Five reasons to watch Ligue 1: Bottom three surprise?
Three teams to get off the mark
Whilst many may have predicted that come week three, both Lens and Evian would have failed to get off the mark, I doubt many, if any, would have guessed that Monaco would also be part of that club. After a home loss to Lorient and a comprehensive defeat to Bordeaux last week, the Monegasques sit in 19th place with only goal difference keeping them off the foot of the table. New coach Leonardo Jardim has failed to get the team to gel as the defence has looked disorganised, the midfield anonymous and the forward line blunt. Monaco are away to Nantes on Sunday night in a match that might finally see star striker Radamel Falcao start after two substitute appearances on his comeback from injury.
Through all the trials and tribulations that Lens have faced since getting promoted at the end of last season, they have been desperately unlucky in their start to life back in Ligue 1. With transfer restrictions in place, they have put up a good fight but have gone down to two 1-0 defeats to Nantes and Guingamp with the latter being a winner in the final minute of added on time. The lack of goals will be the concern as the old adage says that as long as you can score, you stand a chance of staying up.
Evian, in two games, have shown that they will be among the favourites for relegation this season. Crushing defeats at home to Caen and away to Rennes, nine goals conceded in two games and only Daniel Wass showing any quality will leave fans of the Annecy based club with their heads in their hands already. If Wass does end up leaving before the transfer window closes, you do have major concerns that this could be a disastrous season for Evian. Up next for them is PSG, more on this below.
Evian v PSG: An entertaining fixture
For all the woes Evian have suffered so far, they are perhaps one of the few teams who might fear a visit from the champions a little less than the other teams. In the last three seasons, this fixture has thrown up three very entertaining games for very different reasons.
In their first meeting in 2011/12, Evian, then new boys in Ligue 1, held PSG to a 2-2 draw, albeit this was before the Qatari money has started to rain down on the Parisiens. Last season, a 2-0 win for the hone side handed PSG their first league defeat of the season. Perhaps the most entertaining of these fixtures came towards the end of the 2012/13 season, a game which PSG won 1-0 but the result was not the main talking point. The game saw a total of four players sent off, Saber Khalifa for Evian and Salvatore Sirigu, Marco Verratti and David Beckham for PSG. It was a game played in very frosty conditions with chaos after the final whistle which saw the red cards given to Khalifa and Sirigu. Evian also succeeded in knocking out PSG in the French Cup a couple of weeks before.
Friday nights fixture therefore throws up another chance for the unpredictable to happen and with PSG without Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and possibly Thiago Motta, Evian may yet have a chance to produce the unexpected.
Going into week three, only two teams have 100% winning records. Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne lead the way and have impressed in different ways in their matches.
League leaders Bordeaux showed firm resistance to hold out for a 1-0 win on the opening weekend away to Montpellier and then followed that up with a second half tactical master class in week two at home to Monaco. After going behind in the first half, Bordeaux coach Willy Sagnol delivered a fine half time team talk, tweaked his tactics and saw his team come out all guns blazing. They immediately scored the equaliser then went on the rampage securing a brilliant 4-1 victory. The young coach has succeeded in getting the best out of his squad. Can they make it three out of three this weekend as they face a trip to Nice?
Over in Saint-Etienne it is a similar story. Christophe Galtier’s men, may not have been at their best in their week one win in Guingamp, but still came away with a 2-0 win. Last week, they went behind to Reims but staged an excellent second half comeback to secure a 3-1 win. In Mevlut Erding, they have the league’ top scorer who is in fine form with three goals in the opening two games and nine in his last ten. Erding has been supported well by Romain Hamouma, Max-Alain Gradel and new signing Kevin Monnet-Paquet. Les Verts are at home to the inconsistent Rennes on Sunday.
Jekyll and Hyde teams
Whilst many teams can lay claim to this title, the two that really stand out so far this season are Lyon and Rennes.
Lyon opened their campaign with a very convincing 2-0 win over Rennes with strong performances from Jordan Ferri, Steed Malbranque, and Alexandre Lacazette ensuring that new coach Hubert Fournier got off to a flyer. Lyon then put in a fairly anonymous showing in Toulouse last weekend as they were 2-0 down by half time. Although they pulled a goal back, an equaliser would barely have been deserved. A lot of Lyon’ inconsistency can be put down to injuries with first team players Yoann Gourcuff, Milan Bisevac and Clement Grenier missing both games so far and probably more to come, meanwhile Nabil Fekir and Samuel Umititi have both picked in knocks in the opening games. You feel once this injury curse has been cured, Lyon would have the squad to pick up consistency. They are at home to Lens this weekend.
Rennes fans will have grown accustomed to consistent inconsistency over the last few seasons. The start they have made has shown this may be a theme again this season. They were desperately poor in their opening defeat to Lyon, offering very little going forward and an alarming amount of disorganisation in defence. Coinciding with the return of Romain Danze to right back, after his foray into midfield in week one, Rennes pulled off a spectacular 6-2 win over Evian last week. They looked dangerous in attack, with Ola Toivonen causing all sort of problems for the defence, centre back Edson Mexer scoring a twenty yard volley and the talent of Paul-Georges Ntep clear to see. If Philippe Montanier can finally put paid to the Good Rennes/Bad Rennes headache, Rennes fans may actually have something to cheer about on a more regular basis. An away trip to Saint-Etienne on Sunday will be the acid test.
Big Bad Bielsa
This has not been the start Marcelo Bielsa would have predicted or wanted for Marseille. After showing strong spirit to come from a goal down to Bastia to take a 3-1 lead, that should have been that. Defensive frailties came back to haunt Marseille however as they threw the lead away as Bastia staged a comeback in the 3-3 draw. Issues with the defence were again apparent in week two as Montpellier delivered a classic hit and run 2-0 at the newly refurbished Velodrome. The boos that echoed around the ground will have given Bielsa a degree of concern. He must now hope that he is given money to strengthen the defence, especially if he is planning on sticking with three at the back as at the moment, Marseille really don’t have the personnel capable of putting that into practice. Rumours of up to €35 million being made available to Bielsa continue to do the rounds but with the transfer window rapidly coming to a close, Marseille must act fast if they are to get the best out of the squad and Bielsa. A potentially tricky trip to Guingamp will be where the Argentinian hopes he can get Marseille’ first win.