Three things we learned this week in Ligue 1

All to play for on Sunday as PSG and OM win ahead of ‘Le Classico’

Two-one wins for PSG on Saturday and Marseille on Sunday have added even more spice to France’s biggest rivalry ahead of the two sides’ first meeting of the season this coming Sunday at the Parc des Princes.

Laurent Blanc’s capital city side came from behind to in the end comfortably beat Lorient away from home, while league leaders Marseille deservedly beat Lens at the Vélodrome. Marseille currently sit four points ahead of Paris Saint-German, making Matchday thirteen’s ‘Classico’ the most hotly anticipated fixture in recent seasons.

PSG took on Lorient at the Moustoir boosted by the return to the side of Edinson Cavani, however Zlatan Ibrahimovic was once again absent from the starting line-up through injury. By far the underdogs, the home side’s form has taken an unfortunate dip since their two-nil away win at Bastia last month, but one positive note to make about the Breton side so far this season has been the form of their youth product Valentin Lavigne, who started up front beside Jordan Ayew.

 

A mere two minutes into the match, Yohan Cabaye, who had another frustrating day at the office, lost concentration in possession of the ball on the edge of the box, and it took a solid right foot block from Salvatore Sirigu to prevent Jordan Ayew from putting Lorient ahead.

Lorient eventually did take the lead just three minutes before half-time, when a perfectly executed counter-attack resulted in Raphaël Guerreiro finishing past the Italian international goalkeeper. Lavigne played a wonderful cross-field pass to Ayew who brought the ball down brilliantly, before feeding in the former Caen winger to score to give his side a lead they would carry into the second period.

Five minutes after the restart, Benjamin Lecomte made a superb double-save from a Serge Aurier header and then a Thiago Motta strike to keep the score at one-nil. However ten minutes later, PSG were back on level terms thanks to a scrappy but effective finish from Cavani after he was skilfully played in by a combination of Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta. Cabaye then came off for Marco Verratti, and the Italian’s introduction seemed to give PSG a creative lift.

Jean-Christophe Bahebeck also came on for Ezequiel Lavezzi. The two substitutes were quick to make their presence felt as Verratti found Bahebeck with great vision, and the former Valenciennes striker put les Parisiens in the lead with a tidy finish. PSG improved greatly and what had seemed initially to be another tricky away-day, Blanc’s side continued to dominate until the final whistle was blown in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

A Marseille side that included six players under the age of 25 took just took just ten minutes to score in what would be their sixth consecutive home victory of the season in the final game of the weekend. Nicolas Nkoulou thundered home an early header to open the scoring against Antoine Kombouaré’s Lens side from a Florian Thauvin header.

Marseille continued to press forcefully against their opponents, but their high-attacking philosophy would be their downfall just twenty minutes after they grabbed the opener. With the majority of white shirts in the opposing half, Lens broke on a counter-attack and the ball found its way to Baptiste Guillaume. The 19-year-old Lens youth system product showed superb composure on one of French football’s biggest stages to sidestep past Rod Fanni to strike the ball past Steve Mandanda in the Marseillais goal.

 

Marseille’s second and final goal of the match, coming some fifteen minutes after the restart, proved to be the most decisive goal of the game. Thauvin scored his third goal of the season, making up for his frustrating performance last weekend against Lyon.

Marseille’s build-up play for the goal was quintessential of the style of football they have become to be known for since Marcelo Bielsa took over as head coach. It was a well worked team goal, in which fast-paced passing was key. Dimitri Payet’s well weighted through ball reached André-Pierre Gignac, who cut the ball back for Thauvin.

Thauvin then hammered a left-foot shot past Valentin Belon to give the league leader’s the three points. Despite being beaten twice, the young Lens goalkeeper impressed and looks to be another Lens youth product with great potential, following in the footsteps of Raphaël Varane and Serge Aurier at the La Gaillette formation centre.

