La semaine en France: Week 28

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.

Ligue 1
And then there were four. After defeat at Auxerre and a draw at home to Montpellier, Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 loss at Marseille in last Sunday’s ‘clasico’ effectively ended their hopes of pipping Lille to this season’s title.

A lively encounter at Stade Vélodrome saw OM prevail through a header from the irrepressible André Ayew, after Gabriel Heinze’s 16th-minute free-kick had been cancelled out by Clément Chantôme. It left PSG 10 points behind Lille and five points below the Champions League places. PSG’s fatigue was plain to see during a second half in which they never quite managed to put Marseille under pressure and Antoine Kombouaré was quick to point out that it had been their 11th game in five weeks. Worryingly for the Coupe de France semi-finalists, the last five of those have all ended in defeat.

With 10 games to go, Lille are four points clear of second-placed Marseille after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Brest. Their new-found ability to grind out results, as opposed to blasting teams off the pitch like they did in December and January, only strengthens the conviction that the leaders are not about to collapse with the finishing line in sight.

An 87th-minute header from Kévin Théophile-Catherine earned Rennes a 1-1 draw at Lyon that left the visitors third and the hosts fourth. Lyon are now six points off the pace and Théophile-Catherine’s goal could have far-reaching ramifications for the 2002-2008 champions, with Monday’s L’Équipe openly speculating that this season will be Claude Puel’s last.

Lens stunned Montpellier 4-1 at Stade de la Mosson but remain second-bottom, four points from safety. Monaco, one place higher, are also in serious peril of sliding into Ligue 2 after a 1-0 defeat at home to Nancy left them three points beneath 17th-placed Auxerre.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Auxerre 2-0 Sochaux, Brest 1-2 Lille, Lorient 0-0 Saint-Etienne, Montpellier 1-4 Lens, Toulouse 1-1 Nice, Valenciennes 2-2 Bordeaux, Lyon 1-1 Rennes; Sunday: Caen 2-0 Arles-Avignon, Monaco 0-1 Nancy, Marseille 2-1 PSG

Ligue 1 table

Goal of the week: Gervinho (Brest 1-2 Lille)

Player of the week: Gervinho (Lille)
Eclipsed by team-mates Eden Hazard and Moussa Sow in recent weeks, Gervinho took his turn in the spotlight with a match-winning performance in the 2-1 win at Brest. His equaliser (see above) was one of the goals of the season and he also laid on the winning goal for Sow early in the second half with a well weighted pass down the inside-right channel that enabled the Senegalese striker to roll his marker and score. Gervinho has 12 goals and eight assists in his account to date this season, meaning that he has played a direct role in 40 percent of Lille’s league goals.

Quote of the week
“Lens are one of the teams that I really like. And my business operates there. If we’re going to lose, we might as well lose to them than to someone else… I think we have the right to give without payment. Without payment! I have a real friendship with [Lens president] Gervais Martel and I really like the Lens fans. I prefer them to the Lille fans. And yet I work in Lille as well.”
– Montpellier president Louis Nicollin, for whom the word ‘outspoken’ might as well have been invented, suggests that there may have been more to his side’s 4-1 capitulation against Lens than met the eye

Stat of the week (courtesy of OptaJean)
Nancy goalkeeper Damien Gregorini, who saved a spot-kick from Park Chu-Young in his side’s 1-0 win at Monaco, has repelled all three of the penalties he has faced this season.

Top goalscorers
19: Moussa Sow (Lille)
16: Kévin Gameiro (Lorient)
14: Youssef El-Arabi (Caen)
13: Nenê (PSG)
12: Gervinho (Lille), Lisandro López (Lyon)
11: Modibo Maïga (Sochaux), Grégory Pujol (Valenciennes)
10: Bafétimbi Gomis (Lyon), Brown Ideye (Sochaux), Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux)
9: Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Park Chu-Young (Monaco), Dimitri Payet (Saint-Etienne), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)
8: Gaël Danic (Valenciennes), Guillaume Hoarau (PSG)

Top assists
11: Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
9: Anthony Mounier (Nice), Jaroslav Plašil (Bordeaux)
8: Gervinho (Lille)
7: Morgan Amalfitano (Lorient), Eden Hazard (Lille)
6: Ludovic Giuly (PSG), Bruno Grougi (Brest), Jérôme Leroy (Rennes)

Week 28 fixtures (April 2/3)
Saturday: Arles-Avignon v Monaco, Lille v Caen, Nancy v Bordeaux, PSG v Lorient, Rennes v Auxerre, Sochaux v Brest, Toulouse v Montpellier; Sunday: Nice v Lyon, Saint-Etienne v Valenciennes, Lens v Marseille

Les Bleus
France visit Luxembourg in Euro 2012 qualifying on Friday night, when they will be bidding for a sixth consecutive victory. Laurent Blanc revealed this week that Yoann Gourcuff and Franck Ribéry have held clear-the-air talks after Ribéry expressed disappointment at Gourcuff’s failure to address rumours of ill-feeling between the pair during the World Cup, while Patrice Evra said it was time to “turn the page” on what happened in South Africa. Both are expected to start against Group D’s bottom side, with Ribéry likely to feature on the right of a front three alongside Florent Malouda and Karim Benzema.

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