Ligue 1: Week 24 – Previews + Predictions
Lille OSC v SM Caen: Wednesday 18:00 – by @Gibney_A
Lille welcome SM Caen to the Stade Pierre Mauroy on Wednesday, hoping to stop the recent slide. However, they won’t have it easy, facing Patrice Garande’s team that seem to have stopped their own run of bad form.
After three straight defeats, the Normand side, following the 2-0 win over OGC Nice, have six points out of six and sit just below the European places. That win took them level with Les Aiglons, and they will view the trip to the north of France as a very winnable game.
Les Dogues are in a very strange place at the moment. If you look at the league form, one win in the last six, seven goals scored and conceded in that time, it doesn’t look great. Yet, in the middle of that Antonetti’s side managed to score five in one game and qualified for the final of the Coupe de la Ligue for the first time in their history.
The final on April 23rd is a long time away, however, and for now the bald-headed Corsican needs to find a way to guide LOSC away from the relegation area. That should have started on Friday, but a 96th minute equaliser for Marseille stunned the away side and Lille only left with a point, when it could have been so much better. There can be no sympathy though: the team sat back, made poor decisions and invited the trouble on themselves. Now, the players have to forget that last-ditch blow and find a way to play together.
Portuguese forward Eder joins on loan from Swansea in an attempt to solve the centre-forward problem. However, the major problem comes from the wings and behind the forward. Unless Lille can find a way to get Sofiane Boufal back to his best and squeeze the last bit of life out of a failing midfield, they really could be in a lot of trouble.
Caen are not the sort of team you want to face when you are chasing a result. They are perfectly set up to pick off any side that pushes players forward. Antonetti needs to find a way to cover on the break, while also pleasing the home fans who will expect a reaction from Friday’s disappointment.
Olympique Lyonnais v Girondins de Bordeaux: Wednesday 18:00 – by @jeremysmith98
Another week, another disappointing result for Lyon, as they went down limply, 1-0 at Bastia. That made it only one win in ten Ligue 1 matches and, despite showing signs of recovery against Saint-Etienne and Marseille, despite having little to show for it, they showed very little in Corsica.
Perhaps surprisingly, the club brought no one in during the mercato, so Bruno Genesio will continue to work with what he has, and will hope that the Stade des Lumières crowd can rouse the team into action.
On the positive side, the defence has looked a little tighter in recent weeks thanks to the return of Samuel Umtiti, who calming influence has even seen Mapou Yanga Mbiwa settle a little more. It is at the other end of the pitch that the problems remain: while Rachid Ghezzal has looked excellent under Genesio’s guidance, Mathieu Valbuena and Alexandre Lacazette remain far short of their best. It is likely that Clement Grenier will return to the starting line-up to provide more creativity.
Bordeaux had a strange week: after a late fightback to secure an improbably 2-2 draw at Nantes, they were put to the sword in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final, going down 5-1 at Lille, before bouncing back with a 4-0 thrashing of Rennes.
Two-goal hero in that match Cheikh Diabaté is having an excellent 2016 thus far, with five goals in four matches, while at the other end of the pitch Frederic Guilbert continues to impress as, Lille blip aside, Bordeaux are proving hard to beat – that loss their sole defeat in the last 13 in all competitions.
Despite losing Henri Saivet and Wahbi Khazri, Willy Sangol’s squad has been boosted in the mercato, with France international Mathieu Debuchy brought in on loan, as has Troyes goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni. Two more South Americans have also come in: Uruguayan defensive midfielder Mauro Arrambari and Brazilian attacking midfielder / striker Malcom. Debuchy may feature against Lyon and Sagnol must decide between Bernardoni and Jerome Prior as his number one keeper. But it remains to be seen whether Sagnol will play Malcom in the middle.
Tough match to call. A Lyon win would see them leapfrog Bordeaux in the table – and surely there is going to be an upturn in Lyon’s form soon. But it feels like we’ve said that several times already in recent weeks.
Stade Rennais v Saint-Etienne: Thursday 20:00 – by @Philby1976
When Rennes switched out manager Philippe Montanier for Rolland Courbis after a loss in the Coupe de France to Bourg-en-Bresse, it was a puzzling, if not entirely unexpected, move. Sitting in sixth place, President René Ruello seemed to be eyeing the opportunity to take advantage of no team staking a clear claim to the spots behind PSG.
Courbis’ two games in charge have put to an end two long-standing runs, for better and for worse. First, they beat Gazelec Ajaccio 1-0 with an injury-time own-goal winner that saw Rennes get their first home win since beating Montpellier and Toulouse back in August. Then, less edifyingly, they went down 4-0 at Bordeaux to end an unbeaten away run that had lasted since the 2-1 loss at Bastia on the first day of the season.
For Saint-Etienne, it will be galling that their best performance for a while resulted in a 2-0 defeat, at home to PSG. The run-up to the match was tense: after an unconvincing Coupe de France win, Christophe Galtier had some stern words for his team (including “playing with the reserves”). Things weren’t improved as they conceded an 89th-minute equaliser away at struggling Reims, but Galtier stuck with a three-man defence against the champions.
Despite keeping PSG at bay for an hour, they couldn’t take their chances, and when Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on 62 minutes, it knocked their confidence. In his post-match interview, Galtier was asked if he was happy with the performance, if not the result. He responded with a raised eyebrow, a grimace, and an ironic thumbs-up.
However there were a lot of positives for les Verts to take from the performance: while their striking problems are, well, striking, and any club would miss the injured Romain Hamouma, their attacking options are good. Kevins Monnet-Paquet and Malcuit did a fine job down the right on Sunday, the returning Franck Tabanou and on-loan’s Jean-Christophe Bahebeck ditto on the left. The problem was mostly that they were putting crosses in to Alexander Soderlund, who wasn’t having much luck, but against Rennes’ defence, that approach could well be more successful.
Rennes are still sixth, but Saint-Etienne are only a point behind. With second-placed Monaco closer to the drop zone than the top-spot, the jockeying for position in the top half remains as tight as ever.