2011-12 Ligue 1 Preview: 20th to 15th place.

With the Ligue 1 season just days away from starting, and with much of the transfer garbage behind us, we can now actually examine how the Ligue 1 season could possibly play out. Two years ago we saw an influx of players into Marseille and Lyon which changed the faces of their teams. This year, a number of teams will look quite different. Luckily for French football, the net gains seemed to have outweighed the net losses.

In this series of articles, I will be looking at my predictions for teams that I think will finish 20th to 15th place. As the days count down, I will move up the ladder, with my eventually Ligue 1 winner saved for last. So, here we go.

20th – Dijon: Every year, there is always one team that is promoted that actually surprises us and perform better than expected. Last year it was Brest. Could Dijon be one of those teams that people are underestimating?

Like Arles-Avignon last year, Dijon is bringing in a bunch of players that haven’t played with each other before. But, of course, this could be the standard for Ligue 1 this year. But unlike other teams, the transfers into Dijon fail to impress, much like Arles-Avignon. Yes, there are a few good players coming in, like Abdoulaye Meite of Marseille fame. But will bringing in some of these older players really make Dijon a better team? I fail to see that being the case.
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Auxerre shocks Lyon 4-0.

After an amazing match, which saw Olympique Lyonnais defeat their rivals Olympique Marseilles by a score of 3-2 on Sunday, the victors of The Olympico were unable to take their winning touch to the Stade Abbe Deschamps, as they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Auxerre.

Prior to the match, Claude Puel went with a less experienced line up compared to what he had available. Even though Aly Cissokho was available, Puel instead continued with Thimothee Kolodzieczak at left back. In addition, Puel also went with Clement Grenier, because of the lack of midfielders available to the Lyon coach. Lisandro Lopez, Jeremey Toulalan and Yohann Gourcuff were all unavailable for this match, as all are suffering with injuries.

Early in the match, Auxerre star Ireneusz Jelen succumbed to a hamstring injury in the 4th minute. In the 10th minute, Jelen, who was showing visible signs of pain, was replaced by Roy Contout.
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Ligue 1 Matchday 35 Preview – Upset in the making day?

There are only 20 days left until the end of the Ligue 1 season, and the standings are about as predictable as when all the teams had no point. A number of teams can still win the title. A number of teams can be relegated. And, mathematically, every team but Lens and Arles-Avignon are in the hunt to qualify for the last Europa League spot, which could be sixth place in the standings, depending on where PSG finishes (as Lille has already clinched at least a trip to the Europa League).

It seems like it was only yesterday when we were talking about the Lyon vs. Marseille match. In fact, it was yesterday. And now, just two days later, we are getting ready for more Ligue 1 action.

The week will start off with two Tuesday matches, which are being held on the separate day due to the scheduling conflict caused by the French Cup final.
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Ligue 1 Matchday 34 Preview: Are there some big games this weekend?

Going into this weekend’s Ligue 1 matches, everyone can see the one big match that will be looming over all other matches, which is Sunday night’s heavyweight match between Lyon and Marseille, now termed the Olympico.

But of course, there are a number of other matches that will be going on that will have just as much of an impact on what could happen in the Ligue 1 season as the big OL vs. OM match does. Therefore, lets take a brief look at the upcoming weekend.

Lille is the team that is current leading the league. Luckily for them, they will be playing Nancy on the road. Nancy, a team that many people expect (and, sadly, want) to be relegated to Ligue 2 this season. They will be fighting for the Ligue 1 lives against the championship front-runners. Unfortunately for Nancy, Lille have the second best road record in Ligue 1. True, they will be missing the services of Yohan Cabaye, but his absence shouldn’t hurt them against an opponent that they should easily defeat. And if Lille is able to grab a valuable three points while both OL and OM are slugging it out (which could end in a draw), they could truly make this a two-horse race for the Ligue 1 title.

In other matches, a number of teams vying for the final Europa League spots will be squaring off against one another.

