Having opened their season with a swashbuckling 4-0 win over Nice last weekend, Lyon travel to the Stad Bonai on Friday night to take on Sochaux. While Lacazette grabbed a brace, Gourcuff was the stand-out performer, assisting twice and scoring a stunning free kick from thirty yards in the dying minutes. Considering how well Nice played last season, this was a real signal of intent from Lyon.
With Champions League qualification now just one step away, Les Gones seem to be softening to the idea of holding onto two of their prized assets, Gourcuff and Gomis. The latter wasn’t in the match-day squad last weekend and there are rumours that he’ll be excluded again on Friday evening. With only 12 months left on his contract and a queue of clubs knocking on Lyon’s door, his future is very much in doubt. One hope however that Lyon sees the bigger picture, and if Remi Garde can keep both of these stars in his team until the close of the Mercato, Lyon will have a real chance of Champions League football.
PSG had a disappointing opening to their campaign, coming from behind to draw with Montpelier. After Cabella scored early in the first half, it took Blanc until half time to motivate his troupes to produce the style and flair of last season. PSG were like a different team in the second half with Maxwell commanding the left wing and with Lucas Moura supporting Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi, they dominated possession. After Maxwell’s equaliser, the stage was set for Cavani to come off the bench and grab the winner. But when the opportunity came, he headed wide. However, for the twenty minutes he was on the pitch, his poise and class were obvious and he linked up well with Ibrahimovic. Ajaccio are the visitors to Parc des Princes this weekend, and El Matador will have a great opportunity to open his account for his new employers in front of adoring fans.
It will be interesting to see how the Boulogne Boys, PSG’s ultras, take to Blanc this weekend. He was upbeat after his first competitive game and there are continuing press rumours of at least one more big signing to strengthen PSGs bid for domestic and European glory – having Dani Alves or Yohan Cabaye in any squad would be a big advantage. But he is far from a fan favourite and the jury will be out unless he can improve on both last year’s style and results. Ravanelli’s Ajaccio only mustered one shot on target in a 1-0 loss to St. Etienne last weekend, and are likely to be cannon fodder for this PSG team.
There’s little doubt that AS Monaco had the best week of those challenging at the top of the Ligue 1. Securing 3 points away at Bordeaux wasn’t unexpected; but winning their appeal against a two point reduction for fan violence most certainly was. A week when you make up four points against your main rivals could only be topped when your €60m record signing scores on his competitive debut, and Falco did exactly that, adding to Riviere’s opener in a comfortable 2-0 win at the Chaban-Delmas stadium. They are back in the Stad Louis II this weekend to host Montpelier at lunchtime on Sunday, where the hosts will be hoping that Moutinho is fit enough to get at least some action. It’s also worth noting that Abidal started alongside Carvalho last weekend and he also started for France on Wednesday night; with Barcelona scouring Europe for defenders, the decision to allow the adaptable and talented Frenchman, who was a real favourite at the Camp Nou, to leave is still a mystery.
Another who started for France on Wednesday was Payet, who scored a brace in the 16 minutes for Marseilles away to Guingamp. With Gignac also scoring early on, it looked like Marseilles was going to knock up a crick score against the Ligue 1 newcomers. But Marseilles’ intensity decreased through the game and they conceded a penalty (saved) and a goal as Guingamp grew in stature. Like a lot of clubs in Ligue 1, Marseille fans will be desperate for the Mercato to close so that they can keep hold of their best players, with Gignac still on the radar of many European clubs. Marseilles hosts minnows Evian this weekend, and will be looking to produce a more balanced performance.
It was quite disappointing to see Deschamps start with so many non-domestic based stars away to Belgium on Wednesday evening. Payet, who notched up a dozen goals and a dozen assists last season, was making only his fifth appearance for the national team. A disappointing 0-0 draw saw Benzema reach almost 19 hours of international football without a goal. The real tension in French football is that between the arrival of international class stars to its two richest clubs, and the departure of its best talent to foreign clubs. Deschamps mustn’t get hung up with the stars of Madrid, London and Munich; there is plenty of talent in Ligue 1 that deserves an opportunity. But with only three domestic starters this week (Payet, Kondogbia and Guilavogui) it’s hard to feel that he is giving Ligue 1 players a fair shot.
Other interesting fixtures this weekend will see Nice at home to Rennes, with the former really struggling to match last season’s performances in both preseason and last weekend. St Etienne will look to build on last week’s three points with a victory at home to Guingamp. Lille will look to inflict more early-season troubles on Reims and two of last week’s big losers, Toulouse and Bordeaux, will look to make amends. However, the shadow that hangs over the mortal clubs in Ligue 1 is the transfer window, and with almost three weeks left for the exedous of talent to continue, fans will have one eye on the pitch, and one eye on the mercato.