Another cracking Le Classique between these two great rivals. The match between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain followed the template of the meeting at the Parc des Princes earlier in the season, which in turn was very similar to the two encounters last season.
Marseille were relentless throughout the match, pressing incessantly and bypassing PSG’s much-vaunted midfield at will. Lassana Diarra was the standout player in midfield, with 87 touches of the ball, 86 % passing accuracy with his 67 passes and four tackles. Diarra’s form this season makes him a shoo-in for the French national team at this summer’s Euro. A special mention also goes to Remy Cabella, who had an outstanding game. Cabella scored Marseille’s equalizer after an excellent run and arguably should have had a couple of assists but his teammates failed to finish the chances he created.
For all of Marseille’s excellence though, they were once again caught out by the quality of the champions on the break. PSG had three shots on target and scored twice. Ultimately the superior individual quality of Les Parisiens told. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in Le Classique once again and then provided the assist for Angel di Maria to rifle in a superb finish on the break. While Ibra and di Maria will take most of the plaudits, credit also has to go Thiago Silva and Serge Aurier who made several excellent tackles and last-ditch clearances to keep PSG in the game when Marseille were overrunning the midfield.
While PSG were second best for most of the match, Laurent Blanc may feel that such an intense and difficult match was ideal preparation for the resumption of the team’s Champions League campaign. This level of football is what PSG are going to have to overcome to go deep on the continent (although many would say this season’s iteration of Chelsea are not much better than Ligue 1’s mid table sides) and coming through such an intense clash with a win bodes well for the capital club.
Meanwhile Marseille themselves may be better off making a good fist of their Europa League campaign. A team of their talent should be able to make up the five-point gap to third, but the consistency simply isn’t there, especially since they can’t buy a win at home. The last time Michel’s men took three points at the Velodrome was in October, a staggering and unacceptable fact for a team of Marseille’s stature. Despite playing some of the most exciting football in the country, another season of underachievement beckons for L’OM.
An open and entertaining match between two Ligue 1 teams harbouring hopes of European qualification. At the end of the match only Saint-Étienne remain in contention after an emphatic 4-1 win away to Bordeaux.
Christophe Galtier’s men have been playing some excellent football since the turn of the year. Three of their last five matches have now included a home win over Lyon and away wins at Rennes and Bordeaux. Their only loss in that period was a hard-fought reversal against PSG. Les Verts are now building momentum. Behind Nice only on goal difference, they welcome Monaco next weekend full of confidence. There are many positive signs that Galtier can look to for that crucial clash.
Always solid at the back, ASSE are now displaying greater verve in the final third, consequently scoring more goals.Alexander Søderlund is proving to be a hit since arriving in January. Despite missing a penalty to finish the game in the first half, the Norwegian scored another crucial goal after getting off the mark against Lyon. The real star of the show however, was debutant Oussama Tannane. The 21-year old Moroccan dovetailed beautifully with Søderlund, Benjamin Corgnet and Vincent Pajot while giving Diego Contento and Cedric Yambéré several nosebleeds on the left side of Bordeaux’s defence. A goal and an assist were just rewards for an enterprising display and the youngster may have forced himself into Galtier’s first eleven ahead of the infuriating Jean-Christophe Bahebeck.
Willy Sagnol will have been left really disappointed by this defeat. Girondins were on a seven-match unbeaten run at the Stade Matmut-Atlantique and fans were beginning to believe that a late run for European qualification was on the cards. However, after conceding seven goals in their last two games, one wonders if this is a watershed moment in Bordeaux’s season. Two of their best players in Wahbi Khazri and Henri Saivet left in January and the new recruits have not had a promising start. Mathieu Debuchy demonstrated a level of defensive negligence that explains why he had fallen far down the pecking order at Arsenal. While Mauro Arambarri and Malcom gave decent accounts of themselves, there was simply too much tactical indiscipline all over the park. After a promising first season in management, Sagnol’s magic seems to be fading and it’s difficult to see how can he salvage anything from what is quickly becoming a very disappointing season for Bordeaux.
