Posts Tagged ‘Rudi Garcia’

Pitchside Europe: Lille slow and steady as PSG rumble by

“There are 1,001 ways to highlight the gulf in resources between PSG and their domestic rivals, but the comparison with Lille is of particular interest because the 2011 champions were expected to mount the most enduring challenge to [Carlo] Ancelotti’s men this season. Montpellier will struggle to return to last season’s heights and while Lyon and Marseille have made promising starts, both clubs are in transition and have thin squads that will feel the pinch of injuries and suspensions keenly. Lille, though, appear to be on the up. Their brand new 50,000-seater stadium has helped them to attract high-quality players such as [Salomon] Kalou and Marvin Martin, while qualification for the Champions League group phase is expected to swell the club’s carefully tended coffers by around £16 million.”

This week’s Pitchside Europe blog for Eurosport, on why Lille look like the most serious challengers to Paris Saint-Germain this season, can be read here.

Report: Montpellier win at Rennes to close on maiden title

“PARIS — Montpellier took a significant step towards their first ever Ligue 1 title by winning 2-0 at Rennes on Monday to restore their three-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain with two games to play.”

My AFP round-up of Monday night’s Ligue 1 matches, which saw Montpellier close to within four points of the title and Auxerre sink to the foot of the table, can be read here.

Report: PSG beat Saint-Etienne to re-launch title bid

“PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain reinvigorated their Ligue 1 title challenge by winning 2-0 at home to Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, cutting Montpellier’s lead at the top of the table to three points with three games to play.”

My AFP report on Wednesday’s Ligue 1 matches, which saw PSG breathe new life into the title race, can be found here.

Report: Lille sitting pretty after Hazard sinks Toulouse

“PARIS — Champions Lille closed to within four points of top spot in Ligue 1 by winning 2-1 at home to Toulouse on Sunday and saw their grip on third place further strengthened by Lyon’s 1-1 draw at Rennes.”

My AFP report on the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, including an important win for Lille and another setback for Paris Saint-Germain, can be read here.

Report: Lille thwarted by 10-man Rennes

“PARIS — A last-minute goal by Mevlüt Erding earned Rennes a 1-1 draw at home to Lille on Sunday that prevented the French champions from galvanising their grip on third place and closing the gap on leaders Montpellier.”

My AFP round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, including setbacks for Lille and Marseille and an extraordinary 4-4 draw between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain that allowed Montpellier to go top, can be found here.

Report: PSG held up by Nice after Obraniak stuns Lille

“PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain inched a point clear in Ligue 1 on Sunday following a 0-0 draw at Nice, after Ludovic Obraniak had netted a 93rd-minute winner for Bordeaux in an extraordinary 5-4 win at his former club Lille.”

My AFP round-up of the weekend’s matches in Ligue 1, including an astonishing nine-goal game at Lille and another match-changing performance by Olivier Giroud, can be read here.

Report: Holders Lille knocked out of Coupe de France

“PARIS — Holders Lille reluctantly relinquished their grip on the Coupe de France after going down 2-1 at local rivals Valenciennes in the last 16 at a wintry Stade du Hainaut on Wednesday.”

My AFP round-up of Wednesday’s Coupe de France matches, including a shock defeat for Lille and a hard-fought win for Lyon, can be read here.

Report: Lille prevent PSG from regaining first place

“PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain were prevented from regaining top spot in Ligue 1 after being held to a 0-0 draw by defending champions Lille in an engaging game at Parc des Princes on Sunday.”

Read my AFP match report here.

Report: Cole on target as Lille fightback floors Lyon

“PARIS — Joe Cole capped a Lille fightback with the third goal in a 3-1 defeat of Lyon on Sunday that allowed the defending champions to steal a march on their rivals in the nascent Ligue 1 title race.”

To read my AFP round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, click here.

La semaine en France: Week 37

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
You wait 56 years for a major trophy, and then two come along at once. Eight days after ending a 56-year wait to win the Coupe de France by beating Paris Saint-Germain at Stade de France, Lille ended a 57-year wait for the Ligue 1 championship following a 2-2 draw against the same opponents down the road at Parc des Princes.

Few would argue that Rudi Garcia’s side are not worthy champions, and the title-clinching performance showcased plenty of the grit that saw them to crucial victories during the title run-in. Twice Lille went ahead, twice PSG replied, with Mathieu Bodmer’s belting 73rd-minute strike for the hosts cancelling out a close-range Moussa Sow effort that had put Lille 2-1 up moments after Guillaume Hoarau was shown a second yellow card for diving. Sow’s goal was his 22nd off the campaign, nudging him in front of Kévin Gameiro in the race for the Trophée du Meilleur Buteur.

Marseille’s 2-2 draw at home to Valenciennes meant that Lille could have afforded to lose, but OM are at least now assured of automatic Champions League qualification. The battle for the third qualifying slot will go down to the final day, meanwhile, but PSG must win at Saint-Etienne and hope Lyon slip up at Monaco to stand any chance of overhauling them. Sochaux secured their place in the Europa League after a Brown Ideye brace procured a 2-1 win over Saint-Etienne and all the teams within touching distance lost.

The relegation scrap could not be any tauter, with just three points separating 10th-placed Toulouse and third-bottom Monaco. A second-half Benjamin Moukandjo goal was enough for Monaco to win at Montpellier, but Laurent Banide’s side will still start the final day in the drop zone, a point behind Nancy, Caen and Valenciennes but with a better goal difference than four of the five sides immediately above them.

