A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.
Lyon’s trip to Marseille this Sunday has the potential to be the defining game of the season’s first half, and although both sides have been undermined by injuries and suspensions, their recent form contrasts starkly.
Fifth-placed Marseille, who drew 1-1 at Auxerre last Sunday, are now without a win in three league games. Stéphane Mbia was harshly sent off at Auxerre for a foul on Julien Quercia that yielded a penalty – and an equaliser – despite occurring outside the box. He joins César Azpilicueta (knee ligament injury) and Souleymane Diawara (suspended) on the sidelines, but Rod Fanni arrived from Rennes on Thursday to plug at least one of the gaps in the back four.
Cris, Pape Diakhaté and Jérémy Toulalan have been ruled out for Lyon, while Anthony Réveillère is a doubt with a calf injury, but Claude Puel’s side are unbeaten in 10 league games and climbed to third with a 2-0 win at home to Toulouse. Lisandro López, thriving in a left-flank role, broke the deadlock early on and Bafétimbi Gomis completed the scoring from Kim Kallstrom’s through-ball 10 minutes before the break.
Lille required a header in the third minute of injury time from substitute striker Túlio De Melo to snatch a 1-0 win at Arles-Avignon that kept them top. Paris Saint-Germain trail them by a point after the latest installment of The Nenê Show (see below) concluded with a 2-1 victory at Valenciennes.
A 0-0 snorefest at Bordeaux left Rennes in fourth place, but Saint-Etienne moved up to seventh by ending a nine-game winless streak with a 2-0 defeat of imperilled Monaco. Montpellier’s goalless draw at Brest featured a horrendous elbow by Emir Spahić on Nolan Roux that has landed the Bosnian centre-back – and self-proclaimed Arsenal target – a date with the league’s disciplinary committee.
Goal of the week: Nenê (Valenciennes 1-2 PSG):
Player of the week: Nenê (PSG)
Nenê was this week elected France’s foreign footballer of the year by France Football magazine, and there seems little more that can be said about his astonishingly effective start to life at Parc des Princes. His performance at Valenciennes was in many ways typical. He put PSG ahead in the 47th minute and then, with six minutes to play and the game apparently heading for a draw, bent a magnificently precise shot into the top-left corner from 25 yards to single-handedly snatch victory for his side. He has scored 11 goals and supplied two assists in 16 league games this season, but it is worth bearing in mind that, having netted 10 times before Christmas for Monaco last season, he scored just four goals after the winter break – and just one in his side’s final 14 league matches.
Quote of the week
“Marseille have prepared well for the match on Sunday. I wouldn’t like to be the referee selected for Sunday. He’ll find himself in a bit of a paranoid atmosphere.”
– Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, big stirring spoon firmly and characteristically in hand, reacts to Didier Deschamps’s claim that Marseille were the victims of some sloppy officiating at Auxerre
Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Lorient’s Kévin Gameiro has scored 17 goals in Ligue 1 in 2010 – more than any other player.
13: Moussa Sow (Lille)
11: Nenê (PSG)
10: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
8: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne)
7: Gervinho (Lille), Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Lisandro López (Lyon), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
6: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Lynel Kitambala (Lorient), Modibo Maïga (Sochaux), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
7: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
6: Anthony Mounier (Nice)
5: Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
4: Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Roy Contout (Auxerre), Marco Estrada (Montpellier), Benjamin Gavanon (Nancy), Gervinho (Lille), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Eden Hazard (Lille), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG), Benoît Pedretti (Auxerre)
Week 18 fixtures
Saturday: Toulouse v Lorient, Lens v Caen, Nice v Brest, Saint-Etienne v Arles-Avignon, Rennes v Valenciennes, Montpellier v Auxerre, PSG v Monaco; Sunday: Lille v Nancy, Sochaux v Bordeaux, Marseille v Lyon
It may often be cast as the Brussels sprouts to the Champions League’s glistening, succulent turkey, but the Europa League will be graced by both Lille and PSG when the competition resumes in the spring. PSG, already qualified, secured top spot in Group J (above Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund) with a 1-1 draw at Karpaty Lviv on Wednesday, while Lille cruised to a 3-0 win over Gent in their winner-takes-all Group C encounter at a snowy Stadium Lille-Métropole on Thursday.