Despite the fact that even the most ardent rival supporter would be forced to admit that Marseille have been great to watch at times this season, one does detect that things are coming together well at the right moment for PSG ahead of Sunday’s match. PSG have shown in recent weeks a resilience that they didn’t have at the start of the season, in being able to win games without needing Ibrahimovic and his goals.

Both sides can take positives from how they played at times at the weekend, but ahead of this derby at their own ground, it will be PSG, with the added incentive of being able to bring themselves within one point of Bielsa’s side, that will be feeling the more comfortable. It will perhaps take a less stubborn performance than their performance against Lyon last weekend for Marseille to get something out of the match.

What is encouraging for Marseille fans however is the fact that when the two sides clashed at Parc des Princes last season, nobody could have envisaged how much OM have improved since that last Classico. Whatever the result, it will be a match which will once again captivate France, and one that fans will be hoping lives up to their highly romantic expectations.

Unstoppable Lacazaette equals Gignac’s tally as Lyon win again

While French football’s collective attention may be firmly focused on Ligue 1’s leading two sides, Hubert Fournier’s Lyon side is delighting the Lyonnais support with its goal scoring prowess. Lyon, despite going behind early on in the match and missing key midfielders Yoann Gourcuff, Jordan Ferri and skipper Maxime Gonalons, won three-one away to Nice to go just one point behind PSG in third.

 

After a goalless first 45, Grégorie Puel, the son of Nice coach Claude Puel, opened the scoring with a sumptuous right-foot strike after Henri Bedimo’s mistimed clearance. It was a strike which, for a change this season, Tony Lopes in the OL goal was unable to do anything about. Lyon pulled a goal back on sixty-four minutes through a low-driven Steed Malbranque finish, after a really well worked team move.

Alexandre Lacazette, who has quite simply been awesome this season, scored a magnificent solo goal on 80 minutes, when he left a trail of Nice players in his wake before curling a shot from the edge of the box into the net. The man of the moment then scored a similar goal, this time from even further out, to give his side their third of the match and his tenth of the season. Lacazette is now level at the top of Ligue 1’s goal scoring standings with André-Pierre Gignac.

Spoils shared in Breton derby

An exact week to the day before PSG take on Marseille in the national derby, unfriendly neighbours Nantes and Rennes met at the Stade de la Beaujoire in the first meeting between the two sides of the season.

Nantes, who share the best defensive record in the league so far with Lyon, aimed to make up for the embarrassment of losing three-nil at home to their rivals last season. The home side were missing the exciting Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, with the visitors feeling the loss of their suspended attacker Paul-Georges Ntep.

 

The atmosphere at La Beaujoire was, as it always is on derby day, electric. On the pitch, the first-half had an equally exciting dimension to it throughout its duration, with Rennes taking the lead on just three minutes. Habib Habibou, who started ahead of the on form Philipp Hosiner, came deep to collect the ball, dragging his central defensive marker with him and giving space for Pedro Henrqiue to run into.

Habibou then found Henrique with a clever flick and the 24-year-old coolly slotted the ball past Rémy Riou. Nantes pulled a goal back through a Sylvain Armand headed own-goal on twenty-minutes.

In the second-half, Jordan Veretout once again looked the part for Nantes, as he was constantly involved in creating any opportunities Nantes had. Not for the first time this season, it was logical to question whether Michel Der Zakarian’s side would’ve scored more times if their former striker Filip Djordjevic had been playing upfront instead of the rather uninspiring Itay Schecter.

After his recent call-up to the France squad, Benoît Costil once again commanded his area well in the Rennes goal and played an important in role in what was a good point for Philippe Montanier’s side, making some impressive saves and generally showing overall reliability.

Author Details

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Brendán MacFarlane

I'm a massive French football enthusiast, having fallen in love with all aspects and levels of the sport in France whilst working for a year in the town of Niort. As a French studies student, I'm constantly following what's going on in the French football media and bringing stories to the English-speaking world.

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