The result of this game was never in doubt once Thomas Mangani was sent off in the 16th minute. For the first time this season, Lyon have strung two dominant wins in a row. Winning 3-0 against both Bordeaux and Lyon puts Bruno Genesio’s men right back in contention for Champions League qualification.
Such is the seesaw nature of the Ligue 1 chasing pack that these two wins have pushed Lyon up from 10th in the table to just a point behind their vanquished opponents, with Nice and Saint-Étienne only three points ahead. Of course, critics will say that Lyon should really have been comfortable in second or third considering their exploits last season and the quality of their squad. A whole host of issues from injuries to differences within the squad resulted in a depressing first half of the season.
However, there are signs that things are starting to click for last season’s runners up. Mathieu Valbuena is finally showing the form that made him such a star in Ligue 1 when he was at Marseille. While the defence still looks vulnerable, they are now playing with more calmness and authority. Significantly, the young stars who broke out in the last campaign are now recovering their mojo. Corentin Tolisso dominated the game in midfield, orchestrating some beautiful moves and capping his fine display with Lyon’s third goal. Meanwhile Rachid Ghezzal continues to improve with each passing game. The young Algerian is filling the void left by Nabil Fekir’s injury and if he continues his progression then Genesio will have quite the selection dilemma when all his attacking players are fit. With most of their toughest fixtures out of the way, Lyon should now, at the very least capture third spot.
On the other hand, Angers’ fine start to the season is catching up to them. A tough run of fixtures since January has seen three defeats in five matches. Angers entered the new year with only nine goals conceded, but that figure has now ratcheted up to 23. It is a testament to their fine start that they still have the third best defence in the league. However, some indiscipline is costing Stéphane Moulin’s men. Moulin’s organized approach requires all the players to sing from the same hymn sheet, but it is not a system that can work with ten men.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that survival alone would have constituted a successful season for Angers. European qualification always seem fanciful, however there is no reason why Angers shouldn’t finish in the top ten. If Moulin can get his players to regain their composure, this tough spell can be ridden out. There are plenty of points to be won for Angers to finish comfortably in mid table.
For the first time in ages, the Derby de la Côte d’Azur had a lot riding on it in terms of league position and points. In a season where PSG have just run away with the league, Monaco and Nice have come closest in terms of establishing some sort of consistency. It’s not often that this has been a game of second vs third, hence there was a lot of excitement heading into the game.
Unfortunately, the match didn’t live up to expectations. Monaco won 1-0 despite playing with ten men from the 48th minute onwards. Joao Moutinho’s excellent floated free kick found Tiemoué Bakayako’s head for the winner in the 81st minute. It was a classic sucker punch from a team that has mastered the art of winning functionally. Deprived of the cash and superstars that originally accompanied them on their return to Ligue 1, Leonardo Jardim has done well to find a system that is efficient and brings the results and accompanying points to the Stade Louis II.
As far as Nice are concerned, Claude Puel’s men missed an opportunity to make a statement. Despite being the away team, Nice had more supporters in the stadium than their hosts. Win, and they would jump above their rivals in second place. In stead, Les Aiglons put in a feeble performance. Other than getting Danijel Subasic to pull off one world class save in the first half, Nice just didn’t create any clear-cut chances. Most disappointingly for Puel, his three stars of the season — Hatem Ben Arfa, Valère Germain and Jean Seri — failed to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, even when they had the man advantage.
With a six-point lead over Nice and Saint-Étienne, Monaco are now clear favourites for direct qualification to the Champions League. They are the most consistent team after the champions and also have the experience of finishing the season well, something that the other teams in Ligue 1’s chasing pack don’t possess. Nice on the other hand, are right in the mix of one of the most competitive races for third in the league’s history. Level on points with Saint-Étienne with an improving Lyon just three points behind, Nice will have to show greater verve and stronger fortitude in the run-in to ensure the efforts of a promising first half of the season are not wasted.