Ligue 1 Matchday 15 Preview: A Battle of Equals.

Can Nolan Roux catch on fire against Lens on Saturday?

While most weeks in Ligue 1 usually has at least one inferior team against one superior team, this week is quite different. From top to bottom, one can easily say that this is one of the most equal in terms of the quality of teams that are playing each other. With with only two points separating first place from eight place, anyone can really take the lead at the end of Sunday’s matches.

Therefore, lets look at a few of the key match ups for this weekend:

Lorient vs. Rennes – while PSG, Marseille and Lyon were considered the preseason favorites, Rennes have been able to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ligue 1 world. And while most people were expecting Rennes to take a little bit of a hit with the loss of Asamoah Gyan and Jimmy Briand, the team has been able to play good enough without them.

The question isn’t how well Rennes will play, but instead how well Lorient will play. Like Rennes, Lorient suffered a number of losses during the summer transfer window. And, as of right now, we still don’t know how Lorient is dealing with those losses. One week they can have an impressive game, and the next week they look horrible.

Of course, one of the keys to a Lorient victory will be the play of star striker Kevin Gameiro. But in addition to Gameiro, newly acquired forward Lynel Kitambala will also have to continue his consistent play. Lorient was expected to suffer this season with the loss of Marama Vahirua to Nancy, but Kitambala has been more than effective in replacing Vahirau.

If both Lorient strikers are able to show up, then Lorient might have a good day. But if they are sluggish (which Gameiro rarely is), then they might suffer a loss to the surging Rennes.

Marseille vs. Montpellier – yes, I know that they won the Ligue 1 title last year as well as the League Cup, but there is something that still doesn’t sell me on Marseille being an elite European team. While I think they have some good players, I feel that they only have a handful of world-class players. That is why I don’t think that Marseille winning week in and week out is a given.

And this week, I feel that Montpellier can give Marseille a little bit of trouble. Montpellier has one of the best defenses in Ligue 1 this season. And with the arrival of some key players up front, they look as good as they did last year. Therefore, anyone that expects Marseille to just plow through Montpellier might be sadly mistaken.

The key in this match up will be the play of forward Olivier Giroud and midfielder Marco Estrada. Like I said in a previous article, they have been the backbone of the Montpellier offense. If they are able to continue to score, they will have a good night.

The person that will have to stop Estrada from making solid connections to Giroud is Cesar Azpilicueta. He will primarily be man-on-man with Estrada. The battle between these two players could easily determine who wins this match. If Azpilicueta makes just one mistake, this could be a 1-0 win for Montpellier on the road.

Brest vs. Lens – like Montpellier last year, Brest is the surprise team this season. The question is if they will be able to perform well throughout this season as Montpellier performed throughout all of last season. Their next test will be against the struggling Lens.

While Brest have Nolan Roux and Bruno Grougi, both who can easily find the net, it has been their defense which has been able to propel them to the top of the Ligue 1 table. But, with Lens being one of the worse defenses in Ligue 1, this could possibly be a huge breakout match for Roux and Grougi.

Brest should win this one, but the way that they win it might determine the rest of their season. If they come out of this match with an impressive three or more goal lead, they might be on their way to greatness. If they only score one more goal than Lens, with Roux and Grougi (along with Roman Poyet) being non-factors, they might get a huge wake-up call against PSG next week.

Bordeaux vs. Lille – Lille is on fire. Their offense is tops in the Ligue 1 world, again. All of their pieces are working together. Coach Rudy Garcia knows what he expects out of his men, and his men know what their coach wants. Right now, they are easily the best, as well as most focused, team in all of Ligue 1.

In Bordeaux you have quite the opposite. They have a team that doesn’t have any real conformity. You really can’t tell if they are an offensive or defensive team. You really don’t know which players are going to be the impact player in any given match. And many of their stars from last year have been average this season.

This match will determine if Bordeaux can really make a charge for an European spot. If they are able to secure a win at home against Lille (who is now my new pick to win the Ligue 1 title), then they have a stronger chance to move up the Ligue 1 table. But if they still cannot find any sort of grove against Lille then they are in big trouble.

I wish I could really give you a player to watch in this match, but your guess is as good as mine. Nobody has really stepped up for Bordeaux yet. Yes, Anthony Modeste does have six goals this year, but three of those were last week against the worse team in Ligue 1. Therefore, you really can’t say that he is now the power behind the Bordeaux offense.

Right now, Bordeaux are playing like a mid-table team. And for the foreseeable future, no Bordeaux fan should expect anything more than a mid-table finish. If they are able to show up for this game and pull off an impressive win against  a very impressive Lille team, then they “might” be back. I just don’t see it.

Tomorrow we will preview the Lyon vs. PSG match along with the Auxerre vs. Toulouse match.

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7 Responses

  1. I expect a Europa League place for Bordeaux but besides that everything you said is pretty true. We’re a possession team, with a defensive foundation but we haven’t hand any really strong defensive performances without Planus who has only played 45mins this entire season. Wendel has been shockingly out of forum and Modeste just doesn’t have the level yet. Offensively we are shockingly poor.

    Dave can you write something about Maldini’s comments made yesterday about Gourcuff, please.

    Thanks. Anicho

  2. I’ll have to wait until the morning. But, honestly, I don’t know if Maldini’s remarks aren’t totally wrong.

    • they seem to be true, but maybe a bit over exaggerated. instead of making those actions that Maldini described him to do all the time he probably did it sometimes, you know? I think, it’s a reflection of some of Gourcuff’s character. the way he left Bordeaux also says a lot about his character.. he did have friends at Bordeaux besides Chamakh and Sertic, and he didn’t go out with anyone from the team besides Sertic. I think Ancheloti rightly called him crazy and egocentric. the image he out on on the pitch seems to be very different from the person he is off of it.

  3. Estrada is injured! That’s some essential infofmation you should have included in your preview.Geoffrey Dernis is set to replace him.

    • Well, when I wrote this, Estrada was still expected to play. So I’m sorry I didn’t have an up-to-the minute update of my preview.

  4. When did he get injured. I see he is not playing. But reading most of the previews before the match, I assumed he was. That drastically changes this match and makes Marseille the favorites.

  5. I actually don’t know.

    Alle the squad news here:

    http://www.lequipe.fr/Allos-v2/Allo_L1.html

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