG at this point and might fancy a late push for the league if one or both of the other more fancied teams above them slip up. It will certainly be interesting.
The goals of Edinson Cavani might push PSG to the title but it is too close to call at the moment. The fact that Nice and Monaco are sharing the goals around more might see them across the line. The soft defensive underbelly that Paris Saint Germain showed in the Champions League against Barcelona must be a worry for their supporters. If they get caught out at the back on a regular basis, then the title may well elude them. I can see Monaco holding on and beating Paris to win the league, with the home game against PSG on 1st April being the one that can set them six points clear and deal a huge blow to their rivals for the title.
Champions League Spots
It looks like the three teams mentioned above will claim all the Champions League spots for Ligue 1 this season. Although Lyon in 4th have a game in hand on the top three, they are 14 points behind Nice and 21 behind leaders Monaco. This is far too much for them to make up in the remaining 9 games they have to play. Lyon’s best chance of glory may lie in the Europa League where they went through and have a tie with Beşiktaş in the next round. This already feels like a done deal that the top 3 will finish in the top 3 at the end of the season. The only question is – which order will they finish in? My money is on a PSG second-place finish and Nice being close but not close enough.
The bottom three teams go down to Ligue 2 and it looks like quite a battle this season. Lorient are currently bottom of the league, but they are level on points with Bastia. Both are on a terrible run of form and the fixtures for the remainder of the season don’t look any easier than the recent games that either team has faced.
The two sit only 3 points behind the next two teams of Nancy and Dijon. With the gap at only three points a single win can make this up so all the teams near the bottom of the league will approach their fixtures with a great deal of trepidation for the rest of the campaign. Teams all the way up to Metz in 13th with 35 points won’t feel as though they are out of trouble yet. I think that the bottom two as it stands are doomed and I can see Dijon joining them in the relegation zone at the end of the season.
The race to be crowned top scorer in the French top flight was dominated, in recent years by Zlatan. However, with him leaving the league to play for Manchester United, there will be another winner this time. The race is led at the moment by Edinson Cavani on 27 goals and Paris will hope that he continues to fire them in on their way to the title. The next two in the scoring charts play for teams that are not really in with a chance of the title. Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon and Befetimbi Gomis of Marseille have 23 and 16 goals this season respectively. Lacazette has been the subject of a great deal of speculation and he looks to be playing for a move to a big club in Europe. Team in the Premier League and La Liga have been linked with him and this might be an interesting summer for the player. I can’t see anyone but Cavani getting this prize, though.