Robert Bhamber gives his weekly comprehensive preview to this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
Friday: Montpellier (13th) vs Marseille (6th) (19:30 GMT)
This week’s Ligue 1 action kicks off with Montpellier hosting Marseille at the Stade de la Mosson. The hosts solidified their mid-table position last week with a 2-1 win away at Guingamp and Rolland Courbis has now urged his players to target a top-half finish. If Montpellier were to win this match, they would move into 10th position, for 24 hours at least.
Marseille still retain slight hopes of qualifying for the Europa League this season as last week’s win over Ajaccio ended a five game run without a victory. The visitors are seven points behind St Etienne in fourth spot, so will have to go on a bit of a winning streak if they are to clinch European qualification for 2014/15.
– Montpellier have only been in the top half for one week this season; they rose to ninth in Week 9.
– They have been involved in 17 draws in the league this season, six more than any other team.
– Marseille haven’t won any of their last five league away games, losing two and drawing three.
– They haven’t dropped below sixth in the table all season.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Marseille won 2-0 at the Stade Velodrome.
Saturday: Lille (3rd) vs Valenciennes (18th) (16:00 GMT)
Lille take on Valenciennes in the northern derby at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Saturday. Lille are third in the table and hold the final Champions League spot. They are five points ahead of nearest challengers St Etienne and only six points away from Monaco in second. However, the derby will provide them with a different sort of test than they have faced in recent weeks.
Valenciennes meanwhile, are busy fighting to stay in the league. They are six points away from safety but even though they enter this match as severe underdogs, form tends to go out of the window when it comes to derby matches. Any points that Valenciennes can pick up here could potentially prove crucial come the end of the campaign.
– Lille are unbeaten in their last nine league matches, winning five and drawing four.
– They have won their last six home meetings with Valenciennes.
– Valenciennes have yet to win a league away game this season in which they have conceded first.
– They have been in the relegation zone since Week 5.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Lille won 1-0 at the Stade du Hainaut.
Saturday: Nice (11th) vs Lorient (14th) (19:00 GMT)
Nice welcome Lorient to the Allianz Riviera in a battle between two teams positioned firmly in mid-table. Heading into this weekend, Nice have 39 points; they are one point and three league places better off than their opponents. The target for Claude Puel’s team will now be to simply finish as high as they can and end the season with a few more wins.
The same pretty much can be said for visitors Lorient. They are a comfortable nine points above the relegation zone and only have their pride to play for in the league. Christian Gourcuff, though, will be aware of the need to rectify his team’s bad form of late and will be looking to start with a win away at Nice on Saturday.
– Nice are unbeaten in home league matches this season in which they have scored first.
– However, they haven’t won any of their last three league games.
– Lorient have won just one of their last 11 league games.
– In that time, they have dropped from ninth to 14th in the table.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Lorient comfortably won 3-0 at the Stade du Moustoir.
Saturday: Ajaccio (20th) vs Bordeaux (7th) (19:00 GMT)
Ajaccio take on Bordeaux at the Stade Francois Coty knowing that their relegation could be confirmed this weekend. If Ajaccio are to lose and Evian were to gain at least one point this weekend, then the hosts will officially be relegated. It comes of no surprise of course, given that they have won only three league games all season.
Bordeaux meanwhile, are now realistically out of the race for European qualification, given that they are 11 points behind St Etienne in fourth. Their recent run of draws has cost them dearly and Francis Gillot’s men will now be looking to return to winning ways, if only to end the season the right way.
– Ajaccio have been in the relegation zone since Week 9 and have never been higher than 13th in the table this season.
– Two of their three wins in the league this season have come at home, against Lyon and Rennes.
– Bordeaux are on a six game winless streak, drawing each of their last four league games.
– The visitors have won only two league games on the road this season; at Nice and Guingamp.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Bordeaux eased to a 4-0 victory at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.
Saturday: Rennes (12th) vs Monaco (2nd) (19:00 GMT)
Rennes face a tough challenge at home as they welcome Monaco to the Stade de la Route de Lorient. Rennes have turned around their form recently, ending a three match losing streak and climbing four places in the table in the process. They have also effectively ended any relegation fears, as Philippe Montanier’s team now sit nine points clear of the bottom three.
The title is now all but impossible for Monaco and they must now concern themselves with holding off Lille, who sit just six points behind them in third. Claudio Ranieri will want his team to cement their position as runners up in the league in the next couple of weeks, as it brings automatic Champions League qualification, while Lille in third would have to qualify via a play-off.
– Rennes are unbeaten in their last three league games, winning two and drawing the other.
– They have lost all four home league games this season in which they have conceded first.
– Monaco have lost three times on the road in Ligue 1 this season; at Lille, St Etienne and Evian.
– They have been in second place since Week 17 and haven’t dropped out of the top four all season.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Monaco won 2-0 at the Stade Louis II.
