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Matchday 25 Saturday previews

As I said in the Toulouse preview, this is going to be a pretty boring week in Ligue 1, on paper that is. For some reason, whenever I say that it is going to be a boring week, it ends up being a week of upsets and far from boring. So lets look at today’s matchups.

AS Saint-Etienne  
  Montpellier Hérault SC

Montpellier looks to continue their unbelievable winning ways as they travel up the A7 to play the struggling St. Etienne. These are two teams with very different seasons. Montpellier was expected to be fighting for their lives by keeping out of the relegation zone while Les Verts were expected to be, well, midtable. And, as many of you probably know, Montpellier is nowhere near the relegation zone and St. Etienne is hovering around the it.

The only hiccup for Montpellier today is that they will be without captain and defender Nenad Dzodic. Even with Dzodic’s departure, Montpellier should be able to do well as they still have Emir Spahic and Mapou Yangambiwa on the back line.

With the dent in the defense, Montpellier look to pile on the pressure offensively. In their last few matches, Montpellier looked to be in a class of their own. Doing that against Boulogne and Grenoble isn’t that impressive. But doing it against Marseille, quite the opposite. Therefore, look for Montpellier to get the win on the road and, hopefully, move into a tie with Bordeaux (who will still have a game in hand).

But remember, it was Bordeaux who traveled the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard at the start of the season and dropped a shocking 3-1 loss to Les Verts. So anything is possible.

OGC Nice  
  FC Lorient

Again, I hate to say it, but it might be interesting to watch this match to see how the supporters react to another loss. Like St. Etienne, Nice was expected to do better at the start of the season. But with a string of really poor results, and Loic Remy and Chaouki Ben Saada the only offensive threat for the team, Nice find themselves near the relegation zone yet again.

Like usual, we should expect Lorient to bring on the offensive pressure. Kevin Gameiro and Marama Vahirua should continue their impressive offensive play, yet they haven’t been as strong in the last month as they were at the start of the season. Therefore, Onyekahci Apam will have his hand full as they will be without Larrys Mabiala or Gregory Paisley in the starting lineup.

On the other side of the ball the key player of the match is going to be Lorient defender Sylvain Marchal. If Marchal is able to stop both Remy and Ben Saada, then Lorient should be able to control the tempo of the match. And because of this, the midfield play for Lorient, and their transition on the counter attack, should be what will lead to a Lorient win.

RC Lens  
  AS Monaco FC

The start of 2010 for Monaco has been a bag of mixed results. Monaco started like gang-busters at the start of the year, with wins against Lyon, Montpellier and Bordeaux. On the other had, they drop a hard fought match to Marseille and an unexplicable loss to St. Etienne.

Lens, on the other hand, started off the season poorly. But, quietly, Lens has clawed their way out of the relegation zone and now find themselves in 15th place. Yes, it might not be impressive, but it is a start. Lens is now only six points out of the top half of the table.

While playing at Stade Felix Bollaert is always challenging  for any visiting team, Monaco will need to continue to pile on the pressure against Lens. The key matchup in this one will be if Lens defender Yohan Demont will be able to contain Brazilian Nene. If Demont can do his job, and we all know that he can, then Nene will be in trouble. Still, even if Nene is stopped by the Lens defense, Monaco still have Chu Young Park. And in recent matches, nobody seems to have an answer for the South Korean striker.

So, on paper, Monaco has this. But at the Stade Felix Bollaert, it is anyone’s match.

Grenoble Foot 38  
  Valenciennes FC

Ok, which Grenoble team will show up? That is always the question, isn’t it? Will it be the team that we saw last week that had an extremely shocking 5-0 win against the defensively reliable Auxerre. Or will it be the team that loses 4-0 against PSG? Honestly, we never know.

If Grenoble looks to win this match, they need to spread the ball around. Similar to the situation in Nice, Grenoble usually wants to give the ball to Danijel Ljuboja. And when he is the only goal scorer, the team usually loses. But in their match last week, they were able to spread the ball around, which lead to Nassim Akrour and Daisuke Matsui scoring two goals each. So, spreading the ball around, especially to their other forwards, looks like the possible key to success for Grenoble.

For Valencienne the goal is easy, shut down the rest of the team. If Rudy Mater and Siaka Tiene can shut down their wingers, then Grenoble will be forced to play the ball to Ljuboja. And, as we usually see, when he is the only offense, Grenoble’s opposition wins. So Valencienne should secure the win. But after last week, who really knows!

Boulogne Côte d’Opale  
  Le Mans UC 72

The winner of this match will find themselves in the relegation zone. On the other hand, the loser of this match will find themselves in, well, the relegation zone.

So far this year, the best opponent that Le Mans has defeated is Nancy, who currently sit in 12th place. So, winning isn’t exactly their strong point.

As for Boulogne, the highest team they beat this season was St. Etienne, who sits in 16th place.

Honestly, there really isn’t anything positive about this matchup. I guess if you had to give the edge to someone it would have to be Le Mans, because they have the scoring threat of Anthony Le Tallec. Thorstein Helstad, who has played dismal this season, has now become a bench warmer for Le Mans.

As for Boulogne, well, they have nothing positive whatsoever. I predict at the end of the year, Grenoble will leap-frog them in the standings and Boulogne will finish last place.

So, maybe expect a Le Mans win? Who knows. Who cares!

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