One of those matches will be Lorient hosting Toulouse. Both teams are coming off positive wins. And while Toulouse’s 2-0 win against Lyon might look more impressive than Lorient’s come-from-behind victory at Lens, they are still coming off a high nonetheless. For Lorient, Kevin Gameiro, who was looking like he might have slowed down about a month ago, is showing that he is back and with full force. But what will hurt Gameiro is that Toulouse’s defense looks to be back as well.
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Ligue 1 Matchday 22 Preview – Can St. Etienne prove themselves?

Is St. Etienne on their way to the glory days of the 1970s?

Since the start of 2011, the French footballing world hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Since January, Ligue 1 teams have suffered a number of upsets in both the league and the French Cup. Earlier this week, Sochaux were the latest victim of CFA2 side Chambery. And with upset after upset happening on a constant basis, who really knows what will happen next week.

With that being said, we will look at some of the keys to this weekend, and maybe try to make sense of a Ligue 1 season that is far from making sense. So, here is what to watch for this weekend:

Lille and PSG have a chance to run away – At the start of the season, both Lille and PSG were considered possible contenders for a Champions League position. Now, they are easily in control their own destiny as they will take on two teams which are struggling.

Lille will be traveling to Auxerre. Auxerre, who has to be one of the biggest upsets of the season, have not improved whatsoever. Even with a number of injuries, they haven’t even been able to handle opponents that they should have easily beaten. In addition, Auxerre’s last win was at home against Rennes on November 14th, nearly two months ago. And even with most of their key players back, Auxerre just doesn’t look that good. Therefore Lille, who have been on fire in league play, have a chance to really take them to task.
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Ligue 1 Matchday 21 Preview

 

Now that Auxerre is healthy, they have no excuses.

Sandwiched in between French Cup rounds, we do still have a another match day of Ligue 1 games. And while this week looks pretty open and shut, in the world of Ligue 1, anything can happen. With a number of upsets already this year, we can expect there to be at least a few, since most of the matches have clear favorites. So, what to watch for this week:

 

The Upsets – Like I just mentioned, there are a number of underdogs going against teams that should easily dominate them. To expect all of the favorites to win this weekend would be crazy. But, of course, it could happen. With the exception of Arles hosting PSG, anything can happen in any match. Like the French Cup, don’t be surprised it we see a number of upsets.
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Coupe de la Ligue – Semi Final – Auxerre 0 – 2 Marseille

Marseille advanced to their second consecutive Coupe de la Ligue final on Wednesday night having seen off Auxerre by two goals to nil. Only one change from Sunday’s match against Bordeaux, with the injured Heinze being replaced by Stephane M’bia. This meant that up front, Gignac was still playing in the left channel, supporting Brandao. André Ayew was again preferred to Benoit Cheyrou in midfield, although Cheyrou would come off the bench, with Marseille playing a 4-3-2, with a back four of Fanni, M’bia, Diawara, Taiwo, Edouard Cissé holding, Lucho and Ayew in centre midfield, Valbuena on the right, Gignac on the left and Brandao playing as the number nine.

Marseille were slow to get into the game, however they started to gain momentum after tame efforts from Lucho and Ayew. Gignac then squandered a good chance, volleying over after a good first touch. On thirty minutes, Edouard Cisse had to come off injured, and was replaced by everyone’s favourite Burkinabé utility man, Charles Kaboré. Marseille managed to open the scoring just before half time, after an overlapping Taiwo reached the byline and chipped in a cross which found an unmarked Brandao 6 yards out. The Brazilian made no mistake, tucking the ball away easily for his second in two matches. Marseille went into half time 1-0 up, and seemingly in control. The second half was, as always smattered with substitutions, with former OM man Benoit Pedretti removed at half time, however Gignac would scored his second to take the game away from Auxerre. Gignac received the ball to feet on the left touchline 40 yards from goal, cut inside his man as an “inside out winger” would, advanced to 25 yards from goal, played a one two with Lucho and took his shot first time, 20 yards out, curled it into the far corner leaving Rémi Riou rooted to the spot.
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