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

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Preview: Sochaux bid to disrupt Lille title procession

A version of this piece was written for Agence France-Presse and published on the AFP newswire on Tuesday, May 17.

Lille will be practically assured of a first French league title since 1954 with victory over Sochaux on Wednesday evening, but in Francis Gillot’s side they must overcome the form team in the division.

A day after beating Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the Coupe de France final, Lille looked on gleefully as defending champions Marseille drew 2-2 at Lorient on Sunday to effectively concede defeat in the title race. Going into Wednesday’s home game, Rudi Garcia’s men require four points from their remaining three matches to complete the second league and cup double in the club’s history, after a previous such success in 1946. However, their +30 goal difference is seven goals superior to Marseille’s, meaning that OM would require something of a miracle to retain the trophy if Lille prevail in their next outing.

A third league title in the club’s history may be beckoning, but sporting director Frédéric Paquet says Lille cannot afford to look beyond the game against Sochaux. “We’ve expended a lot of energy in our recent series of matches and we’ll be up against a team who play well and who are on a positive dynamic,” he said. “The Marseille result changes almost nothing for us, because in any case, we absolutely have to win.”

If Marseille are seeking grounds for optimism, they will find them in the superb recent form of Sochaux’s young, ultra-attacking side. Unbeaten since a 2-0 defeat at Auxerre on March 19, Sochaux have picked up 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven games. Having scored seven goals in their last two matches – a sensational 4-0 win at Bordeaux, followed by a 3-0 defeat of Monaco – they are now in pole position to secure sixth place and a berth in next season’s Europa League.

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Tactics: French sides flock to worship at altar of 4-2-3-1

A peculiar tactical phenomenon has been witnessed in France in recent months. In a microcosm of global trends that have shaped the game over the course of the last decade or so, Ligue 1’s top sides have all – without exception – begun to ditch their preferred formations in favour of a 4-2-3-1.

Marseille, whose title and Coupe de la Ligue successes last season were founded on a pragmatic 4-3-3 shape, were the first team to make the switch. For the crucial Champions League group game at Spartak Moscow in November, Mathieu Valbuena was moved infield from the right flank and allowed to adopt the central playmaking role that he covets. Didier Deschamps wanted to capitalise on the fact that Valbuena “is very accurate with his shooting” and the France international proved as much in the 18th minute when he put OM ahead with a precise, curling effort into the top-right corner. Marseille went on to win 3-0, in what was their most coherent performance of the season to date, and their 4-2-3-1 continues to emerge for high-pressure encounters, such as Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.

Another team synonymous with the 4-3-3 in recent years has been Lyon. Towards the end of the first half in their 4-1 win at Saint-Etienne last month, however, Yoann Gourcuff was allowed to advance a little further forwards and occupy the role of the classic number 10 that was his at Bordeaux. With Jérémy Toulalan and Kim Källström retreating into deep, central positions, it meant Lyon were playing a 4-2-3-1 and Claude Puel reflected that it gave the team “a certain balance”.

The switch brought the best out of Lisandro López, moved to the left flank in support of central striker Bafétimbi Gomis, in much the same way that André-Pierre Gignac’s best form for Marseille has coincided with the times when he has played from the left in support of Brandão. Occasionally isolated when used as lone strikers, both López and Gignac appear to relish seeing more of the ball and both men are particularly adept at cutting inside and shooting at goal with their stronger right feet.

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La semaine en France: Weeks 18 and 19

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
Fittingly, after a first half to the season in which several teams enjoyed time at the top of the table without ever being able to pull clear, not one of the sides in the top half of Ligue 1 signed off for the winter break with a victory.

Lille’s penultimate pre-Christmas game against Nancy last Sunday fell victim to the snow but they managed to cling on to top spot by virtue of a 1-1 draw at home to Saint-Etienne on Wednesday. Rudi Garcia’s side, the division’s top scorers with 33 goals from 18 matches, lead by a point from Paris Saint-Germain, Rennes and Lyon but have a game in hand on all their rivals. Marseille are three points off the pace in fifth, above Saint-Etienne on goal difference.

An 88th-minute equaliser by Daniel Niculae had seen Monaco snatch a 2-2 draw from their trip to PSG last weekend, and Paris looked heavy legged in a 2-0 defeat at Nancy on Wednesday – only their second defeat in 23 matches. Rennes’ goalscoring problems continued as they went down 1-0 at third-bottom Caen, while Lyon recorded a 1-1 draw against Auxerre to extend their unbeaten run to 12 league games.

Marseille, who drew 1-1 at home to Lyon in last Sunday’s ‘Olympico‘, once again looked worryingly blunt going forward in a 0-0 draw at Brest, which was their fifth game without a win. New signing Rod Fanni went off injured, Charles Kaboré was sent off and André-Pierre Gignac was substituted to ironic jeers in the 84th minute after another fruitless and frustrating night in front of goal.

Valenciennes (16th) and Monaco (17th) boosted their bids to avoid relegation with victories over Toulouse and Sochaux respectively, but a stoppage-time equaliser by Yoan Gouffran saw second-bottom Lens denied victory at Bordeaux (2-2), and Arles-Avignon are now 11 points from safety following a 0-0 draw with Nice.

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