Saturday: Sochaux (19th) vs Toulouse (8th) (19:00 GMT)
Sochaux continue their fight to avoid relegation as they host Toulouse at the Stade Auguste Bonal. Sochaux’s home form has been impressive as of late and it has come just at the right time too, as they still retain some hope of saving themselves this season. They head into the weekend eight points away behind Evian in 17th and know that they will need to continue their decent form if they are to pull off a surprising escape.
Toulouse sit eighth in the table, with no realistic chance of qualifying for Europe anymore. For Alain Casanova’s men, it is now just a case of playing out the rest of the league campaign for pride as they look to finish as high as they possibly can in the table.
– Sochaux have lost just one of their last four league games, winning one and drawing the other two.
– They are also unbeaten in their last five league home games, winning four of them.
– After previously going on a three game winning streak, Toulouse are now currently on a three game winless run.
– They are, however, unbeaten in their last eight league away games.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Toulouse beat Sochaux 5-1 at the Stadium Municipal.
Saturday: Evian (17th) vs Bastia (10th) (19:00 GMT)
Evian look to move themselves further clear of the relegation zone as they take on Bastia at the Parc des Sports. The home side are six points above 18th placed Valenciennes heading into the weekend and a home tie against a mid-table side with nothing to play for could provide Pascal Dupraz’s men with the perfect platform to gain all three points and extend that gap to nine.
Bastia are the exact definition of a mid-table team; they are 10th in the table, 14 points away from the European spots and 12 points above the relegation zone. Frederic Hantz though, will still be concerned about his side’s lack of wins in the past few weeks and will be looking for his team to put it right this weekend.
– Despite their league position, Evian have lost just one of their last six league games, winning three and drawing two.
– They have only spent one week in the relegation zone all season; they slipped to 19th in Week 3.
– Bastia have only won one of their last eight league games.
– Their away league form hasn’t been brilliant either as they have won just two games on the road this season; at Nantes and Toulouse.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Bastia won 2-0 at the Stade Armand Cesari.
Sunday: Nantes (15th) vs Guingamp (16th) (13:00 GMT)
Nantes host Guingamp at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Sunday with both teams looking to move further clear of the relegation zone. The hosts are one place and two points better off than their opponents heading into the weekend and a win would all but confirm their Ligue 1 status for next season.
Guingamp sit six points above the bottom three and Jocelyn Gourvennec will be looking for his team to pick up a couple more wins in the last few weeks of the season to ensure they don’t get sucked into the relegation battle at the depth. A horrible run of results since the start of 2014 has seen Guingamp drop from 13th in the table.
– Nantes have scored just 28 times in the league this season, meaning they have the joint weakest attack in Ligue 1, along with Nice.
– They have won just one of their last 12 league matches.
– Guingamp have lost their last three league matches, falling from 14th to 16th in the process.
– Their record since the turn of the year reads; won three, drawn two and lost eight.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, Guingamp scraped past Nantes 1-0 at the Stade du Roudourou.
Sunday: Reims (9th) vs St Etienne (4th) (16:00 GMT)
Reims play host to St Etienne at the Stade Auguste Delaune on Sunday afternoon. The home side cannot realistically qualify for Europe anymore and will now be looking to finish the season in as good as form as possible. However, a match against Champions League chasing St Etienne will be a tough ask for Hubert Fournier’s men.
The visitors will be looking for a victory in order to close the five point gap between themselves and Lille in the third and final Champions League qualification spot. Lille could have extended the gap to eight points by the time this match gets underway; therefore Christophe Galtier knows his team cannot afford any slip ups.
– Reims have not won any of their last five league matches.
– They have slipped from seventh to ninth in this period.
– St Etienne have not moved from fourth position in the table since Week 20.
– They have only lost two of their last 10 league games, winning five and drawing three.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, St Etienne thrashed Reims 4-0 at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Sunday: Lyon (5th) vs PSG (1st) (20:00 GMT)
Lyon play host to league leaders PSG at the Stade de Gerland, knowing that they can prolong the title race just a little longer if they were to prevent the visitors from winning. Both teams will want to re-focus on Ligue 1 after crashing out of Europe in midweek, with Lyon still in the race for European qualification; they sit four points behind St Etienne in fourth.
PSG need just two more wins in the league to retain their status as champions for a second season. Laurent Blanc’s side may have exited the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea on Tuesday, but they are still in excellent form domestically. Even the loss of star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be enough to stop the capital side, who are 13 points clear at the top of the table.
– Lyon have lost just three of their last 17 league games, winning nine and drawing five.
– However, they have not won at home in the league this season against any of the teams currently in the top half of the table.
– PSG have won all of their last eight league games.
– They have lost just once in the league all season; away at Evian in Week 16.
– In the reverse fixture in Week 15, PSG beat Lyon 4-0 at the Parc des Princes.